What’s the point in releasing an album if you can’t tour it? That’s where the money is for many artists. Now that the restrictions are easing worldwide, this might change, but touring is still tricky, and it’s surely one of the main reasons why many of the big guns are holding back with album releases.
In hip-hop, we are waiting and waiting. This week, Kanye West looks set to finally release the eagerly awaited Donda, and I’ll review it when it drops, but other big names are still holding back. Kendrick Lamar is coming off one of the greatest runs in hip-hop history, but it’s four years since Damn. Recently, his engineer said that an album “might” come out this year, but that doesn’t suggest an imminent release.
Drake is operating on a slightly less critically acclaimed level, but he continues to be a pop-music hit machine. He releases singles every few months and his much-hyped Certified Lover Boy looks like it might come out any day now, and possibly even this weekend. We can be sure that’s it’s full of tracks that will dominate both rap and pop radio for the rest of the year.
Travis Scott is another huge artist keen to make a big impact with a follow-up to an iconic album. Astroworld was one of the biggest records of the last few years, and Utopia has been expected now for some time. Again, we’ve got singles, but we are still waiting for the album.
There have been some big-name releases in 2021. J Cole, if that’s your thing, dropped another album, while Pop Smoke, who didn’t even live long enough to enjoy his first album, has another posthumously released, successful record out at the moment.
There seem to be more deceased big-name rappers releasing than living ones, and a cursory look at the global album charts brings up names like Juice WRLD and XXXtentacion, while DMX just released an album, too. Nipsey Hussle tragically died in 2019, and it looks like he will have something out soon, too.
In the UK, the dominant street sound is drill, which is more singles-orientated, but there have been albums from Slowthai, Dave, Ghetts, and Little Simz. Overall, bar the new Skepta EP, most of the bigger guns are holding back in 2021.
In the wider scene, the women of rap seem to have been quieter than last year, too, though Cardi B has been busy making music, and her new album will be eagerly awaited by the pop world. Lizzo is a crossover artist whose new release will be a huge hit, but straying away from rap, it’s the girls who seem to be dominating chart-wise right now.
It’s pop names such as Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat, and Dua Lipa. Karol G, Bad Bunny, and others are doing well, too, while in afrobeats a newly expanded Made in Lagos, by Wizkid, is sure to do damage when it comes out soon.
2021 is halfway gone, but it doesn’t look like it will be remembered as one of the more iconic music years of the century, unless something spectacular happens soon.
Donda is certainly needed; let’s hope Kanye can craft better lyrics than he has been doing lately; his beats are always great. Despite the paucity of great albums, for me, as a DJ, there is still loads of music ammunition and the barrage of new tracks every week can be overwhelming.
I’m DJing on air at the limited events we are allowed, but it’s still not the same as dropping tracks at a packed club or festival. These tracks take on a different life on stage, and I hope we are back indoors very soon.
I’m sure the biggest names in hip-hop are aware of this, and, for now, many are content just to wait a little bit longer until they release their albums.