With the proliferation of the internet the music leaking has inevitably become a Pandora's Box that, despite the best efforts of the music industry, cannot be resealed. Leaks are a touchy subject in today's music community. On the one hand, many upcoming artists have embraced the internet and leaked entire albums and mixtapes before releasing their proper debuts in order to build among a national audience that would be much less accessible without the internet. The staples of this route include Lupe Fiasco and Wale, who released three and five mixtapes respectively prior to their proper debut.
Leaks have become the primary and cheapest form of advertisement for artists new and old as it has allowed them to spread buzz about their upcoming projects by releasing songs through blogs such as this one. This has allowed the hip hop community to become more selective as (at least on this blog) only the artists who produce (subjectively) "better" music receive shine with any consistency. As opposed to the radio, which plays the same repetitive, idiotic songs (the next time I hear "Sexy Bitch," I swear that I'm going to put a bullet through my head), the internet has allowed those projects with more artistic depth that would tend to gain more traction, theoretically leading to increased sales.
On the flip side, a poorly timed or unintentional leak can ruin an artist. Take Lupe for example, an emcee who benefited greatly from the internet community, but who's first incarnation of his debut album, Food & Liquor was shelved entirely due to an unapproved leak in April 2006. The album was salvaged, as Fiasco recorded some new verses over the old tracks, added some guest artists, and recorded several new songs, but the layperson who does not follow the internet rap scene with any great fervor was robbed the pleasure of hearing those gems that remained forever in limbo, unreleased on the leaked version.
Leaks happen. They are unavoidable. When entire albums are leaked in the manner that Nas & Damian Marley's Distant Relatives recently has been, many listeners such as this blogger use them as a means to listen to highly anticipated music earlier and then go on to purchase that same music later in order to support the artists that they enjoy. Still, it is unavoidable that there will be people that are casual listeners and who will download the music with no intention of paying for it. Honestly, I have few problems with that stance. My hip hop standards prevent me from spending any money on artists like Drake until they prove their worth, but I will very likely download Thank Me Later when it eventually does leak. The alternative to me not downloading this music would be me not listening to it at all, thus not lending unproven artists a chance to redeem/substantiate their worth.
Financially, I will support those artists who continue to produce quality music in order to encourage their future (theoretically good) musical contributions. As long as I am in the financial position to do so, that necessitates me purchasing projects such as Distant Relatives, Til The Casket Drops and The VS. EP even when there exist cheaper (free-er) economic alternatives. I won't post the entire Distant Relatives as I have too much respect for what both Nasir Jones and Damian Marley have done in the past, but I will say that you can find it elsewhere and that it is an album more than worthy of your support. A full review is forthcoming (assuming that I survive my last three finals), but for now I will tell you that DR is a project that transcends both Jones' hip hop roots and Marley's reggae traditions.
This song is one of the many gems that stand out on a nearly impeccable project that should be a fierce competitor for the title of Album of the Year. Joined by his brother, Stephen on the chorus, Marley and Jones craft a deeply spiritual song, discussing the guiding power of Jah (the Rastafarian name for "God"), that would have made Bob Marley proud. I don't typically advocate spiritual hip hop, but this is a beautiful song regardless of your personal beliefs.
I share this song (by way of NewCuts) with the hope that it will inspire you to support quality hip hop (regardless of whether you download the leak). Over the past year, hip hop has continued to recover with the quality debuts of Wale and Fresh Espresso and 2010 looks as if it could signify a renaissance for the genre with highly anticipated releases from Nas & Damian Marley, J. Cole, the Beastie Boys, Joell Ortiz, Eminem, and Big Boi among others. If you love hip hop, you should consider it your duty to lend financial encouragement to these artists.
Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,
Nas & Damian Marley - "In His Own Words" (Feat. Stephen Marley)
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