Can MCs Please Everyone?

When speaking of people who are considered legends there is always a classic album that comes to mind in the discussion of why they are in fact considered legends. Many of the greatest artists to ever do it have multiple classic albums. So the question becomes, is it possible to please everyone? Any honest person would say no. Often an MC’s classic album is a reflection of where they were in life at that time. Their truth at the moment they created it. Perhaps it came from a place of struggle, or perhaps it evolved from their experience of being on top. Whatever the story behind it, it was noted as a classic. So what's the problem? The problem is that we are selfish listeners. Selfish supporters. Selfish fans. Sure, the majority of listeners will connect with the classic album — that will be the one thing everyone has in common. But it's never that simple. The classic album is generally a good mix of where the artist comes from, where the artist is within their career or within their lives, and where they're headed or where they want to be. But you will always have fans that reminisce over the essence of that artist. Where that classic album came from. Perhaps they were a fan of their underground mixtapes or notorious battle raps. Or maybe they connected more with where they were during the classic album. The relevancy. Then you have the people that become believers after the classic album. These fans connect more with the progression and the growth of the artist. They aren't interested in the old stuff, they want to see where the artist is going next and what’s new. So where does this put the artist? In a very difficult place. For many of the industry's greatest MCs, the struggle has been to remain true to who they are and what makes them unique, all while remaining relevant in an ever-changing industry. So many elements are involved in what an artist creates from what they're going through within their personal life, to what producers they're working with musically, to what the label wants on the business end. There is ultimately a great deal of pressure to make everyone happy and the reality is, they still won't please everyone. One would think that the only person an artist has to please is themselves. If you have a story to tell, and you want to be transparent — go ahead. If you want to get back to your roots and the why behind why you're an artist then that should be fine too. If you want to evolve and keep the crown — Why not? The fact is everyone will not be happy with everything you put out. But if you remain true to who you are, you will always drop classic albums and eventually everyone will come full circle and meet in the middle. No matter how selfish we are as listeners we appreciate when an MC puts out music laced with authenticity because the minute you start becoming a people-pleaser when it comes to creating, that’s the moment you start releasing not-so-classic albums. Part of being an artist is understanding that different people connect with different parts of you and different pieces of what you create. The times affect how people listen, where your fans are demographically and economically affect how they listen, and what's relevant and trending certainly affects how they listen. Notorious B.I.G. was at a different place when he made Ready to Die than when he made Life After Death. Trust and believe he lost and gained some followers whether we want to admit it or not. Those that connected with the tone of the first album may not have understood reflective tracks like Sky is the Limit from the 2nd album. When we look at some of today's most recent examples we can reference Nas and Jay Z. There are (not many) Nas records that people coin horrible. But why? Is it because they're comparing it to Illmatic? Perhaps. Over the years Nas has had to consider how to evolve as an artist, what he wants to talk about, who his listeners are, what his new music will sound like, and what all of this will mean to "classic" Nas fans. Today, the same goes for Jay Z. As someone with a track record of classic records and numerous number ones some will still never change their opinion that Reasonable Doubt is his greatest body of work. These people don't care about what they consider to be the more commercial albums like Watch the Throne. But Jay Z is one of the few artists that doesn't seem to care. His thing has always been staying true to the art and never stunting his growth as an artist. So no, you may not get another Reasonable Doubt. But why would you want it? That Hip Hop classic will forever remain a classic. Never forget the amazing bodies of work these MCs create, but have enough respect for the art and the artists themselves to open yourself up to what they have to say and how they want to say it. I'm sure they won't disappoint. And even if they do, you'll get over it.

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