Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rappers Stay Making Sequels

According to this MTV article, CNN are planning to make a sequel to their classic ‘97 record The War Report:
"We had the idea for the War Report [sequel]," Nore said via phone from Miami late last week. "We was actually calling it Report the War. We was gonna do all the songs [from The War Report] in a backwards order. Like call a song 'Money Blood' instead of 'Bloody Money.' Instead of 'Illegal Life,' we would do 'Life Illegal,' so on and so forth. It was gonna be everything but backwards. Then what happened was, as we started to record for The War Report 2, I didn't want to force it. I didn't want to force calling a record 'Money Blood' if it wasn't that. The sh-- started flowing. You don't go to the ocean and say, 'The waves is flowing this way, but I wanna try to force the waves to go this way.' You don't do that. So the way we was recording it, I was like, 'I can't mess with Mother Nature.' It's flowing perfectly. We went and got Imam Thug, a person from the original. We got Mussolini. Tragedy [Khadafi] is on the album. As you know, he's incarcerated. But we got a couple of verses, and he'll appear on the skits. Then we gonna get some new features. I ain't gonna say who, 'cause it should be a surprise."
I’m not sure if this is a good idea. Sure, OB4CL2 is a great album that captures the spirit of the original, if not necessarily the same vibe – Rae’s not as hungry as he was on the Purple Tape, his current waistline aside – but it's not like the album needed a sequel. There isn’t a narrative thread that Rae was continuing from the first record, which is typically what you would use to qualify the title ‘sequel’. The War Report doesn’t need a sequel either, but N.O.R.E. thinks that by calling their new album a sequel to their best album, more people will pay attention.

He’s right.

Chef has opened the floodgates for a whole generation of aging rappers to try to harness the signifying power of their back catalog; now when rappers title their new albums after their most highly regarded albums, we take it as evidence of “No, really, they mean it this time”. Rappers are trying to channel the lingering positive feelings we as listeners associate with classic albums. Meth & Red did it, while Reggie has been working on Muddy Waters 2 for years now. This isn’t necessarily a new trend either: Nasir did it, Shawn Carter has technically been doing it from his second record onward, but you could argue he’s only been self-consciously making sequels to his classics recently.

Let’s remember that an album title, at the end of the day, is just a title. C’mon Joey. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you call your record. By all means, get inspired by the best work you’ve done in the past. Rae proved it can work. But remember that making quality music is a process that requires inspiration, and you can’t recapture inspiration by recycling an album title.

How do you feel about all these album sequels?