Sunday, May 24, 2009

Top 10 album delays of all time

Saigon: Release My Album Dammit!

Waddup, it's been a minute. I been at Michigan State Uni studying for a semester, but now I'm back in Melbourne.

So there's been a few projects I been anticipating lately, and they keep getting pushed back (Raekwon, Big Boi, etc.). And it's annoying as hell. It's a familiar story...skilled artist gains following, gets signed to a major label, artist creates music on the creative tip, label wishes for more mainstream material prompting lack of funding to the project, delays and often ultimate non-release of album. You may have recorded a classic, but that shit ain't ever gonna see the light of day. After all, Reasonable Doubt only ever made 23rd on the Billboard charts.... Lupe told us he'd never "dumb it down" but not every rapper is CEO of the label they are signed to.

So what are the top 10 most infamous album delays of all time? Let's have a look...

10. Lil Wayne and Juelz Santana - I Can't Feel My Face. Many heads (myself included) were drooling with anticipation when Juelz and Weezy announced a collab album was in the works back in 2006. However, Juelz was signed to Diplomat Records (owned by Cam'ron); Weezy to Cash Money. Cam wasn't the most encouraging label head when it came to collabarations with artists from other labels...clearly, the project was not going to progress smoothly. However, it is clear that Weezy and Juelz really wanted to pursue the one interview I remember Weezy was asked "Who else in the game is closest to your level?" to which he responded "Only one cat...Juelz Santana." Juelz wanted to complete a few mixtapes with Weezy to show Cam that Cash Money and Dipset were on the same page. And Weezy himself named two songs on his classic Da Drought 3 mixtape "Dipset" and "Dipset 2". However, this clearly was not enough. Juelz's rights have been sold to Def Jam since, and perhaps the album might yet see the light of day. A leak, My Face Can't be Felt, has hit the may or may not be the last we hear of the project. Only time will tell...

9. Papoose - The Nacirema Dream. Jive are involved both here and for Number 2 on the list - shame! After gaining popularity in the streets with his many mixtape releases, 'Poose signed a deal in 2006 with Jive for $1.5 million. However, he and favored DJ Kay Slay were apparently the victim of "A&R Hell" at the label and eventually left. Somehow, Papoose managed to keep the $1.5 million (or so he claims). Not bad work if you can get it...anyway, so we are still without a debut album from Papoose. Like Saigon, he might have missed the best time to capitalise on his hype...we'll see what happens.

8. Slum Village - Fantastic Volume 1/2. The new cats out of Detroit were causing a stir in the underground in the mid to late 90s. They signed to A&M Records and had Fan-Tas-Tic, their full-length debut, ready for release in 1997. However, once again, label politics forced the album to be postponed. Bootleg copies circulated first Michigan and then the country and the album gained much praise from many underground heads. SV continued to work on new material, yet with a new album completed in 1998 PolyGram (A&M's parent) was bought by Seagrams and A&M merged into Universal Music Group (most staff were let go and many artists dropped - it essentially folded). After a year or so with no label, the Village decided to put their new material together with some of Fan-Tas-Tic and release Fantastic Vol. 2 under GoodVibe Recordings and Barak Records in 2000. Fan-Tas-Tic in its original form didn't see release until 2005 under Counterflow, and was titled Fantastic Vol. 1.

7. J-Live - The Best Part. This highly talented NY cat came up in the mid 90s, and through 96-97 recorded an album with production from the likes of Premo, Pete Rock and Prince Paul. By all accounts, the album was close to completion in 97. However, problems with label Shack Records forced delays and eventually J-Live left the label. He ended up on Payday Records, which did not improve things at all: Warner Music Group bought London Records (Payday's parent) from Universal Music Group and the project was again scrapped. By this time it was 2001, and high quality bootlegs had begun to circulate (was J-Live himself behind these? Most certainly...yes). Luckily, third time lucky, the album was released later that year on the aptly named label Triple Threat Productions. J-Live had this to say in his liner notes about the album's odyssey: "[it was] built, robbed, destroyed, rebuilt, held up, postponed, cancelled, shelved, bootlegged, analyzed, exploited, slept on, supported, patiently awaited, and appreciated." The end result was a masterpiece, all be it slept on. I recommend everyone to check out this album as soon as possible!

6. Madvillain - Madvillainy II. After the magic of Madvillainy in 2004, everyone wanted a sequel. Everyone but MF Doom, it seems (I guess I should call him by his new name DOOM). Madlib had all the beats ready for a new album, and a joint named "Monkey Suite" appeared on Stones Throw's Chrome Children compilation as a teaser for the sequel with DOOM ripping it up. However, that was the last time we ever heard DOOM on a Madlib beat. By 2008 Madlib eventually got tired of waiting for DOOM, and just remixed Madvillainy. And...that was Madvillainy II. So the album I guess has been released...but not how we ever wanted it.

5. K.M.D. - Bl_ck B_st_rds. Remaining on the Daniel Dumile tip, this album's non-release ultimately created one of the greatest cult followings seen in hip-hop - that of MF Doom. Firstly, DJ Subroc was killed in a car accident shortly before completion of the album in 1993. Elektra dropped the outfit the same week, and to add insult to injury, the next year refused to release the album due to its controversial title and album cover (which featured a caricature of a Sambo figure being hanged). Zev Luv X (Subroc's brother) understandably did not react to this succession of events well, and disappeared into the depths of New York, and then Atlanta. He returned years later, after "recovering from his wounds", as MF Doom: the rest, as they say, is history. As Doom's popularity grew, Bl_ck B_st_rds was finally released in 2001 on Sub Verse Music.

4. Saigon - The Greatest Story Never Told. An amusingly ironic title, The Greatest Story Never Told, has seen numerous delays since 2005, the year it was originally scheduled for release. The album is supposed to be released by Fort Knocks Entertainment - Just Blaze's label under Atlantic Records. However, it seems Just does not get much input into proceedings...otherwise the album would have surely been released by now. Saigon claimed on his blog in 2007 that Atlanta are the perpatrators and only wanted to release "jingles" that would sell, not straight up real hip-hop (Just claimed it was because a sample could not be cleared...but this turned out to be wrong as even after it was cleared further delays ensued). Later that year he seemingly lost it, blasting the whole rap game and announcing his retirement. He later went back on this decision, but the announcement clearly showed his frustration with the label. Luckily, Saigon has finally got a release from Atlantic and he and Just Blaze have 100% ownership of the album. A new distribution deal is being sorted out now and the album should be released this year...finally!

3. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Lynx II. Initially announced in 2005 (a decade after the release of the classic Only Built 4 Cuban Lynx), this album has still not yet seen the light of day. It was first "finished" in January 2006, with Raekwon bullish over his recent signing to Aftermath Entertainment (Dre had 2 beats on there allegedly). Highly anticipated in 2007, it never dropped. Then, Dre suddenly wasn't "fuckin' with [the album] no more", instead focusing on Eminem's comeback album and presumably his own Detox joint. So Rae had to go and find a different distributing label. Currently it is expected to be released on his own Icewater Records through EMI on August 11, 2009. But, as always, who knows if this is the final story?

2. The Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury. After the succesful release of Lord Willin in 2002 with Arista Records, the Clipse looked to continue their momentum with a second release for the label. However, Sony and BMG merged in '04, forcing Arista to be dissolved into Jive Records. This was a slight hinderance on the progress of the album...but nothing like what would occur over the ensuing years. Jive straight fucked the Clipse...while originally an important label in the history of hip-hop, Jive were by this time completely refocused on pushing pop acts like Britney Spears. This is fair enough...what isn't fair is that they would't release the Clipse from their contract. Jive delayed the album all through the end of 2004 and all through 2005. Then the Clipse (who had already experienced having their first album Exclusive Audio Footage scrapped by Elektra records in 1999) quite rightly sued Jive for not allowing them to leave, which was not resolved until mid-2006. Eventually, the album was released at the end of the year. Perhaps it all ended up for the best...while all this happened the Clipse channeled their anger into some of the hottest shit heard this millenium. And we also got the great "We Got It 4 Cheap" parts 1 and 2 mixtapes while waiting...good things come to those who wait I guess.

1. Dr Dre - Detox. This is obviously number 1. Initially scheduled for a 2005 release, the first delays actually served the project well in my opinion: dude coulda put a cap on his solo career with a release in 2006...that would have made it a perfect 7 years between each of his albums. The hype around this time was also immense. But 2006 eventually came and went. In 2007 cats were still eagerly anticipating the album, but already frustrated by the delays. By 2008 no one really cared about the project anymore. Meanwhile Dre was keeping himself busy producing many a mediocre-to-good beat for other acts and also selling them Beats by Dr Dre Headphones. I think I also heard news that he was working on a movie score. Clearly Detox has been the last thing on his mind. That said, apparently the album will see a release this year, but we've all heard that one before. Dre straight blew it...the longer he waits, the better the album must be to appease fans. Everyone involved claims its some next level shit...but they also said the same of Relapse so it's kinda hard to take their thoughts seriously.

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