Y’all already know that I generally like to keep things positive on this site, shining a spotlight mostly on the music I enjoy, as opposed to music that I find disappointing.
2019, while maybe not the most “thrilling” year we’ve ever seen in terms of music releases, was still filled with lots of great music that either met or exceeded expectations. But as the curtains close on this year, and end-of-year lists are compiled, I’m reminded of the albums that didn’t quite live up to their billing.
Here, in no particular order, are five albums that came out this year that I had pretty high hopes for, but whose final product didn’t justify the hype.
Beast Coast – Escape From New York
Ever since they came on the scene earlier this decade, Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and the Underachievers injected new life back into East Coast rap and brought hope to many who were maligning the New School of hip-hop. Calling themselves the Beast Coast movement, many people — myself especially — hoped for a collaboration that would bring all the movement’s heavyweights together to showcase their lyrical dexterity and their unique interpretations of hip-hop. Well, we got our wish in 2019; however, the final product that they delivered can’t be thought of as anything other than disappointing. The title “Escape from New York” is fitting, because stylistically, this album is a departure from nearly everything that made this movement unique. Generic contemporary trap elements obscure the creativity and East Coast spirit that permeated the work of these affiliate artists for over half a decade. It seems that the groups, a bit far removed from their heydays, have struggled to separate themselves from the pack stylistically in the same way that they did in the early 2010s.
ScHoolboy Q – Crash Talk
Before the release of CrasH Talk, ScHoolboy Q revealed in an interview with GQ that he scrapped about two albums-worth of material in the 3-year time period since the release of Blank Face. And if I’m being honest, that actually explains a lot, because his latest album sounds like he didn’t spend a lot of time on it. CrasH Talk certainly has its moments, but for the most part, it’s a pretty mediocre affair. ScHoolboy Q’s personality, and his ability to balance the elements of grit, humor, and substance, are his primary selling points, so it was frustrating to hear an album that had neither personality nor balance. I understand that Q is at a point where he doesn’t really have anything to prove; we all know how awesome he can be/has been. I’m legitimately happy that he made music that made him happy, especially in the midst of the passing of his very close friend Mac Miller. It’s just too bad that the music wasn’t a little more compelling.
Logic – Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
The last couple of years or so have not been particularly kind to Maryland rapper Logic. While his popularity has skyrocketed, due in part to the popularity of his song “1-800-273-8255,” there has also been increasing disdain with the quality of his discography. My expectations for his latest album weren’t through the roof, but I was definitely interested in seeing if/how Logic would steer his catalog back on track. However, upon listening to this project, it was immediately clear that he was wasn’t so much steering his career back on track as he was driving it off a cliff.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is one of the few albums on this list that’s actually bad. Like, not just disappointing, but bad. And not in the same way that his album Everybody was bad, because at least on that album, you could sense that there was a lot of thought and heart put into it. On the contrary, Confessions is as uninspired as it is thoughtless. Logic, who, for all the complaints about his music, was always known as a fairly competent lyricist, delivered some of the cringiest bars of his entire career. I can’t say much more than that, because this album was in the recycle bin before I even made it through the final track.
Lil’ Kim – 9
14 years is a long time between albums releases. But one would expect an artist — scratch that, an ICON — like Lil’ Kim to withstand the test of time. Given how pivotal Kim has been in inspiring the current treads of women in hip-hop, and given just how important her debut album Hardcore is in the pantheon of hip-hop albums, I couldn’t help but get excited when there was chatter about a possible comeback for rap’s Queen Bee.
However, the rollout of Lil Kim’s latest offering, to me, was perplexing, because I almost didn’t even realize when it dropped — and based on its abysmal commercial performance, neither did anyone else. 9 was poorly planned and poorly promoted, with no widely-marketed singles, no intriguing music videos, and a release date that was never set in stone. Usually I don’t pay too much mind to the numbers, but for a hip-hop artist as iconic and as important to the culture as Lil Kim is, to not even chart anywhere in the Billboard 200, is an absolute travesty.
And this is all without mentioning the actual music, whose quality is…mediocre, to say the absolute least.
Chance The Rapper – The Big Day
One of the greatest musical paradoxes of the 2010s is, undoubtedly, how on earth an artist as likable and critically-acclaimed as Chance The Rapper could drop an album as unlikable and widely-panned as The Big Day.
2016’s Coloring Book was the last we had really heard from the Chicago rapper, and in that time he saw his national profile skyrocket. Mainstream success, numerous feature requests, late night talk show appearances, and to top it all off, he got married — his “big day.” This all made it hard to gauge what route Chance would take musically, but I suspected that his “debut album” would follow his artistic trajectory following Coloring Book — some light soul influence here, some Kanye influence there; a few pop crossovers and a couple of trap bangers; a heavyweight guest list with maybe a couple of smaller Chicago artists sprinkled in. On the surface, this formula could make for a decent project, but what Chance delivered was much more disappointing.
The Big Day is the first time that I’ve ever felt apathy while listening to a Chance project. I mentally disengaged almost immediately — after looking at the runtime (almost 80 minutes) — and it only went downhill from there. Nearly everything about this album was forgettable, from Chance’s lyrics, to the production, to the bevy of features — even the good ones, like Ari Lennox and Megan Thee Stallion. There was nary a moment of lyrical amazement like there was on Acid Rap, or a moment of inspiration like there was on Coloring Book.
The Big Day is disappointing because it’s forgettable. And considering that this is the same artist that created Acid Rap, one of the most memorable hip-hop projects of the entire decade, I honestly didn’t think that was possible.
No malice is intended; I only have respect for the artists listed here. Let’s just hope that they have better go-rounds in the future.