The Headphone Jack

Double albums have always been a part of hip-hop. The first was released in 1988 by the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff, but it seems that whenever artists announce that they are going to be releasing a double-disc project, they are met with doubt and eye rolls.

The problem with double-disc albums is that the extra space for music often works against the album — the album becomes bloated with filler songs, the sequencing can be off and it can drag on for too long. The most popular critique double albums suffer from is that the album would be so much better if it was just one disc.

Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint 2” definitely received criticism although there were great songs on that 25-song album, it seemed constricted by forgettable filler songs. That album was like trying to find a needle in a haystack — it was a chore to listen to.

That is not the case for every double album. Some have received critical praise. Hip-hop fans can never deny the impact that “Life After Death” left on the culture.

Sure, there were definitely some skippable songs like “Nasty Boy” and “Player Hater,” but the album contained little filler and was jam-packed with some of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time. From “Niggas Bleed” to “Long Kiss Goodnight” to the legendary Bone Thugs and Harmony collaboration, “Notorious Thugs,” with Biggie spitting one of the most recognizable verses in rap, it was just Biggie at his best.

The double album was a risk and although his death may have contributed to the high praise of this album since it was released three weeks after his passing, it became an inspiration for artists wanting to take on the project of releasing their own double album.

A little over 20 years since “Life After Death,” rappers have continued to try their hand at double albums. Some are more memorable than others, including “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” by OutKast, which won album of the year at the 2004 Grammys.

One that was recently released that stuck like glue was “4Eva Is a Mighty Long Time” by Big K.R.I.T., which was released just last year.

When K.R.I.T. announced he was releasing a double-disc album, people were skeptical. He had a lot riding on this album because this was his first to be released independently since he left Def Jam and the double-disc curse. But what set K.R.I.T. apart from the rest of the double disc albums that have been released is that he followed a particular concept and gave every single song a place. There was no filler songs on this album.

K.R.I.T. seperated the album into the Big K.R.I.T. side, which featured the more hype songs of his rap persona, and the Justin Scott side, which was the more personal, reflective side. It worked in his favor because all the songs had a particular place, and they sequenced into one another really well, telling a story through one 22-song album. Not many people can do that, but K.R.I.T. knocked it out the park.

The double album will always be a part of hip-hop culture with many artists confident they can produce a successful one. While some may work better than others, the double album will always be met with skepticism from fans until proven otherwise. Oftentimes, when it comes to albums, less is more, but if artists are able to make every song fit in the way Biggie did with “Life After Death” or K.R.I.T. with “4Eva Is a Mighty Long Time,” then they should go for it. If not, it becomes a drag for the listener and probably would have been better as a single album.

 

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