Nas released a gem last week. If you like rap music and you haven’t heard it by now, I would recommend you do so at your earliest convenience. It’s been a while since we’ve heard this type of rap music and it has been missed. A few of my frat brothers and me started to discuss if the album could be considered a classic when someone interjected with, “Just make sure you buy the album if you think it’s great.” Well, damn. That’s a hell of a way to dead a conversation about whether the album deserves five mics or not. It raises a great point about the current state of hip hop though. Never before has there been more of a push to get people to start buying music again.

My frat brother raised a few excellent points in his plea:

  • The industry can’t survive if people don’t purchase the album.
  • The amounts of albums that get sold have a tremendous impact on what is considered mainstream hip hop. In turn, album sales have a significant impact on where the industry will spend resources.
  • The culture of hip hop that Nas represents needs to be preserved.

I’ll address these points before moving on to my feelings and asking for your thoughts and commentary.

1.      The music industry will have to adapt to a changing environment.

Their artists have, but the record label executives seem reluctant to catch on. They’re essentially faithful employees at a failing corporation. Meanwhile, their CEO (The Artist) is selling all his stocks for whatever he can get because he knows the company is going to fail.

2.      Believing that album sales are driving the industry is a slippery slope.

On one hand, you have artists who maintain mainstream status by only producing mixtapes. Rick Ross is at the forefront of mainstream hip hop and he’s never had an album that got any further than gold. There’s a valid argument that the radio DJs can control the definition of mainstream hip hop. This in turn means that the music that the masses want to hear is really what’s driving hip hop and we’re just losing our connection with that massive. On the other hand, the big winners are selling records and gaining exposure for it too. Drake, Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj are all going platinum in their album sales and because of it they gain a lot of radio play, endorsements and other forms of revenue.

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3.      This is how I feel about people who believe that the Nas era of hip hop must be preserved at all costs.

The Architect: You are here because Zion is about to be destroyed. Its every living inhabitant terminated, its entire existence eradicated.

Neo: Bullsh*t.

[the monitors respond the same]

The Architect: Denial is the most predictable of all human responses. But, rest assured, this will be the sixth time we have destroyed it, and we have become exceedingly efficient at it.

I’m unable to understand the obsession with keeping artists like Nas at the forefront of mainstream hip hop. There was a time when Def Jam decided that much of the hip hop that was already being produced and given away for free could be capitalized upon. We  changed hip hop then. There was another time when gangsta rap ruled the airwaves, we changed hip hop again. Then there was a time when artists like Jay-Z and Nas reigned supreme, the truth of the matter is, hip hop has now changed again. Hip hop has been through so many iterations over the years we can’t even give it a finite definition. It’s more like your first elementary school speech in front of the class, “What Hip Hop Means To Me.” When I see what has happened to hip hop these days, all I can say to myself is, “if that’s what people want to hear, then that’s the new hip hop.” I’ve got to make choice if I want to listen or not.

“This for my trapped in the 90′s n*ggas .” – Nas in Loco-Motive on Life is Good.

Interesting point, Nas.

“You have to adjust to the environment, it’s cold outside, and everybody’s standing outside in bathing suits. I’m not going to stand outside in my bathing suit. I’m going to adapt to the situation. If I’m not getting my money from records, then we’re going to get our money from shows, appearances, endorsements, building other brands, television shows…” – Diddy.

Excellent point, Diddy.

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Let’s bring this back to the issue of purchasing music. There are three main reasons why I find it to be problematic.

1. Music is the only thing that we’re asked to pay for that is readily available for free.

Nobody buys something that you can get for free. That’s almost like going to an open bar and being the odd ball who pays for his drinks. You know what type of person does that? The self-pretentious jerks who think nightlife is more of a statement than recreation.

2. The prices of concert tickets are now absurd.

I’m a guy who really appreciates live music. I went to see Lil’ Wayne’s last concert tour four times. Those tickets were well over $100 each time. He got a nice piece of change out of me. As a consumer, i’ve given Lil’ Wayne ALL the money he’s going to get from me. What’s baffling to me is the people who buy My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne, because it’s good music. Then, they go see the Watch The Throne tour and Kanye West at MSG for $150 a ticket. In the end they’ve paid $340 to Kanye, who won’t put a dime in their pocket.

Ask them how much money they’ll donate to Obama in 2012?

3. The inconsistency in the request for someone to purchase music is absurd.

I’m asked to purchase Nas and Frank Ocean’s album because it’s good. However, nobody cares if you download Drake or MMG’s album illegally because it’s trash. Well, what if I thought Frank Ocean’s album was trash and I really liked ignorant music? Am I allowed to get mad at someone who disagrees with me and accuse them of ruining hip hop? It’s confusing.

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In all of this, I really don’t care if someone buys an album or downloads it for free. I’m glad people are listening to Nas’s album, a great one only comes around every ten years. We need to appreciate this. I think it’s tragic that we want to hold onto to Nas, but artists like Big KRIT and Kendrick Lamar have absolutely no chance at a gold album. If you haven’t checked those guys out, that’s hip hop today. That’s not a bunch of music that’s only played in the club and strip clubs, it’s good music. I bet you nobody buys those albums and I also bet you that nobody gives a damn. If you’re in the industry of hip hop, I completely understand why you want people to buy the music. If you’re not and you want to buy the music that’s great, we need more people like you. However, when you buy it don’t send an email out about how your bought the album, or twitpic your iTunes receipt, just buy it. Otherwise, let’s call a spade a spade, people like that who still buy music in 2012 are merely just exhibiting a humble brag.

#KanyeShrug

What are y’all thoughts on buying music and hip hop’s changing climate in general? Does the consumer need to preserve the old business model of hip hop or is a decision that the industry needs to make for itself? Feel free to comment on Nas’s album too, I’m sure we all have thoughts.

– Dr. J

Admin Note:  Just a heads up that the next SBM NYC event is scheduled for Friday, July 27th at Empire Room in Manhattan. More details to come later this week. No, this is not the same type of self-promotion as discussed in this post!