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How digital music streaming has helped and hurt new album releases

Digital Album Streaming: a beautiful boost or plummeting pitfall? Well it depends on how you use it

The first half of 2018 has seen album releases from the likes of J. Cole, Nipsey Hussle, Tory Lanez, Nas, Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z; all with various rollout plans to the lack thereof. Nicki Minaj announced her album, Queen, in May for a June release. Beyoncé and Jay-Z released Everything is Love seemingly out of nowhere, and then there were albums that dropped under an executive producer who didn't seem to give much notification to the artists themselves, cough. (I'm talking about... yes, you guessed it! Kanye West.)

Digital streaming of music has given both the artist and consumer a one-stop shop. Artists no longer need to advertise on billboards, bus signs or conjure up elaborate marketing plans. Music executives no longer have to announce albums and songs months in advanced and retail stores are not stocked to capacity with copies of physical CDs needed to match shopper consumption. Depending on the caliber of artist that you are, you don't even need to bait your audience into wanting your album with pre-released singles. All you have to do is make sure it's available on all streaming platforms on the day that you say it will be. Or, you don't even need to say a day.

I'm guilty of crediting Queen Bey for bringing the art of the hasty release into the genre of R&B and Hip Hop. Many people, like me, forget that it was actually her husband, Sean Carter, who started the trend. Released on July 4, 2013, Magna Carta Holy Grail took to listeners ears after only being announced two weeks prior in a subtle commercial for Samsung that premiered during the NBA Finals.

VIDEO featuring Jay-Z promoting Magna Carta Holy Grail

"All these other things have been introduced to the world -- the internet and all this technology, and all these things. How do we operate within all that? We don't have any rules; everyone's trying to figure it out... that's why the internet's like the wild, Wild West. We need to write the new rules for what's going on right now... The one thing I wanted to do was have that fireplace or radio moment... I wanted everyone to hear the album at one time."

Unfortunately, Samsung lost out on the ordeal when the app they paid for to stream Jay's album crashed and the project was almost instantaneously available on other digital streaming platforms. Nonetheless, the attempt was seen.

What we'd call an L, Beyoncé followed suit with and turned into a W, a surprise release of her self-titled visual album that took the world by complete force. Beyoncé was exclusively available on iTunes for its first week, was accompanied by visuals for each track, earning Yonce' over 80,000 copies sold in the first three hours and ultimately a number one album debut. (Queen Bey also saw similar success with her release of Lemonade, accompanied by a full-length film where Hov's, iced tea, 4:44, debuted at number one with various short films to accompany each track. The most successful of which, "The Story of O.J.", reached over 70 million views.

But the ability of Beyonce and Jay-Z to make us look is due largely to the equity and caliber of artistry they've come to be known for, not just in the exclusivity of their work alone. As listeners and consumers, we have a solid expectation of the quality of work they'll deliver and therefore have no problem rushing to whatever medium they decide to release from.

However, many artists are not so privileged. Even prior to Beyonce's self-titled visual album release, Kanye West tested the waters with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's 34-minute film, Runaway, amassing over 22 million views to this date, and decided to take that same triumphant energy and innovation into his February 14, 2016, release of The Life of Pablo. The result was not so great. The rollout of the album was plagued by constant title changes, routine Kanye twitter rants, and revised track lists. The only thing that seemed to be happening right was that West had a Yeezy Season 3 fashion show planned at Madison Square Garden where he would premiere the project for all those in attendance, right? Wrong. The album premiered three days later on Tidal, with alterations unheard of by the crowd in attendance at Madison Square Garden. Even months after the release, the album was still undergoing changes with its finalized version coming on April 1, 2016.

And now here we are. The Carters’ surprise release, Everything is Love, and Kanye West announcing and embarking on his executive delivery of five albums in five weeks. The results have been everywhere from successful to... not so much. Pusha T's Daytona soared in the midst of rap beef between himself and Drake. Ye was welcomed by a lukewarm reception, but still managing to debut at number one, while Kids See Ghosts featuring Ye and Kid Cudi was quietly released and debuted at number two while NASIR featuring Nas peaked at number five.

However, the rockiest rollout yet was Teyana Taylor's K.T.S.E. The singer took to Big Boy's Neighborhood on Power 106 to explain that the album will be re-released due to label miscommunication and samples not being cleared in time. Acknowledging that songs on the album were literally cut short, as well as the label's mistake in setting a release date and listening experience all before the album samples were even cleared.

VIDEO: Teyana Taylor on Big Boy’s Neighborhood

Teyana has taken the public misstep like a champ, acknowledging the helpful critiques she's received from those who have listened thus far. A similar attitude is now generally required of artists in the digital age of album streaming, its boundless limits should remind artists to propel themselves into a new realm of creativity and innovation. Ultimately instilling in them the ability to embrace the body of work that they have while remembering, it’s not fully what you do but how you do it.


- Jadriena "Jade" Solomon


  • Published in Music

Here's something for Hip-Hop to ponder

"Hip Hop's Year of Dangerous Living Put the Accused on the Charts", was the title that graced the critic's notebook section of The New York Times' website on January 5, 2018. The article kicked off the year by acknowledging the previous one that awarded rap musicians with high accolades despite their less than decent deeds; calling all professionals of the music industry to make better decisions in their free time and vying for fans to become more morally conscious of the artists they support.

And maybe rightfully so, Hip-Hop's 2017 brought immense success to the troublesome likes of rappers Kodak Black, 6ix9ine, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, and the late XXXTentacion, rewarding all with either lucrative record deals or singles that graced the Billboard Hot 100's Top 50 despite their very public bad behavior. Ultimately laying a welcome mat for a tumultuous 2018 (see: 6ix9ine versus Chief Keef, Rich The Kid versus Lil Uzi Vert.)

But perhaps the biggest feud to come of all this is the question of music versus morality, seen most recently after the tragic shooting of XXXTentacion. As fans, fellow rappers, and social media reacted to the news, this was the question that plagued conversation and sparked major uproar from social media users to various radio and podcast platforms and personalities. Joe Budden took to his very well-known podcast, The Joe Budden Podcast and explained his disappointment with Hot 97's Peter Rosenberg who announced XXXtentacion's death on talk radio and proceeded to introduce him as a figure that was "no angel." He also cited figures like Complex's DJ Akademiks for instigating the poor behavior of rappers and commodifying it on social media, to which Akademiks shortly after responded.

VIDEO: RIP XXXTentacion | The Joe Budden Podcast 


The reactions are split. Yes, in the event of death it truly is insensitive to chalk up a person's life to their actions, especially when it was cut short by violent tragedy. But, it sparks a question that is worth to be pondered. In life, can we separate the personal actions of artists from their musical accolades and musicianship? And if we choose not to, are we doing an uncivil disservice to humanity?


VIDEO: RIP XXXTentacion: How Will He Be Remembered?


To properly ponder this question we have to acknowledge many facets, one being the open door policy that the genre of Hip-Hop has always employed, and why it has come to be. Why I call it an open door policy is because it has always been welcoming of all, regardless of an individual's background, moral compass or lack thereof (R. Kelly was and is still repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct, Bobby Shmurda rose to fame and a number 1 single with a murder confession - don't tell me it's not, let's just call a spade a spade.).

So, why is the Hip-Hop genre so accepting of violence? It didn’t start out this way. However, in simplistic terms, it is because as hip-hop evolved, many of its constituents came from and still come from a place of systematic disadvantage. The art form of Hip-Hop and the culture grew as an outlet for residents of the inner city. Those whose neighborhoods were plagued with poverty, infested with drug trafficking, and a hyperactive gang and police presence. The cycle of mistrust and injustice birthed street entrepreneurs, those who hustled to make a better living despite their disadvantaged circumstances and carried that same mentality into the world and profession of Hip-Hop (Jay Z, Notorious B.I.G., etc.)

And that's not to mitigate the action of violence, repeated domestic violence, and the selling of drugs, it's to speak to the fact that the genre of Hip-Hop is comprised of individuals shaped by the absences, and disadvantages of their environments.

Gangsta rap made folk heroes out of men and women who risked their safety to bend the rules and prosper as outlaws.

The greats presented crime as a political act, a means of leveling a playing field that always operated on a severe tilt.

They gave voice to the struggles of the disadvantaged and illuminated a way out for the daring.

- Craig Jenkins

Because of such, the home of Hip-Hop is a zone of limited chastisement to be enjoyed "free of moralizing." We dismiss those with open murder, sexual misconduct, battery cases and more, with simple statements like "you've got to separate the art from the artist." We become selective in memory, prioritizing their accolades over their conscious pitfalls, abandoning the duty of accountability.

But at what cost, and at what detriment? Are there really any at all?

- Jadriena "Jade" Solomon


  • Published in Music

Kyle Knight: A Conscious Rapper on the Rise

Kyle Knight, an artist who is walking a path less traveled, knows what he wants and is working to get there

Kyle Knight, an up-and-coming hip-hop artist, stopped by the What’s The 411 studio for a wide-ranging interview with Keisha Wilson and to talk about his latest single, “Hey Sister”.

Dubbed a conscious rapper/lyricist, Knight equates conscious to life, and therefore, considers himself to be a life artist.

“The word conscious stands for the word life to which I am a life artist, a life rapper,” Knight stated. “I feel content and I feel strong and I feel confident enough to really work my niche, which is being a conscious artist. Now, I am not saying that everything I do is going to be conscious. There is going to be a lot of material that I write and things that I do. But, it is important that a young man such as myself comes out the gate right as an artist, in terms of songwriting, in terms of recording ability… that’s not to say I may not do something in today's radio type of feel, but where it is now, is really coming out the gate as strong as possible, as a life artist, as a conscious artist, conscious rapper.”

Knight’s father (David Knight) is also a musician; his production credits include a remix of SVW's (Right Here) and work with iconic rap legend Chuck D. Through his father’s influence and mentoring, Kyle got started in music at an early age. He also avoided “street pull” in his adolescent years because he found his individuality early and because he loved songwriting.

Fed on a wide variety of musical genres from classical leanings and influences like Motown to Nas, Michael Jackson, and Tupac; Kyle Knight's exposure to music broadened quickly. As his own interest in performing grew, so did his lessons on the gears and mechanics behind the craft. Areas of study included artist development, proper lyric writing, and artistry in recording vocals. Even his digging into the crates of old-school techniques became a foundation for his unique sound.

Knight, not concerned about going his own way, found inspiration when he traveled to Morocco and Ghana, two countries in Africa. What struck Knight most about Morocco and Ghana was the poverty, the history of the people, the music, and, of course, the people. This visit influenced Knight’s worldview and by extension, his perspective on life and songwriting.

Although just getting started as a professional, Knight sees in his future writing for other artists, expanding his song catalog, modeling street fashion with a GQ look, and acting in movies and TV, particularly street and activist roles.

You can stay in contact with Kyle Knight and purchase his latest single, “Hey Sister,” and his previous single, “The Truth” on his website,, and from there you can connect with him on social media.

You'll Never Guess What Blushhh Music Told Us About Working With Mathew Knowles

Sunnie and Tali of Blushhh Music answer the question that you want answered on what it's like to work with Mathew Knowles

Since Blushhh Music is working with the legendary Mathew Knowles, and when What's The 411 had the hip-hop trio in the studio for an exclusive interview, host Onika McLean asked the question that many people want to know.

"How's it working with him (Mr. Knowles)...tell us something we don't know."

"He's not as intimidating as he looks; he's not as mean," responded Tali, the Blushhh Music vocalist. "We thought he hated us. Oh, he don't like us; I didn't even want to sing."

"If he's hard on you, it is because you have potential," added Sunnie, one of the rappers in the group.

"If he tells you that you're good, you might want to work," Tali added.

"Because you're never done growing," said Sunnie. "Even with his daughter, he says all the time, Beyonce, every show, she's looking at something to improve. Every show, he's looking at something to improve. If you ever feel satisfied, and there's nothing in your mind that you feel you should work on, then he says you should just stop it here because you're not going to prosper."

"He's funny. He's very funny," Tali quipped. "He has jokes, so smart. He knows what punch lines to say, what to make the topic of the day. 'Watch this be the headline because I said it'."

"He's a marketing a genius." Sunnie interrupted.

You can find Blushhh Music's debut single, Old School Back on iTunes and you can follow them on social media @BlushhhMusic

KYD Works is the New Kid on the Block

He's a gifted lyricist from Westchester, by way of the Boogie Down Bronx.

His name, KYD Works, stands for "killing your demographic" works.

He released his first mixtape, "Stress Test, Volume 3," two weeks after his release from prison.

His next mixtape will be called "The Lost," and will be accompanied by an EP called "Rise of the Lost."

His squad is called L.D.L.E.G., meaning "Lost Dynasty League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." It is comprised of both producers and rappers.

At 6'3" and 223 lbs., he studied nutrition at Westchester Community College and is a trained, qualified sports, fitness and wellness trainer, with his own successful fitness company.

He is also the Hip Hop Director of radio station 88.1/WARY-FM and hosts a weekly radio show on the station.

He sings most of the hooks on his rap songs.

He belongs to an organization called "Stop, Don't Shoot," which aims to curtail the "inappropriate use of firearms" by all.

He's on a positivity tip and aims to effect change in his lifetime.

Justin Tuck, Nelly and other Celebrities Take the Softball Field for Charity

New York Giants football player (NFL) Justin Tuck and hip hop star, Nelly, led their respective teams in a celebrity softball game at MCU Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Although the rain was on-again and off-again, the celebs didn't let a little rain stop them from raising money for charity and having a good time.


Celebs in attendance included: Justin Tuck, Nelly, Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Evander Holyfield; Baltimore Ravens defensive end, Chris Canty; Vinny Guadagnino from MTV's Jersey Shore; DJ and radio personality, DJ Enuff; and actor Kenny Johnson among others.

Collage Evander-Holyfield DJ-Enuff Vinny-G Chris-Canty MLB-All-Star-Weekend-Justin-Tuck Nelly Softball-Charity resized



Photo Credit: Ramona Miles

Videographer: Ramona Miles

Video Editor: Ruth J. Morrison

Thanks to Jesse Whitehead for the use of his camera.



Damon Dash Gives Insight into His Career and Music Industry

Damon Dash talks about what it takes to manage recording artists, benefits of owning his own record company, and more

What's The 411 producer Ruth J. Morrison caught up with entrepreneur and music producer Damon Dash at a Fashion Arts Xchange (FAX) event held at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), in which he and the phenomenal photographer Gordon Parks were honored.

Dash talked with What’s The 411 about his early days as a manager for a hip-hop group, Original Flava, the reason he started his own record company; Dash Films; and Dash Digital.

Dash also reminded us that a little-known rapper by the name of Jay-Z dropped a few rhymes on Original Flava's single, Can I Get Open.

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