It was just an ordinary Tuesday night for a lot of people but for those that had an opportunity to go to The Schimanski Theater, it was a window of opportunity to view an up and coming artist named Lil Skies.
The smell of trees filled the small room at the Schimanski to create an intimate viewing of the new XXL Freshman inductee. For an hour, people slowly crawled in, filling space towards the front; however, the second Lil Skies was in view, it was a full out mosh pit…
One that engulfed the entire back half and pushed the entire front half onto the stage almost.
For many Lil Skies is a household name and after dropping a debut studio album last Jan., he’s back again with his new album drop titled Shelby.
As he made his way on stage, excitingly waiting the crowd was and anticipating a SHOW…but what they got was a full on concert.
Even though Lil Skies said at the beginning of his Tidal X album release concert, “I’ve been on IV’s all day and shit” it made no difference because like a true rock star he was there for the fans.
Now listen, there was skepticism about his inclusion in the XXL freshman class that includes Gunna, Juice WRLD, Lil’ Baby and Sheck Wes (all of whom have dropped singles or albums worthy of a No. 1 spot on any metric).
Yet, he crushed the hopes of doubters that believe he isn’t for real. His wordplay is better than that of many mumble/trap rappers of today.
Lil Skies rap is unique and his sound is like that of a lovechild between the melodic beats of Juice WRLD with the cadence of XXX (relax, I am not, in any way, saying that he is XXXTENTACION reborn).
As he went through his set list, he interacted with fans, taking their phones and snapping Instagram videos and Snapchats alike which was awesome to see live. It is also important to note that his crowd knew a lot of his lyrics which means that he has replay value and isn’t just dropped off after one hit single.
From the more 2019 trap sounding bangers like “Nowadays, pt.2” and “Stop the Madness” to the more lo-fi new-age, conscious rap that can be found on “Highs and Lows”, his eclectic discography and sound was on full view last night.
Lil Skies brought his Mom out on stage to express his love for her and how much she meant to his success and him as a whole. This was a heartwarming part of the concert that I did not expect.
Honestly, my skepticism has been crushed. I think Lil’ Skies knows how to rage. I’m bumpin him on the regular now. You should too.
One could easily argue that Young Dolph is the most influential figure taking part in the resurgence of Memphis hip-hop. Whether it’s his iconic ad-libs, authentic street credibility or his racks, in a short time Dolph has become a legend in his own right.
If you know anything about Dolph you’ll know that he’s a proud independent artist. The last time he spoke about signing a deal was on air at The Breakfast Club where he admitted he’d be open to the idea if the right opportunity came along.
Well, Tuesday it appeared as if he was contemplating if he had received the right one. Dolph took to Instagram to reveal that he had been offered a $22 million dollar record deal. He said to the camera,
“I done got myself in a fucked up ass situation, dawg. I don’t know what the fuck to do, dawg. Really, tell you the truth, I do know what to do. I’ma let y’all know what’s going on. For the last six months, I been having a mothafuckin’ $22M contract debating over should I do the deal or not.”
Finally, he threw the envelope on his Rolls Royce and mulling over the $22M before yelling, “Fuck the $22M!” and walking off.
Dolph’s last album, Bulletproof peaked at No.16 on the Billboard 200, so the offer could have very well been real although he didn’t mention who it was with.
Like Tech9ine, Chance the Rapper and many others, there seems to be a sense of pride that comes with sticking it to the man.
With streaming numbers and the ability to put out music yourself, the need for a corporate machine has almost gone obsolete. Still, Dolph said on the Breakfast Club, “everything can get bigger” if he was to sign a major deal.
You can look at a rapper like Curren$y and compare him to someone like Nikki — who is pressed over album sales — and immediately see the difference. Yet, there are perks to both worlds and it’s clear which one Dolph wants part of.
Dolph currently has his own label with artists signed and can release music his way and by his rules, maybe $22 million isn’t enough.
Either way, we know Dolph going to get the music off regardless.
Growing up, I remember seeing posters, billboards, interviews on “106 and Park” and a host of other promotional legwork artists had to do before dropping a project. The physical product would be delivered to national retail chains, accompanied by either by radio hits, local ads, and late-night TV appearances.
There was a date to circle on the calendar, time to save up money, and even a synopsis on what to expect from Source or Vibe magazine. (I wasn’t copping unless it was three mics or better.)
Midnight on December 13, 2013, with no prior fanfare whatsoever, the self-titled visual album, quite literally just appeared on the iTunes store, sending the music world into a state of unprecedented panic.
I laugh now, but I remember my twitter timeline experiencing a wide range of emotions. Shock and disbelief, joy, elation. Frankly, the music world was never the same since.
The surprise album received rave reviews and gave Beyoncé her fifth consecutive number one album, selling 991,000 copies in the U.S. within the first ten days of its debut.
Apple confirmed that Beyoncé was the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes Store, both in the U.S. and worldwide. The release not only marked her highest debut sales week of her solo career, it also became the largest debut sales week for a female artist in 2013.
Artists ranging from Kid Cudi, Jay-Z, and Drake to Skrillex, even ‘N Sync, followed suit after the success, releasing projects with zero to little promotion hoping to emulate in some fashion the algorithm Queen Bey had conjured.
Kendrick’s Untitled Unmastered only real “promo” was his heralded 58th GRAMMY performance. Then, without a word, was gifted to digital retailers on March 4. Like Rihanna, Lamar only used twitterto announce the project and despite the limited announcement, Untitled went on to debut at No. 1 in its first week.
Future, the “Dirty Sprite” legend, has found the limited pre-promo useful. Again, only using social media to tell #FutureHive about his album Future and only doing one interview (with Zane Lowe) to hype the one-week follow-up, Hendrxx, Future managed to score back-to-back number one’s albums a week apart.
These artists and their suddenly-released projects show that you no longer need major labels and their whole PR teams behind for your album to do numbers.
In the past, labels would pick a single, put all their money and promotion behind that single, and cross their fingers for it to do well. The goal was for this single to be radio-friendly and for that single to act as a driving force behind the push of the album. But the unannounced method has proved that there are other ways to go about releasing an album.
When an album is dropped out of thin air, it lets the people — the market — pick the “single”. But simply releasing the music, as opposed to trying to predict what people would love prior, makes it a lot easier and safer to put the funds behind what listeners are responding the most to.
Remember J.Cole’s “Let Nas Down”? He addressed this very issue.
The record off his Sophomore album touches on succumbing to the pressure of releasing a “hit” single and stumbling into compromising his sound in the process.
“Hov asking where’s the record that the radio can play
and I was striking out for months, 9th inning feeling fear.
Jeter under pressure, made the biggest hit of my career.
But at first, that wasn’t clear, n*** had no idea
Dion call me when it drop sound it’s sad but sincere
Told me Nas hear your single and he hate that shit
Said you the one, why you make that shit?”
And what did Cole learn? Well, since Born Sinner his last two projects not only didn’t have a single to push the project, had no features (as we all know) and no promotion, yet both still went on to go double platinum.
See, not only do you save money by eliminating the pre-promotion budget — the billboards, the press runs etc — but it alleviates pressure, for both the artist and the label. The more you invest the more you expect, and with no expectation behind any particular single, the label is at ease to sit back and observe what the music will do for its fanbase.
Instead of weeks or months of rollouts, a simple tease of a title, or even a vague social media post is enough to stir attention. No promotion is also a win-win for fans. They aren’t expecting anything, so when all the sudden new music drops out of nowhere the excitement amasses the promotion any label would dream to produce.
No one can be truly sure of Beyoncé’s intent. My hunch is that the surprise element was a strategy to cut down on leaks. But she clearly has tapped into an entirely new way to look at music marketing, especially in the peak of both social media and the streaming age of music.
No longer are artists tied to release dates, the performance of a single, or even interviews. The only reliance is artists’ connection to their fans (a surprise drop only works if you have a fanbase thirsting for more music). More importantly, it proves the importance of labels is waning.
While you still have artists like Adele who’s still a big believer in the physical product and who still succeeds in that realm — her 2015 album 25 tallied a gaudy $3.48 million equivalent album units in its first week of sales, $3.38 million of which were pure album sales marking the single largest sales week since 1991 — it’s been proven quite handily that evolution in the industry has shifted significantly.
Personally, I hope artists keep releasing albums out of nowhere, or on short notice. It allows the most authentic creative process and it means they trust us to ‘get’ their art. As the music industry continues to change, the ways in which artists release and promote their music is sure to evolve.
Here’s to hoping artists continue to take ownership of their creative process.