Hip-Hop Artists Are Changing What The Music Industry Calls An ‘Album’ – Forbes

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 08: Recording artist Vic Mensa attends the 2016 GQ Men of the Year Party at Chateau Marmont on December 8, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for GQ)

For decades now, the album has been the most important format to the music industry. Singles were released to promote full-lengths, and entire careers counted on how well a collection sold. In less than a decade, everything has changed, and now several artists aren’t just trying to change the importance of the medium, they are actually changing the name entirely.

Drake began moving the needle in 2015 when the rapper showed the world how prolific he could be by dropping a pair of full-lengths, which he called mixtapes. It’s certainly not uncommon for rappers to share mixtapes with fans in between proper albums, even ones as busy as Drake, but what made the powerhouse’s decision to call both If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and What A Time To Be Alive with Future mixtapes interesting is the fact that both were albums in all but name. The two titles were released by record labels, immediately made available for sale and much of the same work that goes into an album, such as clearing the samples and properly crediting every person involved, took place before they dropped. Both albums…I mean mixtapes…debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and together they’ve moved over three million units in the U.S. alone.

After returning to the traditional album format in 2016 for his blockbuster effort Views, Drake once again switched things up and adopted a new name for what appeared to be nothing more than a record. Just a few months ago, the Canadian rapper once again topped the albums tally with More Life, which the hip-hop star and his record labels have been calling a “playlist project.” That’s a term that has never been used before, and one that obviously underlines how important streaming has become to musicians these days, especially the most-streamed artist on the planet. Initially only playable on streaming platforms, More Life has been released on physical formats since its massive beginnings, and it too hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with ease, making Drake the only artist to do so with three different kinds of releases (albums, mixtapes and a playlist project).

Now, up-and-coming hip-hop talent Vic Mensa is continuing the trend of trying out new monikers for a collection of music. The rapper has just recently shared a four-song EP, only that’s not what he’s calling it. According to a press release announcing the release of The Manuscript, this is a new “capsule” from the artist. Again, this is a completely new phrase for a musician as popular as the Grammy nominee, and it is only a matter of time before somebody else drops a “capsule” of their own, following in Mensa’s footsteps.

So, what will be next, and who will be the latest artist to label their new project something the industry has never heard before? If things continue as they have been for the past few years, it will likely be another hip-hop talent that challenges what a piece of music can be called, which will leave the business questioning what that means for the industry at large, and the concept of an album in general. As the way money is made in the trade and how millions access music changes rapidly, titles and names are being altered too, and as usual, hip-hop is the genre pushing the boundaries.

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