High Expectations

There are some people in this world for whom the normal is unacceptable. IN Sports it's no longer enough for Kobe or Lebron to get to the playoffs, they are expected to compete for and win the title every year. Alex Rodriguez cannot just hit .320 and knock in 120 runs, he needs to carry the team to the World Series. Same goes for Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Brett Favre. In hip-hop, Jay-z and Eminem are probably the two big names for whom above average doesn't cut it.

Taking these two and looking for the moment, just look at why we think they need to do so much. Jay set the standard for an artist since his second album when he garnered critical acclaim and raked in huge sales. As the biggest and so far the best white rapper Eminem faces the same conundrum. We don't even remember that the reason those early albums took off and did so good was because we took what they gave us for what it was.

It becomes just like junkies trying to get the next fix. You were so giddy upon hearing the first few album from these artists that now it is hard to get excited for something that you expect. There are human limitations to even the best of us in a field and once you get to such a level it is hard to surprise people and continue to push the bar higher because you are expected to do it.

For Jay what more can he do lyrically to push himself higher? Do an entire album of "punchlines" that stand out? It seems we are at the point we begin to criticize every syllable he says like it has to be groundbreaking. Maybe they can get together and create an entirely new language so we as fans can be impressed.

Meanwhile, Rick Ross does and entire album that sounds like the last album he did with two themes to all of the songs and it be accepted because we don't think he has the potential to do what a Jay-z, Common, or Nas is capable of. We let Soula Boy slide with bullshit and he thinks its him that makes the song. "Kiss me through the phone" doesn't sell because of Soulja, it's the hook and that's it. "Turn My swag On" is his beat I'll give credit, but the verses are downright ridiculous.

To a lesser extent this happens with 50 cent and Nas as well. For Nas we have come to accept that he will have an inconsistent album and have some lazy tracks on it. But everyone else can't do that. 50 is at the point where if he doesn't push 750 thousand units in a week he is considered a failure because his first album did so much. That is what happened to Nelly. If your single isn't bananas from the jump you can chalk it up because labels aren't even going to let you get a chance to build because they have built in feelings about the response you have to get from jump in order to be a success.

We as people need to have realistic feelings and attachments to these people and be content with what we get sometimes. I am definately not telling you to avoid criticism and breaking down what people put out, because we need that. However, we need to adjust and hold everyone to the same standard and not use a "Star Scale" for those who early on blow away our minds and expectations.


  1. I'll admit that it must be hard for cats like Eminem and Jay to live up to past greatness. But I was a latecomer to both their careers, and didn't catch on to either until their third albums(if you count Em's Infinite). Yet I somehow still saw them as falling off. Not because I expected the absolute best music they've ever produced, but because they gave me horse-shit in cd-form.

    My point is, the audience's perception doesn't transform a good album into one perceived as wack. That's a copout created so artists' can hide behind it instead of admitting that their music isn't as good anymore. Encore was wack, period. Volume 3 was corny, period.

    Now maybe the expectations psych out the artist(he focuses on topping his peak as opposed to just making good music), I can roll with that theory in some instances. And yes labels play a big part in this psych-out, trying to force lightining to repeatedly strike instead of accepting an artist's peak for the past and moving on.

    I accept that peaks are by definition unattainable. The Roots will never make an album that I like more than Things Fall Apart. But they keep making good ones. That's all I ask for. Keep it fresh, keep it good

  2. wow volume 3 was not corny I have to seriously disagree. That is my favorite Jay-z album. I have never heard an artist use this excuse however, I am saying why is it considered that an artist like ross can put out bullcrap and then it be called okay yet Jay can put out an album that is overall better yet the fans go oh this isn't as hot as I expected.

  3. Becaause like you said....it is what is expected. You always expect more than what you get! I think it is hard to appreciate something from an artist when you have already developed a favorite. Then you're always thinking...it's cool but I like this one better. you then interpret that as not great music.

  4. I sort of agree. In a perfect world, we'd judge music and artists on their artistic merits.

    But here's the real issue, in my opinion - today's rap fans don't love rap because they don't have anything to feel attached to. Check these links, which I think are fairly comprehensive, and note how almost everything is from the 80s and 90s:



    Today's rap artists are disposable. People like 50 Cent and Nelly were fads from the beginning, and Nas made Illmatic so long ago that younger fans think he's always been average. So when they fall off, you have Soulja Boy and others who step in and fill the pop gap. You got no one to appreciate, and no one to remember.

    I was lucky enough to grow up in the early to mid 90s, right in the middle of the golden era. I remember banging the Fugees, Tribe, Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas in my car til the mirror on my windshield shook from the bass, and it makes me smile. Hearing all that great music on the radio made me want to learn more and gain an even deeper appreciation for rap and hiphop in general.

    Anyway, I think when we accept subpar material and beats from today's generic artists, we're basically acknowledging that the industry is what it is - style over substance. But when we hold people like Jay-Z to a higher standard, we're being optimistic about what rap was and what it can be. It means we still care, and that's what I think will save the industry in the long run.

  5. disagreements over vol 3 aside, I've seen artists use this as an excuse before. Their new album is subpar, and they blame the negativity on high expectations, as opposed to accepting that the new album's quality just wasnt there.

    But apparently I missed your point. Rawse and Hov are apples and oranges. If Ross gets 4 mics and Jay-Z gets 3, somebody's got to die, no doubt. But saying Jay's new album isn't as hot as you expected isn't wrong. You're just expecting him to do what he's already proven he can do.

    Sometimes these expectations are unrealistic I'll admit. And I can see how it could be seen as unfair that Ross doesn't have to live up to the same expectations. But that's life. If you do good work, we expect not only the same quality work in the future, but better. That's why you get promoted and bums like Ross don't(shouldn't at least.)


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