Eminem recently released a new single, “Walking on Water” featuring Beyoncé. So far reception has been spilt down the middle, some people love the song, others feel meh about it. Now combine this recent single with his freestyle on the BET hip hop awards, the consensus seems to be Eminem has lost a stepped, he’s washed, he’s fallen off. That poses a question, Do artist really fall off or are fans to disloyal?
Music is a fast moving business, there’s always a new sound that’s “hot”, a new artist ready to take the “title”. And fans waiting to move on to the next trend. Of course you’ll have your purists who stick with what they came up with, or feel the new sound is shit. For the most part, people will go with what’s hot at the moment. One year so and so’s new album is the shit, people dubbing it a “classic”, and playing it all day. Maybe six months later they drop something else…”garbage”. The fickleness of people is a contributing factor to this trend, but what other factors cause this?
Since hip hop's inception, it has always been a young man’s game. Jay-Z has been the only artist who has managed to stay relevant throughout the years, he won’t be dethroned anytime soon even as he approaches 50 years of age. Most people connect to artist who are relevant during the “come-up” of their generation. They’ll remain loyal to the sound they first fell in love with and brush off anything that comes after that. You’ll have others who won’t acknowledge anything that came before their time. That’s part of the problem, especially in hip hop the pioneers are often ignored and relegated to secondary status. Once the average rapper hits 30 plus, they can’t connect with the next generation. The generation gap is one contributing factor.
Image is another contributing factor in an artist falling off. Eminem in his heyday was known for being controversial in his raps, poking fun at pup culture, and sharing his demons. As the years went by, the targets of his raps were no longer “in”, his demons had been defeated, and he rapped about new topics. People didn’t like that. Other artist may be known as “street” rappers, once success comes and slowly they start moving away from the street image, their image is no longer valid. A rapper who throughout his career has been known as a weed head who doesn't care anything, can’t turn around and start rapping about his investments in the stock market. Success brings changes, the changing of an image and song topics comes along with that. Along with the changing song topics and success, comes new found interest.
People’s interest change throughout their life and artist are no different. Especially now with all the avenues a successful artist can use to make money. They’ll use music as their launching pad, then branch into tv and movies, next thing you know they pushing a liquor brand or fragrance, or their a clothing designer. In their personal life they may get married and start a family focusing on that. Look up and you’ll notice they haven’t released a album in 5 years and people forget about them. Once they return fans notice a drop off in the quality of their music and move on.
Speaking of their music, this next factor is the fans and the artist fault. After an hiatus, or the artist wants to experiment the results can vary. Their song topics may change, a normally somber artist may go for a partying celebratory vibe, a smooth r&b artist tries a rock inspired sound. They’ll break ties with a producer they made magic with, for a new direction. An artist known for metaphors that get you thinking, decides a commercial album won’t hurt, and a commercial artist suddenly goes conscious among other things. On the same token you have artist who never change their sound, and that greatly harms them. The artist may misfire and boom, gone just like that. Even if they have made six straight certified bangers, on that one misfire the fans don’t cut them any slack. They turn away in droves and stick to their previous albums. The artist maybe should have looked within themselves and their team before releasing this misfire, on the other hand fans if their real fans should still support that artist. Growth is a part of life and often times it’s not appreciated in the music industry.
Some artist have been able to reinvent themselves and stay relevant or somewhat relevant. Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Madonna, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Usher, Mariah Carey, R.Kelly, the late Prince to name a few. But the vast majority are not able to do that. While it can be the artist fault, It’s mainly other contributing factors such as time and general population taste changing, leading to the stigma of being “washed up”. Hopefully people can began to appreciate artist more when they try to grow, and switch it up. However for the right now, artist are kicked to the curb when their not “hot” anymore and that needs to change.