How Do You Evaluate a Rapper's Discography? Why, and how does this differ from other genres?

Started by Big Dangerous, Mar 14, 2018, in Music Add to Reading List

  1. Big Dangerous
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    Big Dangerous World Heavyweight Champion

    Mar 14, 2018
    To most people, rap music catalogs are not judged by the same criteria or looked at with the same overview as non-rap music. In fact, most rap discogs fall under two categories; they're either considered completely unblemished or they are tarnished in some way. This isn't the case with a classic rock library for example, a band will be remembered for their three or four great records and then nothing else really matters in the grand scheme of things. No one will butt into a discussion and bring up that stinker they released during a transition period for the band. It's almost always the music as a whole.

    How does rap differ?

    In hip-hop, there is a heavy weight placed on what is considered 'classics' (top tier albums) and stinkers (bad albums). Unlike the generally holistic approach to other genres of music, if a rapper releases a truly bad album, then that is what will be talked about the most when discussing their career-- that is until they prove themselves and save their catalog otherwise (I will discuss this in a minute). Consequently on the other end of the spectrum, the first thing that is brought up 99% of the time in a legacy debate is the amount of classic albums a hip hop artist has to their name.

    [​IMG]
    Lil Wayne has released a dizzying number of albums over the course of his career


    The formula for evaluating discography

    Or is there one? This differs from person to person and is the meat and potatoes behind the purpose of this thread. Speaking strictly from my own personal experience, I think it's fair to say that in rap discussions, there's hardly any in-between. There's a point where past no one talks about good or alright albums when debating the overall quality of someone's musical contribution. It's about how many really great albums (classics) they have or how many really bad albums they have. Dropping a stinker album is often severely detrimental to a rappers legacy. An otherwise consistent rapper with no classics drops a really bad album, and that automatically sums up his career to that point. A lot of the times this is balanced out with classic albums, which can be used to redeem awful ones in a sense. But not always , because a bad album is heavier on a career than a classic. At some point , a persons sustained excellence across multiple years is enough to overcome bad albums...Jay Z had a handful of missteps in his career but through perseverance they are often looked over. But that requires albums upon albums, and a younger genre like rap music only has so many people with the ability to have made as much music over a career as Jay has as of now. The other alternative is a career that averages so much quality in its releases that a single bad album is overshadowed. Think Kanye, whos discography has been so well recieved thus far that after the dust settles on just one bad album, it won't weigh down how positively he is thought of.

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    Pictured above, Kanye West, often cited as having one of the best discographies I'm hip hop music

    But why do rap listeners do this?

    As in, why are rap listeners so quick to attach classic and clunker to a artists work. Why do these titles provide the majority of basis of how good a rap artist is?

    It could be because rap, being primarily made and attached to a singular person, is considered intimate and associated so closely to that one person that their triumphs and pitfalls are so deeply rooted within them. In this essence, a single person is synonymous with the quality of their release. If it's a bad album, there's more often than not no one else to point to but the rapper themselves.

    Or it could simply be because from its birth rap has been thought to be heavily competitive and personal. From the early days rapping has been about flexing your prowess and being better than the other men. With each new record, a rap artist is walking on egg shells with the pressure to outdo their peers. If your album isn't the cream of the crop then that means someone else has outdone you. A failure of an album is a failure to defend your ability and skill to everyone else, those who are competing against you. Maybe hip hop is not actually like this anymore, in the age where lyricism isn't at the forefront and the market is over saturated with releases due to services like social media and soundcloud-- in that case the evaluation of a discography and analysis of classics and clunkers and their overall effect on a rappers legacy may just be a remnant of the forgotten era of hip hop and nothing more.

    [​IMG]
    I didn't have an appropriate picture for this section, so here is an old picture of Ice Cube looking mean


    Conclusion

    So how do you evaluate a discography? What makes someones legacy great in your opinion? Can someone release a bad albums and redeem themselves with good albums? Can someone be great by consistently being good, or does it take more? How many classic albums in return does it take to redeem a wack album?
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
    Feb 28, 2021
  2. Michael Myers
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    Michael Myers The Boogeyman is coming

    Mar 15, 2018
    Good piece!

    Honestly I don't really care about these things, like I don't think about the things you asked. I just listen to the s--- I enjoy and don't listen to stuff I don't like.

    If the majority of a catalog is good to me, fine.

    It a rapper has 3/7 albums that are good that means most of it isn't (logically) but I only focus on the 3 I do like.

    I'm a simple man :idk:
     
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  3. volvo
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    Mar 15, 2018
    To me, it depends on the context. If I'm in a discussion, I'll evaluate a rapper's discography in accord to the discussion that's being held.

    By default, I go off the quality of the rapping first. Album execution also comes into play, but the rapping comes first.
     
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  4. SHUDEYE
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    Mar 15, 2018
    I think it's because of the naturally competitive nature that stems from hip hop's origins. This is something I do think about a lot because I feel like rappers are criticised much more harshly than other genres by their fans. I think it's like I mentioned, the naturally competitive nature influencing fans' judgement.
     
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  5. SHUDEYE
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    SHUDEYE Kerser is the sickest.

    Mar 15, 2018
    It's why i get confused with what a top 5 rappers list should be. Because i mean theres a lot of great rappers that could never transfer the skills into great projects. That's why i get confused with how to rate top 5 RAPPERS. If it's clearly about discog then yeh, but to me rapping ability and music ability aren't married. There's a lot of great singers who don't have hits too.
     
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  6. SHUDEYE
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    SHUDEYE Kerser is the sickest.

    Mar 15, 2018
    Big L and Jada are good examples. Phenomenal rappers that are often on top 5 lists but have average discogs. Are they getting a pass cos they'r THAT good or? Like what's the criteria if they're a top 5 with no classics but someone with three isn't?
     
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  7. Gurj
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    Mar 15, 2018
    The way I evaluate a rappers discography is based on 5 things:
    1. The number of classic albums
    2. The number of great albums
    3. The number of good albums
    4. The number of mediocre albums
    5. The number of bad albums

    Take Kanye West for example, who in my opinion has more classics than any of the other 4 options. I would consider his discography to be among the greatest ever. However, for a rapper like Eminem, who in my opinion has more bad albums than any other of the 4 options, I would consider his discography to be pretty bad. Now, there are also rappers like JAY-Z who have multiple classics, multiple great albums, and multiple mediocre albums. For a rapper like JAY-Z, his classics and great albums outweigh the mediocre albums, and since he has no bad albums, I would consider JAY-Z to have a good discography.

    The criteria for rappers on my GOAT list is based on three things in descending order of importance:
    1. Rapping ability/lyrical skill
    2. Discography
    3. Creativity

    For a rapper like Mos Def, who is incredibly creative and skilled, but has a very mediocre discography, I wouldn't place him in my top 10. Had he had more albums that had the quality of Black on Both Sides, he would likely be in my top 3, or even number 1. While Mos Def has 2-3 classics, he also has many bad albums.
     
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  8. Enigma
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    Enigma Civil liberties > Police safety

    Mar 15, 2018
    I do have a tendency to look at discographies & place more weight on albums but i’ve realized that really doesn’t do justice for mixtape rappers like an early Lil Wayne or Gucci Mane. Even early Eminem when a lot of his best musical moments in his career were freestyles/diss tracks that aren’t on a specific project. There’s really no one perfect way to evaluate an artist.
     
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  9. SHUDEYE
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    SHUDEYE Kerser is the sickest.

    Mar 15, 2018
    Further on from this I think it's something almost subconscious in hip hop where your albums (whether you intend it or not) are kind of meant to be statements and competition to your peers trying to outdo them. Trying to outdo is something that has always been prevalent in hip hop hop's history. Rock/pop etc. acts just drop an album for their fans and because they're due one. They're not in as much competition with their peers (apart from sales which is nothing personal) as rappers are (whether they know it or not).

    Hip hop's environment and origin creates this harsh judgement.
     
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  10. HappyTreeFriends
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    HappyTreeFriends hi guys ;)

    Mar 15, 2018
    I listen and see if it's still good.
     
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  11. Gurj
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    Mar 15, 2018
    I agree. In my opinion the competitive premise of hip-hop has an effect on the way we compare a rappers accomplishments to the bar set by the previous generations. I think this is completely unfair since todays rapper can't contribute the same way that the previous generations have. Fans of the genre will praise Kool Moe Dee, Kool G Rap, and Rakim for bringing multi-syllable rhyming into hip-hop, but fail to acknowledge those who mastered it. In the same sense, fans will praise those who released the most influential albums, such as Illmatic, 36 Chambers, Paid In Full, Ready To Die, etc. but will fail to acknowledge albums of similar quality that just don't hold the same influence. It becomes a matter of how long influence can hold as an argument. In the 70s and 80s there was a huge opening for new techniques and new styles to be presented, and those who presented them were praised, however, there are only so many new things that you can present. Once we realize that today's generation is about improving and not inventing, we will be able to appreciate a rapper and their discography a lot more.
     
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  12. SHUDEYE
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    SHUDEYE Kerser is the sickest.

    Mar 15, 2018
    It is obviously a lot harder to "invent" now than when something is in its infancy. One thing I do love currently is Thug's boundary pushing in regards to masculinity, which has been a staple in hip hop's entire existence. The dresses etc. mixed with his personality is something new done right imo. I love it.
     
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  13. Gurj
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    Mar 15, 2018
    Also, this thread proves that @Big Dangerous is a top 3 user OAT
     
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  14. Fire Squad
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    Fire Squad Boss Don Biggavel

    Mar 15, 2018
    I really hope this gets more looks because so much effort went into this, well done m8

    I think you mentioned it "Rap is a young genre" it was an emerging counter-culture when it was popping in the 80s that slowly earned it's chops until it essentially exploded and took over the MTV generation towards the late 90s, right around the Shiny Suit Era. The way people wrote reviews at the time was more magnanimous than the way we write them now--hence the 90s had such a more grandstanding legacy because of how that generation received them, plus music sales were in a much more healthier climate than they are now.

    So as more generations pass by, the way the genre has either morphed or abandoned some of those ideals that was formed in the golden age is more or less how most people would evaluate a discography. Like I remember when Hov retired, MTV named him the GOAT ahead of like Big, Pac & Nas because up to that point his discography was considered almost flawless. Now we're in such a vastly different climate that we can now look at all those older releases and judge them more by their lasting legacy, some of those guys are still making music and I'm excited to see how Rap will continue to evolve and who will push the genre further.
     
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  15. Cyreides
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    Cyreides gfy

    Mar 15, 2018
    i mean, i look at it the same as any other genre really
     
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  16. Big Dangerous
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    Big Dangerous World Heavyweight Champion

    Mar 15, 2018
    Thanks fellas

    I try to contribute but a lot of the time it gets overlooked due to lack of overall activity and just few members who enjoy deeply discussing hip hop tbh
     
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  17. TheReturn
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    Mar 15, 2018
    i dont care for discography
     
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  18. Michael Myers
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    Michael Myers The Boogeyman is coming

    Mar 15, 2018
    It's appreciated bro, even if I don't really contribute to this thread -simply because I don't look so deep into it-
     
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