OPINION: SALES OR RESPECT?

Kid-CudiIn both life as well as our careers, we all want our names and hard work to stand the test of time, as with the music industry where rappers want to be remembered for their contributions to the game and like folk legend, their names to be etched in stone for centuries to come. Some choose to quit, to walk away looking back occasionally to make sure they're being watched while some on the other hand write their last words and take their lives into their own hands tragically (trendsetting rockers). The slow walk away seldom brings tears and pleas to come back. From a fan’s perspective one may note their limitless accomplishments, but that trip into the horizon brings emotions of anger and resentment of such a selfish act on the part of the artist.

Today’s apparent hip hop heavyweights have their heads on a swivel – every ounce of their self-worth is seemingly based upon who's looking, watching, reading and sometimes even listening. Sadly, today's rapper will quit just for a pat on the back. When we reflect on the great musicians of yesteryear, we think of how we were robbed. Specifically, we think of the manner in which they made timeless music, how they were before their time and often how tragedy took them before their time. From Sam Cooke, to Marvin Gaye, all the way to Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, and Big Pun, we talk about their music and time in the same breath. These greats never cheated us out of music, contemplated quitting, or begged for unneeded attention – they simply created.  It’s what separates the good artist from the great. They never needed to demand attention because their art took care of that for them. I’m not cribbing that the genre has been robbed of that spark of creativity (take breakthrough albums like Kanye’s ‘808’s and heartbreaks’ or Nas and Damien Marley’s ‘Distant Relatives’) but it definitely lacks the substance of those old school cats. The creative urge is present but unfortunately other motives have begun to cloud its existence. Instead of striving to be great, and following that urge, we have emcees whom are guided by fame and attention.

Rappers are retiring at a troubling rate. All too many take the “I’m bigger than this” approach and they quit in a condescending manner, avoiding such timely things like class or respect. A critically-acclaimed new artist like Kid Cudi hinted at an extremely early retirement once by saying, “I’m too real for this high school musical shit.” It may have been an unintentional slight towards his forefathers and peers, but it nevertheless was disrespectful to those that paved the way. Instead of allowing his then yet to be released album Man On The Moon: The End of Day answer critics and haters, he took to his blog to quit. Sure, it was followed by a “I’m not going anywhere” blog a few days or a week later, but it was said nonetheless. Cudi questioned each fan's devotion to the art and each emcee's worth to the culture. By doing so, he planted a seed of doubt, which has continued to sprout. Even after his successful debut album, he more recently said, “I plan to make five more albums before I retire for good.” Apparently no lesson was learned, humility escaped him, and he once again stood above the art slapping it in the face.

Where do we go as an audience when emcees think they are now bigger than the art form? How do we actually take retirement threats seriously when emcees use it as promotional tools? Game said, “My third album might be my last album — so look out,"” in attempts to generate buzz around L.A.X. 50 Cent said he’d retire if Curtis didn’t outsell Kanye West's Graduation, and then later blamed it on his label, Interscope. Lupe Fiasco said, “My whole energy for making Hip Hop music is slowing down” and then continued to say that he may retire after his third album. Too Short retired, but never really stayed out of the mix and returned with a heavily-promoted comeback album Can’t Stay Away. Scarface did this with 2008's Emeritus, then became a free agent and released a retail mixtape in Dopeman Music earlier this year. When Jay-Z hung up the mic, he didn’t leave us because he ventured as far as he could musically; he left us with Fade To Black to watch and The Black Album to purchase. It is getting increasingly more difficult to trust artist’s intentions. Are sales greater than your respect and dignity???

The act of retirement has become the art of deception. No one walks away as the sun is setting with his or her music softly playing in the background. We as fans don’t even get the opportunity to beg for their return because them leaving is so orchestrated and at times fabricated that we can’t even play along. The illusion is over. Artists either create, attempt to create, or cease to exist.

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