In 2015, a Spotify employee released statistics related to genre consumption and fan loyalty. Of the 1,300 genres that were analyzed, metal heads were found to be the most faithful to their genre.
Spotify’s measurement of loyalty was the number of streams divided by the number of listeners, and under this criteria, the streaming platform is telling us that metal fans mostly listen to metal music. While this comes as no surprise to me, I had a question of my own: which fanbase is most loyal to their favourite artists?
As an avid hip hop head and rock ‘n’ roll fanatic, I ask myself this question because I’ve seen both sides of the spectrum.
Although I love rock ‘n’ roll, I’m a man who tends to revisit the classics instead of trying to dig through the crowd of ‘meh’ artists that we label as rock stars these days, to find something worth listening to. That being said, there’s no shortage of classics, as the golden age of rock that was the 60s and 70s have left us with an infinite amount of lifelong jams. The best part of it all is that these rock stars remain legends to this day, despite the material they may have released in their later years, which gained no significant traction in the music industry.
Paul McCartney. The Rolling Stones. Bob Dylan. John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Elton John. KISS. Ozzy Osbourne. The list goes on and on.
While some of these artists have released newer material in the past decade, the large majority continue to tour and sell out stadiums while playing through the same recycled songs that they wrote decades ago; some as far back as half a century. These men are legends and can do no wrong. Even if any were to hypothetically release an album in 2020 that completely flopped, their legacy would not be tarnished. They’d continue to sell out arenas fast, and would be absolved of all their sins, courtesy of their loyal fan base.
I don’t think the same can be said about the rap industry…
As an avid hip hop head, I’ve seen how quickly the tides can change and bring a hero to zero in mere months. Chance the Rapper’s most recent album, The Big Day, may be one of the best examples of a praised artist who developed a cult following after a string of successful albums, only to make one mistake and be persecuted in the hip hop community. Chance’s decision to dedicate an entire album to his newlywed didn’t sit well with most fans and he went on to say that he believed they wanted him to kill himself for releasing it.
While this is the most recent example that comes to mind, this lack of loyalty that comes along with the unwillingness to let rappers experiment in their works is not new. Kid Cudi, the “lonely stoner” who opened up doors for hip hop artists to address the struggles of mental health, and who connected with millions of youth on a personal level, gradually faded from the spotlight with the release of his experimental works Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven and Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon. T-Pain, the pioneer of autotune, announced last week that he would be cancelling his upcoming tour due to low ticket sales. Last year, Nicki Minaj cancelled her joint tour with Future for similar reasons despite reigning as the queen of hip hop for quite some time.
Rock stars seem to be free to experiment with their works and make below-par projects once they have reached legendary status – no one seems to mind. The same cannot be said for rappers. Unfortunately, it seems like they’re only ever as good as their last release and there is little room for mistakes. Tough crowd, to say the least.
While rock fans treat their favourite artists as best friends in good times and in bad, hip hop heads seem to treat them as mere acquaintances no matter how close they once were.
Is it possible that this change in loyalty is due to the accessibility of music in the streaming era where artists are easily disposable and replaced by one of their peers? Does this accessibility create a generational gap that takes away from the attachment older generations once had with artists after waiting for their vinyl, physically going to the store to purchase it, and finally spending hours in awe as the record was spinning? Both are possible.
There seems to be only one definite solution to maintaining a lifelong legend status in the rap world. Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur remain the game’s most respected rappers of all time, but both of their legacies were cut short by their untimely deaths. Biggie only ever released two albums, while Tupac had time to drop five. Their careers were not long, but maybe that was for the best. Who knows the hit their legacy could have taken had they released a less than spectacular album.
Maybe the only solution to guaranteeing eternal legend status in the rap game is to die on top.
GIF by @sundaeghost