Last week, now former Atlantic recording artist Lupe Fiasco released his much anticipated fifth major label album Tetsuo & Youth. Also in the same week Pro Era leading M.C Joey Bada$$ released his debut album B4DA$$. Surprisingly enough the first week sales numbers were reported and it seems Joey outsold the 10 year veteran by nearly 20,000 copies. B4DA$$ tallied at 50,965 copies sold while Tetsuo & Youth pushed a disappointing 42,740 in first week sales.
I can’t help but be not only disappointed by Lupe’s numbers, I’m actually somewhat appalled. With no disrespect at all to Joey Bada$$ and his respected fan base it seems very troubling to me that an artist of Lupe’s caliber and longevity thus far would come up so short on such a masterful work of art. I listened to both albums on the day of their release and while I commend Joey for his debut effort, it pales in comparison to the execution of Testuo & Youth on every level imaginable.
Lupe Fiasco’s album exhibited what I wouldn’t consider anything short of a masterpiece in everything from production, to lyrical exuberance and subject matter that is almost unrivaled in today’s market in Hip-Hop music. Since the day of its release I kid you not, I have listened to the entire album front to back almost half a dozen times, learning something new with every listen. That being said I’ve played my favorite songs (there are at least 5) well over a dozen times a piece. As each record plays I’m reminded why I fell in love with hip-hop music nearly 20 years ago. I can’t help but be taken back to when I was a wide-eyed adolescent with so much on my mind aimed at the social injustices of the world, it could only be calmed by the vast lyricism exhibited by some of the most legendary M.C.’s in the history of the music.
As I listen to the Testsuo & Youth I can’t help but think, this is what every teen in America needs right now. There’s more knowledge and enlightenment within these 15 tracks than I’ve heard in the past 3-4 years from 99% of the rap music being scattered about amongst the masses. And yet, its obvious that the majority of the youth of America isn’t listening; and from what I can gather doesn’t even care. And it makes me wonder, is there a conspiracy at play here? Is there a deeper plot to prevent Lupe’s music from reaching its much deserved and needed audience? Did Atlantic Records finally say enough is enough and decide to refuse to support Lupe’s promotional campaign from a financial standpoint? I do wonder indeed.
As I did some research I came to find out that not single album of Lupe’s has gone platinum as of yet in his wondrous yet troublesome 10 year career as a well known recording artist. “The Cool” which is arguably his best work to date has still barely notched gold numbers with 549,000 album sales. Now, we’ve all read and seen the controversy surrounding previous albums such as “Lasers,” public appearances, interviews, and social media outbursts. And even with all that publicity and talk over the course of these various instances, fans fell short in supporting his final project for Atlantic Records. A white (or in this case black) shining knight heralded as a hero for the unspoken, drowned out voices of black America and 35,000 copies is the best that they could do to support someone who has sacrificed so much to keep the music sincere and inspiring? How sad. So sad it almost feels all is lost.
I think about the shortcomings when it comes to the numbers reported for one of my favorite M.C.’s in the history of the genre and I think about how much has changed in the past 5 years. I think about how fans came to show their support for J. Cole by helping 2014 Forrest Hills Drive nearly go Gold in its first week. And as much as I love J. Cole and his recent album, which I believe to be the pinnacle of his career thus far, still doesn’t hold water in comparison to Tetsuo & Youth and the ingenious behind every single track on the listing. I think about artists like Logic & G-Eazy and how their fans have proven to rise up to the occasion to show their support for their most recent projects, commercially. I think about Iggy Azeala, Migos, Young Thug, Bobby Schmurda, and Rae Shermurd and how they’ve become the topic of discussion on a regular basis on both social media and hip-hop blogs alike. And I cringe at the thought of is this how it is going to be from now on?
The youth today loves to share their opinions of the masses, online. When it comes to music its no different. Fans are quick to name their top 5 or 10 then come to find out none of those artists have released more than 2-3 full length studio albums nor been relevant longer than 5 years. Hell, ask the right fan and they may even place Joey Bada$$ himself on that list. But the disconnectedness has become painstakingly clear as the gap between artists relevant 7 or more years ago and those being talked about today continues to grow. And it baffles me how one of the greatest lyricists of the past decade has all the sudden fallen in his commercial appeal.
With everything going on in recent months, from Ferguson to the #ICantBreathe movement I would’ve assumed we’d steered back towards conscious music with a powerful message of knowledge and self-empowerment. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Hip-Hop truly is dead and Lupe Fiasco’s work is simply the most recent casualty. Oh how I hope I’m not wrong in this case, because we’ve never needed his voice more than now, and I pray the people start listening again, and stop hating those who are trying to actually do some good on all our behalf.