Rap Albums are Getting Shorter

Streaming services have redefined a generation of artists

Our attention spans are getting shorter and the time that we pay attention to trends is decreasing. Should artists play into this meta-trend? Or is there still a place for the double-sided deluxe edition?

Kanye is King (of shorter albums)
I was so excited when Pusha T released his smash album Daytona in May 2018 — not because I’m a huge Pusha T fan (yuggh), but because it marked the start of GOOD Friday. And I’m a massive Kayne West fan.

The ‘GOOD Friday’ marketing strategy (a play on words with the G.O.O.D Music record label) meant that every Friday for five weeks the record label released a new album:

  1. Daytona — Pusha T
  2. Ye — Kayne West
  3. Kids See Ghosts — Kanye West & Kid Cudi
  4. NASIR — Nas
  5. K.T.S.E — Teyana Taylor

Their average length? Twenty-three minutes.

These albums are exceptionally short when you compare them to Drake’s last studio album, Scorpion, which runs for a whopping one hour and thirty minutes (about four times as long as the other albums).

Artists and their wider teams are divided into camps about how best to release their music — with a mega-album or a glorified EP.

The Mega-Album
Drake is not the first rap artist to drop mega-albums. Eminem found huge success with the same strategy in the late 90s. The Marshall Mathers LP (Limited edition — enhanced portion) and its twenty-seven songs ran for a staggering TWO HOURS.

Deluxe albums were usually released later on to encourage die-hard fans to buy the whole album again around Christmas time for a few extra songs, but this offering is less attractive to a Spotify subscriber who gets access to as many albums as they like.

Some artists still choose to release very large albums in the hope that just one of the songs will land on a playlist which will catapult them to stardom.

Dj Khaled’s 2017 album Grateful is a perfect example. At ninety minutes long with TWENTY THREE songs, it’s almost embarrassing only two of them were number one hits (Wild Thoughts & I’m the One) whilst the album got bang-on average reviews.

The Glorified EP
An Extended Play (EP) used to be a double-sided seven-inch vinyl with two singles (or remixes) on either side in the 50s. That trend continued through the different mediums of music and was used as a way for artists to promote upcoming albums or to stay relevant.

But with trends becoming shorter than ever, why not just release a load of singles and EPs that are disguised as albums?

I believe that that’s what the best marketing teams in the rap game are already doing.

RapCaviar Trends
RapCaviar is a force to be reckoned with. It can take any rap artist, strap rockets onto their career and send them into the stratosphere of stardom. Followed by over thirteen million rap enthusiasts and racking up over seven billion streams, this playlist is the place to find the hottest artists in the game.

Over the last couple of months, I have been using an AWS lambda function to gather data about RapCaviar in order to see if the artists that are featured on this playlist are releasing shorter albums.

I collected three datasets to test this hypothesis, all focusing on the average length of every album released by the artists featured on RapCaviar. The datasets are split into:

  1. The artist’s deluxe albums (or their standard releases)
  2. The artist’s standard releases only
  3. Both of the above

Albums released before 2001 were omitted due to a lack of data.

Here are the results:

The trendlines highlight that artists who feature on RapCaviar have steadily released shorter albums over the last couple of decades.

The huge spike in 2020 was largely due to Pop Smoke’s post-humorous album ‘Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon (Deluxe)’ and ‘Dreamville’s Revenge Of The Dreamers III: (Deluxe)’, which both run for approximately 1hr and 45mins.

Final Thoughts
Whilst saying “albums are getting shorter” is a sweeping statement, it’s safe to say that the most popular rappers are releasing shorter albums.

That’s not to say that there is no place for the double-sided super special edition (explicit) anymore, but it does highlight a change in how fans like to consume music.

I love a good album — an album that you can listen to from front to back and not have to skip a single track (JIK). They’re an art form in their own right and I hope that they never die.

www.liamhartley.co.uk ~ data privacy, data ethics , data engineering, data science and life

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