TAKE #12: Rappers Need a “What’s Next?” Plan

Yikes. I feel like it’s been FOREVER since I’ve written something for thursday email. Lol there’s just been a lot happening. The Week Fulla Dreamville was interrupted by a sudden a very strong couple days of self-doubt and existential crises, the following week was busy for no reason, and then I’ve just been a little sidetracked this week. I’ll explain a little further in my “chattin’ & updatin'” for next week. Nothing wild has happened – life has just been happening and I’ve needed some time away. So next week will hopefully be back to normal – and I’m thinking of doubling up on stories for next week, so I can actually finish up the Week Fulla Dreamville – but, for now, I’m back in this thang, and what a great place to start back up.

Let’s talk about Denzel Curry.

You can basically just call this a Denzel stan blog at this point lol. I’m not gonna waste time explaining how Denzel is amazing and how I would fight anyone that said anything bad about Denzel Curry. I really wanna jump into his latest interview with XXL.

In it, Denzel talks about whole bunch of stuff, but the main thing that he talks about is his desire to not drop any albums after his next three projects. He mentions being super inspired by Andre 3000 and the route that he took during his career. And I remember reading an interview that Andre 3000 did a couple years back with GQ. In that interview, Andre talks pretty candidly about his desire to not just make music forever:

Actually, I hate going to the studio. So what’s got me going once again is me being excited about other artists. I’ve been working on producing a few artists. A couple projects. But here’s the crazy thing: I don’t have the pulse anymore. Rhythms change every generation. The intensity and the drums change. And I’m not on the pulse. I can’t pretend. It’s kinda like watching your uncle dance.

Andre 3000, “Earth to André 3000: The OutKast Icon Talks Life After “Hey Ya!” by Will Welch

His point was that there is a time when an artist has to know when it’s time to move to the next phase in their lives. Especially when it comes to such a creative medium like music. You can’t stay on top forever. And for Denzel, that means getting out while still being on top. He makes a really good point about not running his career into the ground and trying to keep making albums until the projects aren’t good anymore. He would much rather make three solid projects, that are critically acclaimed, that fans enjoy, and that he enjoyed making, and then move on. That keeps his legacy from being tainted by dropping some trash albums towards the end of his career. And honestly, I think that’s a great way of thinking.

“I’m not trying to hold onto the same thing that I was holding onto when I was 16,” Denzel says. “You know, trying to make the same thing over and over.”

Denzel Curry, “Denzel Curry Will Drop Three More Albums Before He Stops Rapping” by Sowmya Krishnamurthy

I do think it’s easy, especially for younger artists, to think that their rap careers will last forever. Especially when you see people like Jay-Z, Nas, and Kanye still rap past a certain age. There’s a longevity that those guys have that has expanded multiple decades and has inspired a bunch of different artists of a bunch of different genres. And I think that’s great, but everybody can’t do that. And even for those guys, they’ve invested in other parts of their lives in order to remain so influential. And I think it’s important for artists to come to terms with that at the beginning of their careers. And the easiest way to come to terms with that is to know that you have a contingency plan. Something that you can do when rapping isn’t what you do anymore.

I think, Tyler the Creator is a great example of this. He just in general has a lot of different interests and wants to do a bunch of different things much like Denzel. But he has always said that music isn’t the only he’s interested in. That’s why I try to go see him perform whenever I can. Much of that is because I luv tylur lol but it’s also because who KNOWS how long he’ll keep going. It’s almost like you got to catch him now, because Tyler could mess around and stop dropping music for the public. He has always made sure that we know that his passions are just creating in general. And that can mean creating movies, music videos, or whatever other things come to his mind. And he actively works on that stuff. He has the Golf Wang clothing line and golf le fleur line with Converse. He has been doing a little bit of acting and did the soundtrack work for The Grinch (2018). He always keeps his hands in a bunch of different pots, and that has really made a difference in the way that I see Tyler. Same with Kanye. They both have other avenues of not only revenue but also creative output that go way beyond music. So when it’s time to hang up the musical towel, they know they have a bunch of different exit strategies available to them.

It also reminds me of a line from “Infrared” by Pusha T, where he talks about Lil Wayne’s career and where he sees Lil Wayne now. He describes Wayne as a “flash without the fire.” Someone who used to drop classics after classics and bars after bars, but has just been in the game for so long that he’s past his prime. And while that might be kind of harsh, I think that is something that people need to come to terms with. The rapping doesn’t last forever. Music in general is one of those careers in one of those industries that are constant changing. There are going to be things that people always look to in music because music is based in some essential components. But as far as trends, that stuff changes often. I mean, we’re living in a time right now where there’s an older generation of folks who can’t stand the new rappers that come out right now, while some people in the younger generation of folks don’t see people like Tupac or biggie as who they’re inspired by. They’re looking to people like Kendrick Lamar and Young Thug as musical inspiration. And for people who make music that’s something that has to always be in the back of their minds. As soon as you think that you’re invincible in the music game, someone else comes snatch that crown up.

He see what I see when you see Wayne on tour

Flash without the fire

Another multi-platinum rapper trapped and can’t retire

Pusha T, “Infrared”

And I don’t know anything about being in the music business LOL but I’ve lived long enough and experienced enough waves in music to know that you can be on top one year and then no one hears from you again the next year. So in order to prevent yourself from ending up in a situation where you don’t know where to go, you have to start investing in yourself in different ways. And that doesn’t mean that music can’t be your first love. It doesn’t mean that that’s not the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. But be real with yourself and understand that the world is ever-shifting you have to move just as fluidly. Because of you stay on your toes, when that day comes that your music isn’t getting played like that or you just get tired of making music (and honestly that might become more and more of an issue as making music starts to be seen as a quick way to earn some money), you can stop without being fearful of what comes next.

And I think Denzel has it right when he says that you should get out while you’re ahead. I used to be a huge fan of the show Community. I used to watch it all the time, and it got me through some really weird parts in my life. But towards the end, it stopped being as good. You could kind of see the life not being in it anymore, despite how much work was being put into it. And that’s the same with music and musicians. Making music takes a lot of work, whether or not you enjoy the process of making it or not. And so the last thing you should want to do is have that all be for nothing. Because, as a society, we’re always looking to the next big thing. LOL I was just reminded of a scene from Toy Story 2 (1999) that is the perfect analogy for this!

Of course we’re going to remember who an artist was before they fell off, but that’s not going to prevent us from talking mess about how bad the fall off was. At least, it’s not gonna stop me lol. Especially for somebody like Denzel, who’s had such an amazing career. It would be so sad to witness that light dim. I just love how forward thinking he is. He wants have a family. He wants to get more into acting and animating. He has goals! And that’s great!! I love that for him! Even as big of a fan as I am, I understand that he’s not going to be making music forever. And I kind of like the idea of knowing that we can expect a few more projects from him before he decides that he’s done.

And I hope other artists start to do the same thing. I want to see more people invest in things that aren’t just fleeting moments of flexing money and fame. I want to see long-term planning. I know a lot of these guys are super young, but that only means that they even have more time that they need to figure out. A lot of them could end up being in their late twenties and not necessarily have a plan of contingency. So I hope hearing it from someone like Denzel – who is still pretty young – inspires people to think more long-term.

And that doesn’t mean that they need to have their whole lives figure it out, I barely know what I’m doing when I wake up in the morning. But that does mean that they’ve at least thought about it; things could change for Denzel between today and tomorrow. He could decide that he wants to stay in the game for the rest of his life. I mean, Denzel is a creator; He’s going to move where he feels the most inspired. But at least he has a plan right now. And I really wish that for a lot of people. Because that’s how keep your legacy going.

here’s something else you might like:

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