The internet is forcing the music industry to change in numerous ways. For one, many artists have gained a following without the help of a major label. You can listen to whatever you want without needing to wait for MTV or your local radio station to play the song you want to hear. But, it has also allowed rumors to run rampant. While some artists still abide by the now archaic model of concrete album release dates and release practices, some artists, mainly hip-hop artists, like to say things without much factual backing. Thus, when hip-hop superstar Kanye West confirms that he and mega-star Drake have a confirmed joint album, it’s hard not to be at least a bit skeptical.
Anyone who follows hip-hop knows that artists talk about upcoming releases all the time. Rappers Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole have consistently talked about a “supposed” joint album they’ve planning on releasing since 2010. Rapper Young Thug reportedly has joint albums he’s planning on releasing with a multitude of different rappers. So, despite the cryptic billboard featuring Kanye’s label’s logo and Drake’s label’s logo that popped up in L.A. in early September and Kanye telling Vogue, “We’re just working on music, working on a bunch of music together, just having fun going into the studio. We’re working on an album, so there’s some exciting things coming up soon,” we’re still cautious this release will ever see the light of day.
Kanye and Drake aren’t signed to the same label. In many ways, Kanye and Drake are rivals, teetering the line between rapper and popstar and constantly juggling the transcendent title of “Biggest Rapper Alive.” They are currently touring separately, with Drake headlining his “Summer Sixteen Tour” and Yeezus headlining his “Saint Pablo” tour.
If this album does actually conceptualize to a real release, it wouldn’t be the first time Kanye linked up for a joint album with a fellow rap star. West and his mentor Jay-Z released Watch the Throne in 2011. Many speculated that album would never materialize. It did, however, and it features some of Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s strongest verses. The difference, of course, is that Jay and Kanye are basically partners. Kanye produced some of Jay-Z’s biggest hits in the late 90’s and early 2000’s before ascending to stardom with Jay’s blessing in 2004. Both artists are signed to Roc-A-Fella-Records and the joint album, while many thought it was a longshot to happen, actually made sense.
On the other hand, a Drake and Kanye joint album just doesn’t really make sense. How would the album be released? Would it be released on Kanye’s label, G.O.O.D. Music? Or would it be one of Drake’s OVO Productions? Perhaps it would be released as a free mixtape? This is the least likely scenario, considering these two men are among the most profitable in the music industry.
It could go the route of the Drake and Future collaboration mixtape, What a Time to be Alive. WATTBA came out in the summer of 2015 and was released on OVO Sound as well as Freebandz, Future’s label. Future, while popular, is nowhere near as popular as Kanye. Thus, it’s unclear if Kanye would be okay with this split release method.
It is fun to speculate on what a Drake and Kanye album would sound like, however. Drake’s most recent release Views, while it’s done spectacularly on the charts, left a lot to be desired. He sounded comfortable, relaxed and all too familiar throughout the project. Could Kanye, the man who brought us genre-bending releases like Yeezus and 808’s & Heartbreaks, bring out a more experimental and risk-taking Drake? Kanye’s most recent release The Life of Pablo, while it had obvious highlights, also felt a bit empty. West no longer sounds as hungry on the microphone as he once did. While this is understandable (the man has been churning out quality and unique releases since 2004), it leaves some uncertainty and puts up some question marks about the quality of a potential joint Drake and Kanye 2016 release. After all, the song “Pop That” on Views has a Kanye feature and it’s one of the most forgettable tracks on an overly forgettable project.
With the way artists talk about releases that never actually come to fruition, we aren’t holding our breath for the supposed Drake and Kanye collaboration album. If it does come, however, hopefully the two artists will sound inspired. What a Time to be Alive was reportedly written and recorded in the span of a few weeks. While that album had some serious highlights, it’s evident that it was thrown together quickly. Would a Drake and Kanye collaboration go this route, making it more of a cash grab than a piece of artistic expression? Or would it go the route of Watch the Throne and be cemented as a solid piece of both artist’s impressive discographies. We’re not even sure if we’ll ever get to find out.