We look at the formulas behind the best hip hop double albums of all time.
Yesterday, The Game surprised us all by announcing that his long-awaited sequel to 2005's The Documentary would span two discs and 38 tracks. Unless you're a ride-or-die Game fan, this news may come as a disappointment. He's chosen to enter an arena that few rappers have emerged from unscathed, and regardless of his skills, "classic" double albums are much rarer than the bloated, overlong, filler-heavy monstrosities that became en vouge in the late '90s. It's a huge challenge, and not one that many artists (especially solo acts) have successfully tackled.
In fact, the first double album in rap history came courtesy of Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff, whose He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper arrived in 1988 and didn't exactly make a convincing case for its 72 minute runtime. Perhaps due to Smith's relatively shallow storytelling, the novelty nature of some tracks, or the fact that disc two was a "bonus scratch album" dominated by Jeff, it didn't seem necessary for the album to drag on longer than one LP. Unsurprisingly, He's The DJ... wasn't responsible for many imitators, with the heyday of double rap albums instead coming on the heels of what is still arguably the format's crowning achievement: Tupac's 1996 opus, All Eyez On Me.
After this, it was off to the races, with a whole host of top-tier rappers trying to cram as many songs possible onto two discs for the next ten years. The approaches varied, from Wu-Tang's victory lap Wu-Tang Forever, to OutKast's one-disc-per-member oddity Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (which turns 12 today), but most still struggled to hold listeners' attentions for more than 45 minutes.
Double rap albums gradually fell out of fashion, but they still trickle out every now and then. (One of this year's best albums, Vince Staples' Summertime '06, is technically two discs, but its runtime is dwarfed by recent single LPs by Mac Miller, Travi$ Scott and Dr. Dre.) With The Game currently staring down the barrel of a very unreliable gun, we're taking a look at what has and hasn't historically worked for double albums in rap. Here are some tips that could ensure that The Documentary 2 lives up to its predecessor.