I ought to make it clear that I am a big fan of some of the latest generation of young talent that have a made a breakthrough into the mainstream. Lately, we have been blessed with some fine albums from new, emerging artists as well as fine bodies of work from more established artists and the last year has been one of the strongest in terms of quality albums, if not commercial success.
We have seen quality debut albums from the likes of Kid Cudi, Wale, Drake and most recently, B.o.B. competing strongly with the likes of Distant Relatives, Big Boi and Eminem’s Recovery.
However, there have been one or two questions about how the major labels are handling and managing their latest crop of signings. Take Drake as a case in point. His mixtape generated an unprecedented level of buzz and Best I Ever Had was one of the biggest hits of the last year. It provided the chance for someone to take this artist on and develop a new marketing strategy or new way of developing a musical genre or style. Instead the easy route was taken and, despite the numerous hits, the public were left with a fairly disappointing Thank Me Later when all the hype it had was taken into consideration. The sales numbers that followed this were impressive for anyone else, but with the hype that he came in with and the possibilities that his talent presented, more should have been made of the potential and the labels must see the fact that the album has not past a million copies yet as a slight anticlimax.
Then there is Wale, who built up a decent fan base and earned himself a credible reputation with quality mixtapes and a flow and lyrical dexterity that impressed many and a signing to Interscope soon followed. The album that followed later on after numerous delays was certainly a solid offering from a debut artists, and a refreshing sound when compared to the standard fare that finds it’s way to record shelves these days with the exploration of different topics and ideas. But from the start it was unclear what his label wanted him to be. The opportunity to set himself in a certain category was there but instead the label looked to find the most buzzworthy single. To say this backfired is an understatement, as his debut single ‘Chillin’ was totally overshadowed by the superstar that is Lady Gaga and left Wale in obscurity. If this had been released with a ‘street’ single that gave him more personality like Contemplate or the superb ‘Diary’ then the public may have become more aware of his presence and musical excellence. Instead we were left with an album that was treated the way it’s own title suggests, an Attention Deficit.
This is unfortunate and I feel that as labels continue to try to make up for lack of sales without much innovation, then new artists and developing talents will continue to be overlooked or thrust into the limelight with a marketable guest artist and forever labelling them a one hit wonder and suddenly finding themselves forgotten. And for any talented individual to have the dishonour of being mentioned with the likes of Vanilla Ice, this is simply not good enough.