Collab Albums: Good or Bad?

by nomo

Through history, hip-hop has seen many collaborative albums. In the last 30 years, we’ve had many successful albums from duos such as Dj Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith, Jay Z and Kanye West, and Drake and Future. Sometimes, two minds are better than one, and in some cases, the duo/group finds more success than the artist(s) could’ve found on their own. With that being said, we’ve had many collab albums through hip-hop history, yet the vast majority of these albums tend to flop or be easily forgotten. The question is: are collab albums good or bad for hip-hop?

Groups such as Mobb Deep, Kris Kross, and Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony saw incredible success early on. Groups like these ran the charts and were extremely successful. Every good thing has an end, however, and these groups typically came crashing down at the end of their careers. Most often, there were conflicting interests, and the groups no longer saw eye to eye. There seemed to be a trend that once these groups ran out of ideas or started to lose popularity, they would release an album trying to recreate the vibe, mood, success, and popularity that was once captured by their music. However, most of these albums fell on deaf ears. The group Leaders of the New School released their second and final album together titled T.I.M.E. (The Inner Mind’s Eye). After it was released, it didn’t fare nearly as well with their previous album, A Future Without A Past, as well as they would’ve hoped. Behind the scenes, they were having creative and person issues, and members Busta Rhymes and Charlie Brown argued over who would lead the group. The group had one impactful, successful album together, and one that received mixed reviews. Three of the members found little to no success as solo acts, and Busta Rhymes enjoyed the fruits of his solo career.

How does all of that factor into the question at hand? The group didn’t have the largest amount of success, but they did produce one successful album that helped them to build popularity and gain traction. After the group’s disbandment, Busta Rhymes went on to have an incredibly impactful and fruitful career.. Groups like the Leaders of the New School allow artists to hone their skills and gain popularity and, sometimes, decent music comes from it.

When we look at collab albums today, however, there’s a bit of a disconnect. We have albums from the likes of Drake & Future, Jay Z & Kanye West, and SOB X RBE, and the vast majority of these albums come from prominent artists. Typically speaking, two high profile artists will team up to make an album together, but most of the time, it just goes to waste. This happens, because neither artist has much, if anything, to gain from making the album. These albums also lack longevity. They’re here one day, and they’re gone the next. Jay Z & Kanye found a lot of success with Watch the Throne, and the album’s lived for quite some time, but albums like What A Time to Be Alive are easily forgotten, no matter how successful the album may be in its first few months.

When artists create these albums, are they worried about the longevity of the album? Some artists are simply having fun and making music with their friends, and there is nothing wrong with that. Jay Z & Beyoncé released an album titled Everything is Love. They basically did the album just to do it. There was little to no press about the album. It wasn’t heavily marketed. It was initially only released on Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal. Albums like these are generally forgettable and hold no weight.

For the culture of hip-hop, are collab albums boosting artists careers? Are artists capitalizing from their efforts? Are artists maintaining the competitive aspect of hip-hop? Are collab albums ruining hip-hop? Are they helping hip-hop?