We don’t really. Just like a lot of other things in our culture, we tend to agree with the leading social commentary on whatever given topic. Then muscle memory in our brain takes over and just learns to hate it gradually over time. In Why Do We Hate? we’ll explore some of the people, companies, musicians, movies or whatever else our society has cast aside in the court of popular opinion.
Kendrick Lamar just dropped “To Pimp A Butterfly,” his follow-up album to 2012’s wildly successful “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.” You’d think the young emcee would have built up enough goodwill with his fans to explore his sound stylistically this time around. However, a vast number of people have been clamoring for “the old Kendrick,” not able to open their minds, or ears, wide enough to absorb a new kind of art, a sound so original they simply reject it.
The great philosopher Kanye West once said, “Niggas be loving the old ‘Ye, they saying the new ‘Ye, that nigga be spazzing. But when Ali turn up and be Ali, you can’t ever change that nigga back to Cassius.” Yeezy has a ton of experience with this problem, as you probably remember from when he released the polarizing “808s & Heartbreak” in 2008. At the time, there was legitimate outcry from fans that their beloved “Gold Digger” Kanye had made way for a far more enlightened and experimental Kanye. Little did they know, that album would pave the way for an entire subgenre of hip-hop that has allowed artists like Young Thug and Travis Scott to thrive. It opened the doors for artists like Drake to feel comfortable singing and rapping while still maintaining credibility within the rap community. Looking back, everyone’s least favorite West album might have been one of his most monumental in terms of scope.
This problem isn’t isolated to Kendrick Lamar or Kanye West it’s far more widespread. Join any conversation with your friends or coworkers about music, and you’re sure to hear at least one person utter the phrase, “… yeah, but it’s not as good as his old stuff.” How could it be that all these artists are getting progressively worse throughout their careers? It couldn’t be.
So where does the problem lie? Nostalgia.
Our brains are just wired think this way, unfortunately. We subconsciously make all sorts of connections between fond memories and what was in our lives at that time, a la music, movies, etc. So when you say you love Drake‘s “So Far Gone” mixtape and his latest project is trash, it’s totally fine. Just understand that it has nothing to do with Drizzy or his music, rather that you had a hot girlfriend in 2009, and today you’re endlessly swiping through Tinder until you get early onset arthritis. Rapper J. Cole explains further in his CRWN interview with Elliot Wilson at about the 12:00-minute mark.
Think about it this way: If you practiced doing any activity for years and years, you’d inevitably get way better at it. Why do we think it’s any different for musicians? Obviously there are outliers for every status quo, and some artists truly do get worse, but for the most part, we make internal connections to pieces of art we love at certain points in our lives and never let go. It’s the reason our parents will never love the music we listen to, and our generation will probably hate our kid’s music, too we’re just stubborn.
So the next time an artist drops a new album they worked for years on, try to isolate it against their old work that you inherently adore and give it an honest listen. Styles and ideas evolve just like our minds, so let them.
Duke London is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.