Quality Time Over Quantity in Hip-Hop


The latest trends in music are changing how recording artists produce their best work


Kanye West turned 41 today, and he’s no doubt celebrating the release of “Kids See Ghosts” — a Kanye-Kid Cudi collaboration. The album, which is the third in a series of records produced weekly by West’s record label G.O.O.D. Music, contains just seven tracks.

Despite the hype and confusion surrounding Kanye West’s strange behavior and statements of late, his spring music plans have gone off as expected. He’s already produced Pusha T’s latest, “Daytona,” and released his own album, entitled “Ye.” Including the Kid Cudi collaboration, each of these projects aligns with Kanye’s promise to release five short albums. In the coming weeks, we’ll hear Nas and Teyana on Kanye’s next two seven-track albums from the G.O.O.D label.


“Anti-everything” — including long albums

If you stream music regularly, you may have noticed the latest albums have been getting longer and longer. If you look back on the age of the LP, when albums were rarely over 45 minutes, you’ll see why it’s tempting to release a mega-album to the world.

Not only are artists not restricted by a physical storage medium — like a record, CD, or cassette tape (remember those?) — but listeners today have shorter attention spans and no trouble jumping from album to album and track to track on Soundcloud or Apple Music.

To show how our attention spans have changed music, Psychology Today pointed to a study that examined the change in title lengths, tempo, time before vocals enter, time before the title is mentioned in the song, and whether the lyrics are self-focused. Indeed, the researchers found popular music has evolved to grab attention faster than it did 30 years ago. Add to this phenomenon that the number of streams an artist collects is directly related to the popularity of an album.

Writing for The Daily Californian, Imad Pasha defended short albums in the context of longer albums and streaming. “This is the age of streaming,” Pasha wrote, “and from a royalties perspective, it makes perfect sense to pack an album with as many potential hits as possible. Given that it can cost a record label up to $1 million to write, produce, and market a single pop song, it seems prudent and economical to simply release everything decent an industry writing camp can churn out in one of its standard two-week sessions.”

But as with everything we’ve heard from the G.O.O.D. label, Kanye’s seven-track projects are going against the trends and doing something completely unexpected.

“All the projects coming out is seven,” said Pusha T at a “Daytona” listening party. “That’s what we going for. You know, G.O.O.D. Music, anti-everything. If everybody doing 18 tracks, we doing seven.”


Pushing the boundaries of time

The concept of a seven-track album is definitely not the norm right now, but artists are set on pushing the boundaries of what can be accomplished under 45 minutes. In the case of Kanye’s latest projects, the first three seven-track albums clock between 21 and 24 minutes.

This begs the question: When it comes to your time, even your time spent doing things you enjoy, is quality always better than quantity? If we approached every project like a seven-track album, packed with only our best work, what could we accomplish?