You can’t always believe the hype. Despite the fact that stans put everything up on a pedestal, flawless track records in reality are figments of our human imagination. Even the greatest at whatever profession has some speed bumps in their careers with the rating “disappointment” spray painted over them. Rappers are no different.
The number three Chance The Rapper used to wear on his hat could also represent the standout projects he’s netted between 10 Day, Acid Rap and the Grammy award-winning Coloring Book—Surf is fire, too, but much less of a pillar. The Chicago rapper was scorching hot with those drops and followed them with his wedding-themed album, The Big Day, in 2019. As noted by many fans, he seemed to take a step back with his lyrics and subject matter on this one.
Veterans aren’t exempt from taking blows either. Back in 2010, about 15 years after Lil Wayne started rapping, he made his rock music debut with his Rebirth LP. Around that same time he introduced his protégés Nicki Minaj and Drake, who are now arguably G.O.A.T.s in their own way, but Weezy's own G.O.A.T. status took a hit when fans slammed his decision to experiment with another genre. Looking back, Wayne was ahead of his time.
There are plenty of other rappers who similarly dropped the ball in the eyes of their fans. From 50 Cent's Animal Ambition to Kanye West's Ye and more, XXL takes a look back at hip-hop albums that didn’t live up to the hype. Check them out below.
SEE HIP-HOP ALBUMS THAT DIDN'T LIVE UP TO THE HYPE
Which album do you think received the most criticism?
1. Lil Wayne's Rebirth
Already one of the biggest stars that hip-hop had ever seen in 2010, Lil Wayne stepped outside of the genre to try something new. Rebirth, Weezy's early 2010 rap-rock album, is his most experimental project yet. Some of the songs are rock songs with rap elements, like the drum-heavy "One Way Trip" featuring Kevin Rudolf, but others are more akin to pop rock hits of the time such as the Shanell-assisted "Prom Queen."
While Wayne is a skilled rapper, and that isn't debatable at this point, rock wasn't his strong suit. The songs felt like reenactments of popular rock tracks, but Wayne just didn't have the chops or the know-how at the time. "Prom Queen" was a big song, and so was "Drop the World" featuring Eminem, but both sounded dated almost as soon as they released. Rebirth feels like it exists because Wayne wanted to see if he could pull it off; the execution just wasn't strong enough.
2. Kanye West's Ye
There was a lot of mystery swirling around Kanye West's 2018 album,Ye. He was very public about his mental health ups and downs at this time, and had also been spending his time in Jackson Hole, Wyo., purchasing a ranch there and making it his new recording home. In addition to flying out nearly every relevant artist in music to record with him for the new album, he was also producing new albums for Pusha-T, Nas, Kid Cudi and Teyana Taylor simultaneously.
Ye as an album was a bit undisciplined, hopping from sound to sound with little warning. "All Mine" is a Kanye, Ty Dolla $ign and Jeremih collab, on which the latter two shine, and "No Mistakes" is a throwback to the old, soul-sample heavy Kanye. The problem with both is Kanye is no longer the same rapper he once was. Few clever, sharp bars with confidence lead him to fade into the background of his own songs.
3. Tyga's The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty
Tyga's 2015 album, The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty, had plenty going on behind the scenes. Released after he exited his deal with Cash Money, and a little over a year after his platinum, Young Thug-assisted single "Hookah" had its run, The Gold Album experienced the bad combo of not selling well and failing to get that much love. Tyga was in label limbo and unable to use a lot of the songs he recorded under Cash Money, which caused the album to be both short and light on guests than anyone would've expected at the time. Executive produced by Kanye West with Mike Dean coproduction, the songs themselves are typical Tyga fare, but without the energy or memorable hooks he's known for. "Muh Fucka" and "Wham" somewhat mimic some of his older songs. The vibe just isn't the same. The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty is definitely just a low point in Tyga's discography.
4. Jay-z and R. Kelly's Unfinished Business
An album mired by controversy of both the legal and personal variety, Unfinished Business was the follow-up to Jay-Z and R. Kelly's 2002 collab album, The Best of Both Worlds. The previous album was a commercial success and so was this one, with both selling over 210,000 copies in their first week. Neither of the albums are classics, but the second time around was a disappointment, as these were just leftover songs that weren't used for The Best of Both Worlds. R. Kelly's much-publicized child pornography case started in 2002, which led to his joint tour with Jay-Z being put on ice. When they did hit the road in 2004, their relationship was clearly frayed; R. Kelly claimed (then later recanted) that he saw guns in the crowd at the Madison Square Garden show date. He was then allegedly pepper-sprayed by Jay's well-known associate, Tyran "Ty Ty" Smith on that same day. Disputes over rehearsals, R. Kelly's availability and demands turned the tour into lawsuits and countersuits. In regards to the music, neither party truly bought their A-game, with the most memorable track being the single "Big Chips." At the end of the day, Unfinished Business was a mediocre album released during a tumultuous time.
5. 50 Cent's Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win
With an eventful history of gangsta rap that propelled him into a bona fide superstar, 50 Cent, a once otherworldly talent, showed just how human he was on Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win. The 2014 album was seen by the masses as stale, containing music that was better in quality than his mixtapes but an off-brand version of the Get Rich or Die Tryin’ Fif that was untouchable.
All 11 tracks, including “Don’t Worry ‘Bout It” with Yo Gotti, “Irregular Heartbeat” featuring Jadakiss and Kidd Kidd as well as the club-ready “Smoke” with R&B singer Trey Songz, were released as lead singles. His strategy was obviously to get those records into a commercially certified territory. And the formula would’ve worked 10 years earlier if he released Animal Ambition in the early-to-mid-2000s when he could do no wrong. In what was primed to be and marketed as a “full body of work,” a lot of people would say that this one was half-baked. This project served as 50’s first solely under his G-Unit Records umbrella and not Interscope, Shady Records and Aftermath Entertainment that he’d previously been signed to for 12 years. It’s safe to say that he wasn’t off to the best start.
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