A few years ago while working on the sixth Black Eyed Peas album, will.i.am found some time in the studio to work on his own solo project. That album suffered a series of push-backs and a title change. Long before the album was officially released, will.i.am let loose a few singles. While the U.K. was feeling the first of the lot, “This Is Love,” much of the U.S. wasn’t impressed. “Scream & Shout,” featuring Britney Spears, did much better on the charts, in large part to the video’s debut on Fox’s reality singing competition show “X Factor” (to which I’m sure will.i.am said, “Thank you, Brit-Brit.”) The song was popular enough to receive the remix treatment with Lil Wayne, Waka Flocka Flame and Diddy jumping in on the beat. Another song was even featured in a commercial for Lancia, an Italian car manufacturer.
Almost a year since the first single hit the airwaves, #willpower dropped but not to the same level of anticipation and fanfare as previous efforts. Like most albums that are released in the age of modern technology and piracy, #willpower leaked online. Despite the year-long promotional efforts from the Black Eyed Peas member and his record label, the initial buzz that started to build with the second single failed to keep #willpower on the charts. Moving more than 29,000 units the first week out, will.i.am’s fourth solo album grabbed the ninth slot on the Billboards but the album was quickly forgotten about and #willpower failed to achieve anything close to what the Black Eyed Peas did during its height of popularity.
Hoping to breathe some life into the project seven months after its original release date, will.i.am re-released #will.power. The album was also marred by a sampling controversy and the song in question was removed in the re-release and replaced with the brand new song “Feeling Myself” with Miley Cyrus, French Montana and Wiz Khalifa but that still wasn’t enough to bring any real attention to #willpower.
LL Cool J- Authentic
Coming out of Hollis, Queens in 1985, a young and hungry kangol-rocking, Adidas-donning LL Cool J took the rap world by storm. Declaring that he just couldn’t live without his radio, the ladies - and hip-hop heads - really did love Cool James because his first four albums went platinum. His music after that was hit or miss but the New York native had already re-invented himself as an actor. After starring in hit movies In Too Deep, Halloween H20 and Deep Blue Sea, LL was a bonafide actor and was introduced to a whole new audience with his sitcom “In The House.” While he continued to put out new music, it seemed like LL didn’t have the same hunger as he did when he first came out. In 2009, he found another job on television with “NCIS: Los Angeles.”
While Hollywood has treated Todd James very well, he still had the itch to be back in the booth and five years from his last album (the longest break he’s ever taken in between projects), LL released Authentic. After 12 albums with Def Jam Records, Authentic marked LL’s first project since parting ways with the iconic label. Authentic included the most diverse group of guest features since Michael Jackson’s and Quincy Jones’ “We Are The World.” Hip-hop fans would recognize Snoop Dogg, Fatman Scoop, Chuck D, Monica, Travis Barker and Charlie Wilson but might scratch their heads at the other names on the track list. No doubt a reflection of his now diverse fan base, LL also collaborated with Eddie Van Halen, Earth, Wind & Fire, Boosty Collins, Tom Morello, Melody Thorton and Mickey Shiloh but none received as much attention and controversy as a song with country singer Brad Paisley.
Although “Accidental Racist” didn’t make it on his album, the song was intended to bring the subject of racism to the forefront to open a dialogue but it mostly fell on deaf ears. LL was criticized for giving rednecks a pass. He was also bashed for lines like “If you don’t judge my do-rag, I won’t judge your red flag.” The Paisley collaboration “Live For You” did make it on Authentic. Much wasn’t expected of LL’s latest effort and the numbers certainly reflected that. Authentic moved a paltry 14,000 copies in its debut week and after four weeks on the chart, only 26,000 units were sold. Pale comparison to what LL is used to doing.
Joe Budden- No Love Lost
A solid decade in the game, Joe Budden achieved commercial success with the Just Blaze produced smash single “Pump It Up,’ which was off of his solo debut album. Signed to Def Jam, Budden grew unhappy after his album was shelved and soon parted ways. But he still gave his fans music with his Mood Muzik mixtape series and he earned a rep as an emotionally charged rapper with no filter long before Drake made it cool.
Budden probably made the best move of his career when he reached out to Royce Da 5’9”, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I for a song titled “Slaughterhouse.” It was so well received that the four formed a group and named themselves after the song that started it all. As a quarter of the Slaughter, Budden reached a new level of success. He won over the ladies by continuingly pouring out his heart and emotions on wax, much to the chagrin of his exes Esther Baxter and Tahiry.
Watching his popularity rise even more, Budden was brought in on the third season of VH1’s “Love & Hip-Hop.” Fans tuned in to watch Budden’s love triangle with his girlfriend and his ex, but hip-hop fans were patiently waiting for a solo Joe Budden album. In February, he released No Love Lost. The first single “She Don’t Put It Down Like You” featured Lil Wayne and Tank and for the remix, Budden recruited Fabolous and Twista. After that, Budden dropped “NBA” with Wiz Khalifa and French Montana. While both singles drew attention to Budden’s album at first, fans quickly forgot about No Love Lost, which also included features from Lloyd Banks, Juicy J, Kirko Bangz, Omarion and his fellow Slaughterhouse comrades.
Undeterred by the lack of commercial success with No Love Lost, Budden has announced he has already started working on its follow-up, All Love Lost and will also drop an EP called Some Love Lost. However, hip-hop heads are more excited about the prospect of a new Slaughterhouse album, which is expected to be released in the New Year.
13 years ago, Nelly had the country bouncing to “Country Grammar.” Selling more than eight million copies of his debut album, the St. Louis native churned out hit after infectious hit. However, all good things must come to an end and soon Nelly struggled to capture lightning in the bottle like his previous songs “Hot In Here” and “Dilemma” featuring R&B singer Kelly Rowland.
In 2011, Nelly released his first mixtape ever and announced he was working on a new album. Titled M.O., Nelly’s seventh solo album didn’t hit shelves until September 2013. In early 2013, the first single was finally released but few people were feeling “Hey Porsche.” He enlisted the help of Pharrell and Nicki Minaj for the second single “Get Like Me” but even those big names failed to make the song or the album register with most fans.
Despite pulling out the big guns with other guest features from 2 Chainz, Trey Songz, Wiz Khalifa, Nelly Furtado, Fabolous and Yo Gotti, Nelly’s latest effort was a bust. In its first week of sales, M.O. moved less than 16,000 copies, making it the lowest performing album out of the gate in Nelly’s career. The album didn’t sell because of lack of promo. Nelly was everywhere from “Good Morning America,” “Katie Couric” and the “TODAY Show” to late night television shows and everything in between to help move the needle on his album sales. He even popped up at a Taylor Swift concert and joined America’s sweetheart onstage to perform “Hey Porsche” when her tour brought her to his hometown of St. Louis.
After a month on shelves, only 23,000 units were sold. Compared to Country Grammar, which sold 235,000 albums in its debut week and went platinum nine times over and is one of the highest certified albums in history, M.O. was truly a disappointment by Nelly’s standards and by today’s.
DJ Khaled- Suffering From Success
DJ Khaled got his start in the music business on the radio hosting his own show in Miami. Forging relationships with some of hip-hop’s biggest stars came in handy for the New Orleans native. When he was ready to release his debut album in 2006, Listennn… the Album contained features from a plethora of artists including Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Pitbull, Bun B, Birdman, T.I., John Legend and many, many more. A year later, he dropped We The Best, which spawned the hits “I’m So Hood” and “We Takin Over.”
Becoming one of the hottest DJs in the game, he was known for his hard work ethic as much as the high-pitched “We the best!” that peppered his songs. DJ Khaled, who also donned the hat of producer, was soon tapped to become the president of Def Jam South while founding his own We The Best Music Group.
DJ Khaled dropped a new album every year since 2010 and by 2013 he was suffering from success. Paying a visit to the doctor about a bald spot in his beard, the physician declared that he was indeed “suffering from success,” which inspired the name for his seventh album. With the first single “No New Friends” featuring Drake, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, Suffering From Success was shaping up to be a promising album.
But Khaled had folks scratching heads when suddenly he went on a radio show and proposed to Nicki Minaj. With an engagement ring valued at half a million dollars, he professed his love: "I ain't a young boy no more. I'm on my thinking the future. I just had to be honest. I always liked her. She's my friend, of course. And I like her. It's more than a crush."
It turned out to be a publicity stunt and an unusual if not creative way to bring attention to the next single, “I Wanna Be With You," which featured Minaj. While the stunt brought attention to DJ Khaled, it didn’t go over quite like the portly DJ had in mind. A norm for any one of his albums, the guest features were jam packed, including verses from Future, Ace Hood, Diddy, Meek Mill, T.I., 2 Chainz, French Montana, Big Sean, Chris Brown, Wale, J. Cole and a whole lot more. But fans weren’t going out to support Suffering From Success and it suffered from poor sales.
YMCMB- Rich Gang
Birdman and his brother Slim have assembled some roster over at Cash Money Records while his son and protégé Lil Wayne has done the same thing with Young Money. There’s no denying the wealth between the rappers at YMCMB and teaming up for another compilation album, they have aptly called themselves the Rich Gang.
To get fans excited about the upcoming album, Birdman dropped the mixtape Rich Gang: All Stars in February, which originally contained Drake’s “Started From The Bottom,” Ace Hood’s “Bugatti” and Lil Wayne’s “Love Me” and “Rich as Fuck.” Slated for a May release, the Rich Gang album suffered a few setbacks and was released two months later.
The album was supported by the first single “Tapout” with Lil Wayne, Birdman, Mack Maine, Nicki Minaj and Future. The video included cameos from Kimora Lee Simmons, Christina Milian, Bow Wow and recent Young Money signee Paris Hilton. A strong lead single, “Tapout” went gold but it failed to help boost sales of the actual album. Moving 24,000 units in the first week and claiming the ninth spot on the Billboards chart, Rich Gang soon took a nosedive and barely moved 50,000 copies in a month.
What has become the norm for most rap albums, especially with a compilation project, Rich Gang was loaded with rap’s heavyweights. YMCMB’s Busta Rhymes,Tyga, Limp Bizkit, Jae Millz, Ace Hood and Cory Gunz were joined by Rick Ross, French Montana, T.I., Rick Ross,The Game, Flo Rida, Kendrick Lamar, Chris Brown, R. Kelly and Yo Gotti. While a few big names could really boost an album’s profile, Rich Gang was bogged down with too many guest features. Besides an outstanding verse from Lamar on “100 Favors,” the album may have been filled with a couple club bangers from some of rap’s elite but the entire project was overcrowded with too many artists vying for attention.
The promotional mixtape served to be a better project and a bigger success than the actual Rich Gang album itself. “Started From The Bottom” was the ubiquitous anthem that was freestyled and remixed all summer long by other rappers. “Bugatti” helped put Ace Hood on the map and Lil Wayne’s “Love Me” and “Rich As Fuck” winded up on his I Am Not A Human Being II album.
French Montana- Excuse My French
Long before French Montana’s debut album came out, he was already in high demand and making a lot of money. Earning a name with his Cocaine City DVD series, the popular street tapes gave French Montana the perfect opportunity to develop crucial relationships with numerous artists so by the time it was his turn to start his own rap career he had plenty of friends to call on for help. The Moroccan born, Bronx bred native released his Coke Boys and Mac N Cheese mixtape series, both helping build his buzz as a rapper.
After leaving Akon’s Konvict Records due to album delays, a bidding war for French Montana ensued. Flirting with the idea of signing to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, he ended up signing a joint venture with Diddy’s Bad Boy Records and Rick Ross’Maybach Music Group and began working on his long delayed debut album.
Originally set for a release date in July 2012, Excuse My French suffered a series of setbacks. With each new release date that was set, it came and went without French Montana’s debut album hitting the shelves. Finally, ten months after its original date, Excuse My French got the green light and was released. The album was full of club-friendly songs. The first single “Pop That” featuring Rick Ross, Drake and Lil Wayne contained a sample from Uncle Luke’s “I Wanna Rock,” and it immediately took off, going platinum. Nicki Minaj was featured on the next single “Freaks” and although it was just as catchy as “Pop That,” it didn’t do nearly as well.
“Ain’t Worried Bout Nothin” marked French Montana’s first solo single and while it dominated the airwaves, Excuse My French wasn’t a commercial success as expected. With a heavy guest feature list that included Max B, Ace Hood, 2 Chainz, Raekwon, The Weeknd, Diddy, Drake, Ne-Yo, and Machine Gun Kelly, the album peaked at the number four slot but failed to go platinum or even gold. Luckily the favors French Montana called in didn’t cost him anything; Max B was the only artist on Excuse My French that was paid to make an appearance.
MMG- Self Made Vol. 3
Rick Ross made it big as a solo rapper back in 2006 with his debut album. Since then, the robust rapper continued his dominance in the rap game by consistently putting out new music coupled with non-stop touring. By the time Deeper Than Rap was released, Ricky Rozay had started his own imprint Maybach Music Group. In addition to his role as a rapper, Ross began assembling his roster with artists, picking regional rappers with a buzz and work ethic similar to his and signed Philly’s Meek Mill and D.C.’s Wale along with Stalley and Torch.
Ricky and crew put out their first compilation album Self Made Vol. 1 in 2011. The project contained the monster smash “Tupac Back” with Ross and Meek Mill. Zooming up the charts, the song helped the album move almost 60,000 units in its debut week, proving that Rick Ross and his Maybach henchmen were here to stay. A year later, Vol. 2 hit the shelves. With the lead single “Bag of Money,” Self Made 2 did even bigger numbers than its predecessor, with 98,000 units sold in its first week out the gate.
It seemed only right that Ross and company would release Self Made 3 in 2013. Back for the third time around were Wale, Meek, Stalley and Omarion with newer MMG additions French Montana and Rockie Fresh. Early buzz grew with “Poor Decisions” with Ross and Lupe Fiasco but when Meek dropped “Levels,” it took it to another stratosphere.
Self Made 3 initially pulled in modest numbers in its debut week but after selling over 50,000 units, the album quickly slid off of the charts and out of everyone’s memory. Although the project included features from Yo Gotti, Lil Boosie, Birdman, J. Cole, Fabolous and Pusha T, it was newcomer Fresh that proved to be the stand out rapper. Outshining the vets, Fresh’s “God Is Great” was the stand out track and showed why Ross signed the young Chicago rapper to MMG.
Big Sean- Hall Of Fame
Big Sean has come a long way. Heading up to the local radio station in Detroit in 2007, a young Sean approached Kanye West and rapped for him hoping to land a deal. Four long years later he dropped his debut album on G.O.O.D. Music. Finally Famous spawned hit songs “My Last,” “Marvin & Chardonnay” and “Dance (A$$).”
Having one of the most critically acclaimed mixtapes of 2012 and a stand out verse off of G.O.O.D. Music’s compilation album Cruel Summer with the ubiquitous “Mercy,” Big Sean was hoping to build on his success with the much hyped about Hall of Fame. Putting his beloved hometown city of Detroit on his back wherever he goes, folks had high hopes for his sophomore album and while the buzz surrounding the album grew to a deafening noise right up to its release, the album failed to generate platinum hit songs like the first album did.
Lead singles “Guap,” “Beware” with Lil Wayne and Jhene Aiko and the Common assisted “Switch Up” didn’t bring as much attention to Big Sean as the much talked about “Control” song did. The song also featured Jay Electronica but it was Kendrick Lamar who stole the show by calling out his fellow peers and rapper by name to raise the bar. What turned out to probably Big Sean’s most popular and most talked about song of his career didn’t even make it onto Hall of Fame. Due to sampling clearance issues, “Control” was released online for promotional purposes only.
Hall of Fame, which also included guest features with Nas, KiD CuDi, Nicki Minaj, Juicy J, Jeezy and Miguel, failed to bring in the same numbers as Big Sean’s debut album did. With 72,000 records sold in the first week, the album peaked at the number three spot before its sharp decline. Undeterred by its lackluster performance, Big Sean, who called Hall of Fame a “Detroit classic,” has announced he is already working on album number three after becoming inspired by his relationship with actress Naya Rivera.
Lil Wayne- I Am Not A Human Being II
Few rappers have a bigger name than Lil Wayne. Sent to prison during the height of his career, the New Orleans rapper was even more popular after his eight-month stint at New York’s Riker’s Island. During his incarceration, Weezy’s camp released I Am Not A Human Being and it took the number one slot, helping Lil Wayne to become the first artist since Tupac Shakur to have a number one album in the country while in prison.
Soon after his release, Lil Wayne did what he does best and embarked on a tour hoping to pick up right where he left off before his incarceration. Fans were clamoring for new Weezy music and after a few setbacks, much to the chagrin of his fans everywhere, the long-awaited and highly anticipated Tha Carter IV finally dropped. Breaking records with over 300,000 downloads in just four days, Tha Carter IV fell shy of going platinum in the first week by just 36,000 copies.
Wanting to solidify his out of this world image, Lil Wayne decided to drop the sequel to IANAHB. Weezy’s tenth album hoped to achieve the same level of success as his previous projects but fell far short. With the anticipation building, Wayne dropped the first single “My Homies Still” a full nine months before IANAHB2’s release. Two more singles from the album, “No Worries” and “Love Me,” were released in 2012 before the album dropped in March of 2013.
More than 200,000 units of IANAHB2 were sold in its first week, a very disappointing number for a Lil Wayne album. Music critics and fans alike bashed IANAHB2 for its poor production value and the lack of diversity in Wayne’s lyrical content. Although he has the some of the best metaphors, similes and punch lines in the game, Weezy rarely steers away from rapping about drugs, sex or violence. A far cry from the commercial success of his previous albums, IANAHB2 failed to go platinum, the first solo Lil Wayne album that has yet to be certified, making it the worst selling album of his career. Even his rock-inspired Rebirth album managed to go gold.