Halftime: The Big Pushback - Rappers & Labels Strategically Delaying Albums

Did Dr. Dre's free publicity around "Detox" rumored release dates inspire artists like Game, J. Cole and all of Def Jam's roster?

Looking for that new Weezy? What about Jeezy? Detox?

Hold that thought. So far, 2011 has been the year of the pushback. Sure, delays in Hip Hop are nothing new, but as we celebrate halftime, it’s evident that the promise of a new release - and its subsequent delay (or delays, in most cases) - should be taken with a grain of salt, now, more than ever.

The Art Of The Album Delay

Blame the game. In an age where albums leak nearly months ahead of scheduled street dates (see Beyonce’s 4  and Big Sean’s Finally Famous ), labels are quick to rearrange their release calendars for a variety of reasons. Say, if their artist doesn’t have a hit, then it might be to their benefit to send him or her back to the studio to crank one out. If said artist doesn’t have their head in the game or is too busy on tour, then the label might push back their album until they’re ready to give it 100. After all, record labels are businesses - and businesses, especially the music industry, can’t afford to take any L’s.

Or, maybe, the game ain’t to blame. Consider: some rappers want to be perfectionists. Take Dr. Dre, whose elusive Detox - now almost a decade in the making - seemed to be all but confirmed for a 2011 release. The Good Doctor even dropped off a few singles (“I Need a Doctor” featuring Eminem and Skylar Grey, “Kush” featuring Akon and Snoop Dogg), picking up some mainstream steam. Dre himself even said that the album was almost finished - back in November 2010.

Then came the release dates, and the setbacks. An April 20th release date came and went - still no Detox. Last we heard, the mythical album would arrive on July 26th. Doesn’t seem likely, given the little amount of promotion or lack of confirmation by both the label and man himself. Here we are, in the middle of 2011, with nothing but a string of broken promises to lean on.

What Kanye West & Jay-Z Could Be Learning From Dr. Dre

Fellow Rap titans Jay-Z and Kanye West took a similar approach with their joint release Watch The Throne (to be fair, they haven’t been cooking it up for a decade). Originally conceived as an EP, the big-and-little brothers kicked off the New Year with a bang, announcing during a New Year’s Eve performance that the album would arrive in just one week. It didn’t, but its single “H.A.M.” did a few days later - and it was D.O.A.

So back to the lab it was. The promise of a January release thawed with the changing seasons, as Yeezy updated his Twitter fans with a new release date for March. For good measure, he also told fans that the follow-up to last year’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy would arrive this summer. (Soon after, though, his Twitter account went silent - our punishment for a botched Matt Lauer interview). By March, Watch The Throne was “essentially finished,” said engineer Young Guru - yet the recording sessions continued. As of press time, there is still no release date.

Unlike top dogs who create pop-up studios and record at will, some rappers don’t hold the key to their fate. Lil Wayne, who promised to release his supposed final album Tha Carter IV, was supposed to drop the (now mildly anticipated) LP the same day he was unchained from prison - November 5, 2010. Delays came, of course, with Weezy later claiming in March that the album, which was entirely finished, would drop on May 16th. It wasn’t, and it didn’t. Now, it’s set for an August 29th release. A supposed tracklist hit the web. Several singles have graced these internets. It’s still wishful thinking to mark the end of summer as the official street date.

Mainstream Rappers Who Tease Fans With Album Release Dates

The list of rappers who dangle release dates in front of fans’ faces and quickly snatch them away isn’t just a string of coincidences. Just check the record: 50 Cent, Game, J. Cole, Ja Rule, Young Jeezy and more all promised to hand in albums that are yet to materialize, for an array of reasons.

The problem here isn’t that rappers are being put in label purgatory or that the game is changing to the point where artists can’t even drop an album on their own terms. Those are self-contained problems, independent of themselves.

It’s the trust issues. As the listening public, we’re allowed to feel disappointed or even lose interest when there are more album delays than tracks that make the final cut. Sure, this isn’t the film industry, where studios don’t announce movie release dates until they’re sure of it (those often come a year ahead of schedule). But that’s no excuse for this growing trend that leaves fans consistently unsatisfied, even if the wait was worth it.

And rappers wonder why fans are quick to bite the hand that feeds them - or to choose not to support the project. Listeners play the waiting game according to what labels and emcees tell them. For most, music isn’t just a luxury - it’s a way of life, and to temper with that passion can slowly sap whatever faith a fan has in the art.

Which is why it’s frustrating when a producer and rapper like Statik Selektah and Freddie Gibbs (who himself is guilty of delaying releases), can hit the studio and record an EP’s worth of tracks in under 24 hours. There may not be a middleman telling them what they can or can’t do, but they promised they would do it, did it and released it for our purchasing pleasure. Seems easy, no?

At the risk of sounding unappreciative, we understand that not everything is in the artist’s control, or even the label’s. Delays happen; we get it. But as the buzzer rings and the second half of 2011 begins in the next few weeks, all we ask is for a little more caution before blurting out what promises to be a broken release date. Even if its part of a grand marketing scheme. Because in a world where information moves at a mile a minute, the last thing we need is to wait another decade for an album.

Steven J. Horowitz is HipHopDX's News Editor. He has written for VIBE, RollingStone.com, Spin.com and is Associate Editor for YRB Magazine. He is a New Jersey native and lives in New York City. Follow him on Twitter at @SPeriod.

61 Comments

  • New Music Awaits

    Blueprint 3 was the last hip-hop new release that I bought...Kingdom Come, American Gangster before that. Keep delaying all of that other shit for all I care. Lol. When Jay hang up the mic, that's gonna be it for a lotta heads...as far as new releases go. I got two Bachelors and a Master degree since Dre dropped an album last! Can't even get into the rest of this shit out now. Who does Dre think is gonna be buying his shit? I think he's gotta be strictly targeting that R&B crowd.

  • fhutch

    Good article!!! Release the music!!!! At the least, give us a EP to drrol over while you finish the master pieces. What do I know? I am just a consumer that just so happens to love music. -Fhutch

  • Alex Edwards

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  • QP

    nothing is really worth the hype and wait any longer. Rapper's are barely holding on to relevance and I know myself I cannot even get through a whole album without skipping at least 4-5 songs that sound like fillers. what happened to the days of being able to listen to a cd from start to finish.

  • M.u. Tha Don

    HARPERSIDE VOLUME 6 - COMING SOON!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    learning from dre? he's talented, but even tupac is dissing on his nothing of an album. wtf are you talking about. this 5 part series is lame. i know it's easier to destroy than build, but god damn ya'll make it easy to hate.

  • Anonymous

    Being a die hard fan of dre doesn't sufice , you have to equally be dead because that's when it drops

  • PrickJames

    FUCK DETOX!!! HELL,FUCK A RELEASE DATE!!! Just put the shit out so I can DL it illegally like e'rybody else. If I like it, I'll pay $30 to see you live; if not, I delete the shit & like a HIV patient I won't fuck witchu!! LPs are a dead/dying medium anyway... The Prick has spoken!

  • Drect Moody

    Consequence was supposed to drop Movies on Demand 3 too..on June 14th..I don't know why rappers are doin this

  • Tibedo

    Thanks for this article Steven. Im feeling kinda ill right now because I ran to Best Buy to cop Watch the mother fucking Throne first thing this morning and shit ain't out. My attitude at first was like Im not surprised but after reading your list of slacking mother fucking MC's its definitely a marketing ploy put in place by the label and artist. And we suppose to think shits cool but its not because of faithful fans as myself thats getting shitted on. So fuck Dre and Detox (I hope your shit gets bootlegged to death), fuck the Carter 4(your shits gonna get bootlegged to death), fuck Game (u might as well change the color cause I ain't buying red shit). And lastly Jigga, I can't say fuck you because Ima buy your shit but Im feeling like Benie right now, a faithful soldier betrayed.

  • industrygarbage

    who cares let them delay their shit n lose out on a couple hundred thousand sales...its their own damn fault they cant put the right pieces in place....i will continue to dl the albums illegaly as my support lol

  • Smine Nasdaq

    Man all these trends and shit ain't doing nothing but signifying the fact that "rap/hiphop" is done. From a corporate perspective, they've accomplished their goals of destroying another young black generation, the rest of this shit is just their BIG UNDER-COVER JOKE...fuck rap.

  • Smine Nasdaq

    Man all these trends is shit ain't doing nothing but signifying that "rap/hiphop" is done. From a corporate perspective, they've accomplished their goals of destroying another young black generation, the rest of this shit just their BIG UNDER-COVER JOKE...fuck rap.

  • Mook

    I can bet money that one of these trends will be Lex Luger style beats.

  • Mu

    I WAS anticipating Detox, but it just seems like Dre doesn't have that same passion to put out great music that he once had. At this point, I actually prefer that Detox never comes out rather then it dropping and being complete garbage. I WAS anticipating Tha Carter IV, then I started hearing Wayne bullshitting on every song and feature. He's gotten lazy with his lyricism and now relies on verses filled with hashtag rap that have no organization. I will cop it if the music is good tho. I WAS anticiapating The RED Album, but then I remembered how bad LAX was. The problem with artists like Game is, they rely too much on features and who's hot RIGHT NOW (producers and other rappers) instead of trying to make music that's timeless. Here's the problem: you record a song with Young HotRiteNow that is produced by HotRiteNow Beats, in July 2010. It's now July 2011, and Young HotRiteNow's buzz has passed, and HotRiteNow Beats' track sounds so-last-year. Back to the drawing board... I'm STILL anticipating Cole World and Watch the Throne because these are three emcees who I KNOW are serious about their craft and respect the game. Fuck Young Jeezy's album, he may be the most overrated rapper in hip-hop history...

    • Anonymous

      i agree with damn near everything you said i honestly think detox will never come out at this point it would be too hard to live up to the hype game's album probly will be bullshit because he has nothing else to say he had his dedut then the album afer he left g unit so he had stuff to get out and he had to prove he could make an album without 50 and dem the problem wit jeezy is that he still wants to rap about trapping and you cant make a career off jus that because he not in the trap anymore and its not authentic j cole losing his buzz.he getting like drake feeling like he already jay,ye status because of all the early hype i c4 was gonna be good but he following the same formula from c3 which was bullshit if everyone keep pushing dates back then they gonna lose sales because they gonna have to compete when everyone else drop either that or people gonna stop caring altogether

    • HA

      lol @ your comment about jeezy because its kinda true, once upon a time jeezy was actually good, there was a uniqueness about him when he first came on the seen, (thug motivation 101, 'The inspiration) but after that he just totally lost it, lyrically creatively, he just went mediocere...funny thing is, he actually sounds good on drakes 'thank me later' album, but other than that, boring.... im looking foward to 'The Carter IV' and 'Watch the Throne' Thats about it F*ck the rest of those albums....

    • fuckanonymous

      @anonymous you sure talk like you know Dre on a personal level. YOu must be really close with him for him to confide in you and let you know about all his troubles. J. Coles album will be dope

    • Wolfman

      J. Cole will post Wale style numbers... 30k first week.. that is all.

    • Anonymous

      lol @ j cole album is never coming out. j cole will FLOP, and jay-z knows it. it doesn't matter WHAT j cole does, his album will do what it does. he's not that talented, and he's done very little with all the gas he's gotten. he's not a star, and he'll never BE a star. dr.dre doesn't give a fuck about music anymore, he just wants to sell headphones. i think dre buys beats, buys lyrics, and gets forced by jimmy to record songs that aren't his for detox. dre probably hoping he drops dead, so he doesn't have to keep up the detox front any longer. it's killing him. dre looks like a depressed body builder. anybody that looks like that, doesn't have much of a social life. he's not having any fun in life, and he's filthy rich. the dre that dropped classic party records is fucking dead. gin n juice got traded out for protein shakes and sober living. dre is DONE. he's retired, detox is a lie.

  • Hal

    dr.dre post 2005 is just a lazy industry FAGGOT nothing more, nothing less. what has he done lately? took credit for dawan parker beats on relapse? rapped over dj khalils beat on kush? rapped over alex da kids gay ass beat on "i need a doctor"? lied about detox release date 100 plus times? who gives a fuck. dre doesn't even make music anymore, he hasn't for a while. he's bored, and he'd rather lift weights. let him do that. 45 year old looking like hulk hogan, such a insecure loner. dre has no friends, just business partners. eminem and jimmy, dre is a scared little boy in a 50 year old frame. i hope detox drops, just so it can be the biggest flop in the history of music. dres a legend, but he deserves that.

  • Commandante Guapo

    Wayne actually has two radio hits: 6'7', and How to Love. Dre, on the other hand... his problem is he's a 45 year-old man, with a 35 to 50 year-old fan base, still trying to rap about shit juvenile delinquents and young adults would find shocking. Meanwhile, teens and young adults have their own look and sound. Say what you will about Chris Brown, Odd Future, Swag District, YG, YC, and these Catdaddy niggas, but they are what the youth is listening to. I would be surpirsed if Dre could figure out anything to say that will be commercially relevant.

    • Anonymous

      who cares about commercial viability. that shouldn't be the main emphasis an artist has when they make music. also the crap you mentioned isn't what the youth want. they're too stupid to know what they want, so they just perceive whatever's on top 40 radio is what they should put on their ipods.

  • Luzh

    Footnote: Do not forget that sample clearances can also keep an album on the shelf for years. I think that is why Saigon took forever to get released. That was definitely worth the wait. Comment: I see the problem in Hip-Hop as one where artists feel that they have to release an album. Too many albums are released because an artist is hot or signed a new deal or they got released from prison or whatever. I think if there is no inspiration dont put out an album. Jeezy & Game are typical examples of artists lacking inspiration but continuing to push to release a CD. The RED album will end up being nothing more than a collection of hit and miss tracks that would have been better off in a mixtape. The fact is that I don’t see The Game saying anything new on this album despite the suggestive title. Similarly, Jeezy has nothing to say that deserves an album, what we heard on The Real Is Back is as good as it is going to get. Im not knocking the mixtape because I think it was hot and so was Purple & Patron but they not albums. When The Recession came out you could tell that YJ was trying to say something. That is why he took a break from the Motivation series because that was something that as artist he needed to say. Right now he is not in that position. To be honest I think Dre is in a similar situation. Detox is a title that is meant to mean something but judging from the singles released so far it is clear there is no format to the Detox album. While the hype for Carter 4 is fading fast, I at least think Wayne has something to prove with his album. He has to do it sober. He has to push his personal boundaries as an artist and that is why he should release an album. No guarantee that it will be good but at least it will be meaningful. You here Dre talk about 2001 and how it was recorded in a short space of time because of the environment that existed in the recording sessions. The process was organic but with Detox it is forced. How many artists have had their debut as their best album because that had the most meaning to them. The Greatest Story Never Told needed to be told and that is why the album was worth the wait, Paper Trail was a necessary release for TI and it had to come out. Kanye West’s last one was also his way of exorcising his demons and that made it necessary. The pressure of a final album provided the inspiration that was necessary for Jay-Z to make another classic. Wale on the other hand put his best effort on Mixtape About Nothing but without a theme to hold it together the mandatory debut album failed. J Cole has already had a debut with Warm Up, what will he have to say on the official debut? He has to wait until the inspiration comes. I say artist should steer clear from even announcing a release date. Focus on being inspired

    • hOMESKILLET

      thats so true, like for example :jay-z , ppl saying he fell off, but he really didnt, its juse with him -he's become this super businessmen , with all the 40/40 clubs, liquor, roc-nation, rocawear, Nets, interviews and all that he tends to not have time to get inspired these later years like he was before he retired, but let him get free time away from everything, get away from beyonce, get away from business deals,get away from corporate life for a while, and let him tape into an emotion, he spazzes..

    • Isa Dalwai

      You make a good point there.

    • tj

      realest talk.... rappers need to get inspired b4 they record, otherwise it's going to be trash music for the sake of pleasing the fans and or record label. but then again, most of these rappers are only doing it to pay bills.

  • Paul David

    I don't buy into the whole "perfectionist" crap. I mean to say, there are people that have perfectionistic behaviors, but rappers are not those kind of people. When an album doesn't get released, it's either because of the label or the fact that the artist is LAZY AS FUCK!

    • Anonymous

      Kanye is pretty bad... his lyrics are decent (sometimes) but his flow/delivery is whatever and he doesn't have much to say.

    • tj

      that's a sad and untrue thing to say. rappers like kanye, nas, raekwon, rza, etc have shown that they strive for perfection.

  • man

    they better leak soon to get this shits. no more buyin music cause im 30y old started buyin cd's at 16years old i got 1,758 cd's all over my cave room. got all the waynes from block is hot to carter3 all his hot boys records. from bg,bigtymers,turk,juve, old no limit. only downloaded like 10 so far. i deserve free albums if i go to hell for that well see.

  • da1

    Eminem is the only rapper who never got into the whole album delay shit. He would either drop his album on the date they said it would drop. Or he would push it foward.

    • Anonymous

      Well part of that is because his label makes so much money off his stuff coming out that they make sure its announced when ready and released by the day. He's Aftermath's biggest priority and probably pretty high on Interscope's list as well. That being said he does generally have a short time period between albums which is nice.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah probably the only rapper who's ever pushed albums forward. I think all except SSLP and Recovery were pushed forward, from memory.

  • kyle

    drop that shit weezy

  • aarontodavis

    just happy for all these albulms..which one will be da best? Detox, Cole World, Watch the Throne, Tha Carter 4, Take Care, Slaughterhouses new LP?..Hip-Hop isnt where it used to be but its moving in the right direction and the quality of music is getting alot better#datsyILuvit

    • Anonymous

      I think in albums that are gonna be released later this year / early next year the top 3 will be 1. Slaughterhouse New LP 2. Life is Good 3. Doe or Die 2 This half of the year its been 1. Slaughterhouse EP 2. W.A.R. 3. Hell the Sequel Detox is gonna be far too mainstream (and ghostwritten, with alot of tracks Dre didnt produce) Carter 4 is gonna suck except for a few tracks.. Wayne is generally a bad lyricist, with the corniest punchlines/metaphors i've ever heard, one of the worst deliveries, and a nonexistant flow. The songs ft Eminem and Tech N9ne will be good, and 6 Foot 7 Foot wasn't bad though (apart from a couple lines.) Watch the Throne is gonna be awful.. Jay has lost it. His flow isn't as good as it used to be, delivery is a bit worse, and lyrics have completely gone downhill. The top 5 of all time Jay-Z that we heard in Reasonable Doubt is gone. Kanye isn't very impressive either. Hip hop is going in the right direction but not with most of the albums you've pointed out.

    • tj

      you forgot one...**LIFE IS GOOD**

    • Anonymous

      Fuck that Take Care shit

  • TellinItStraight

    i've took notice of this trend aswell. -i lost interest and doubt detox will ever be released -R.E.D & TM103 have had many release dates, but atleast the game and jeezy dropped various mixtapes (i.e Red Room, Break Lights, Purp & Patron, 1000 Grams, The Last Laugh, The Real Is Back, Trap or Die 2) in that time span. - Been Anticipating Watch the Throne, C4, and Cole World as well -Didn't know 50 cent or ja rule were dropping projects, imo both their careers are over

  • HRH

    tyhis is so the truth. I've been saying this all year. It's become an art of creating anticipation. It's b/s also, as some of these artist just can't backup the anticipation(Game).

  • Nico 3

    If you don't give them something different, then eventually, no matter who you're, your shit won't come out. It's equivalent to a regular person slacking off at work and facing termination. Today's rappers are for the most part, not taking their day job seriously, and the only way the label can check them is to not release their shit, thus effecting their money. It's in their contract if they knew how to read.

  • Raidtimedope

    nice article man, enjoyed reading this. "look out for Detox..."

  • Wolfman

    I thought your article missed a big point on social networkin and media exposure. In the old days, you really didn't hear shit about a song coming out until it was played on the radio and was already confirmed with an album to back it. Now, the artists, their friends, their engineering co-workers, moms, little brothers cousins best friends can tweet some shit that grabs national attention. Twisting things, or creating rumors that take flight and hold the artist responsible. The short of it, every little sentence spoke about an artist's album makes headlines on sites that expose it to hundreds or thousands more who play the he said she said game... Maybe the over-exposure of media is putting a damper on the game.

  • Anonymous

    honestly lloyd banks n fabolous are the most anticipated albums for me.. 50 is ehhh game sucks jeezy might be good weezy is a hoe.. i cannot wait for banks to drop again

    • Anonymous

      How you gon like Fab, but not Game? That Purp & Patron was a hot mixtape

    • TellinItStraight

      can't believe u said game "sucks" (especially since ur fan of banks & fabo) not that much a fan of his music but def think it will be one of the best albums of 2011, however u r entitled to ur opinion

  • Hiphopanonymous

    IMO, I would imagine that the death of Dre's 20-year-old son in 2008 may have greatly affected the integrity of his creativity. Although it's easier said than done to say that life goes on, it is said that a parent never gets over the death of a child. It may take several years for Dre to move on with his life if he hasn't already, but I strongly believe and think that the loss of his child greatly affected the progress of Detox.

    • Anonymous

      He isn't writing any of the songs and lots aren't even produced by him.... So that wouldn't affect the release date too much.

    • Anonymous

      well said , you can never fully recover after your child is gone , dre should dedicate detox to his son

    • Anonymous

      well said , you can never fully "recover" after your child is gone , dre should dedicate detox to his son

  • Anonymous

    its not the artist fault its the label

  • 718rob

    I agree, it's real fucked up how artists and labels toy with us. It affects the bottom line, 'cause I know I no longer feel excited about albums I waited years for... even with Saigon's album it was that way, and I didn't buy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Game has a mixtape out that kills many niggas shit that came out this year. As for Ja rule, I think we shouls atleast have a release date of when it hits stores. And Dre will forever be Dre Niggaz need to learn about the undergroud and support these indies.