Sadly, anyone who's been a fan of hip hop music for as long as I have, has most likely come to grips, at some point, with the fact that one of their favorite artists, perhaps someone they've been influenced by for years and grew up listening to, has fallen off or just ain't what they used to be. I go through this once every 7 or 8 years, and the following is a list of one time favorite rappers/artists that I've realized I just need to call it quits on. The reasons for each one may differ: lack musical output, lack of good musical output, a change in style, or just plain ole' getting outshined by other artists who do what they do (or did) better. And this does not mean I don't view these artists as dope artists! Some of them are my personal favorites. It's just the writing on the wall is spelling out to me that I probably should not, or won't, be buying anymore music from them.
1. Mos Def (AKA Yasiin Bey)- Mighty Mos Def was once a part of the Mount Rushmore of avant-garde MCs (along with Talib Kweli, Common, & Pharoah Monch) who spear headed the lyrically driven independent rap scene in the late 90s. He's got 2 undisputed classics under his belt with his solo debut Black On Both Sides and his collaborative LP with Talib Kweli under the Black Star name and is still in my personal top 10 of greatest MCs. But since Mos' last LP (2009's The Ecstatic), and changing his name, Mos has been busy with everything but rap, such as acting, activism, and bouncing back and forth between the States and South Africa. Yasiin Bey announced he was retiring from making music after releasing one last album (so technically he's calling it quits on us, we're not quitting him) with producer Ferrari Sheppard and released 2 new singles from the already delayed project that had a bizarre, electro-rock flavor to them. Nothing against left field sounds, but it just didn't measure up to his past work. If that was any indication of where he's going creatively, I hate to say it, but his best work is long behind him.
2. KRS-One- He's paid his dues, gifted us with classics, and made his indelible mark on hip-hop music. But lately, I haven't been feeling this elder statesman of rap mainly because of his ill advised decision to defend and excuse fellow hip hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa amidst numerous allegations of sexually abusing and assaulting teenage boys in the 80s. He even said those who want Bambaataa to answer for his alleged crimes should quit hip-hop. I wasn't there when all this stuff went down allegedly, so of course I can't say what happened, but the evidence doesn't look good for Bam. And for KRS-One to give a full throated defense of this man, and make it about hip-hop, is irresponsible, obtuse, inadvisable, and makes me not want to hear any new music from this man.
3. RZA- He will always be in my top 5 greatest producers of all time, but the Abbot just doesn't have that magical touch anymore. After dropping the ball on the last two Wu Tang LPs, production-wise, favoring experimental and cinematic soundscapes over his grimier, darker, simpler, signature sound, I can't say I would buy anymore albums produced by him whether they're solo products or Wu affiliated.
4. Lupe Fiasco- It hurts me to say this about my fellow Chicagoan. At one point, about 12 years ago, Lupe seemed poised to take over the game with his uncompromising, intellectual lyrics over slick, radio friendly production. The rap game had also evolved at that time to the point where Lupe's nerd-chic style was a welcome breath of fresh air amidst the hip-hop uniform of white tees, over-sized throwback jerseys, & New Era hats. But since 2007's The Cool, Lupe has not been able to give us consistent LPs that match his earlier work. A brief mixtape here, a musically off-center LP there...next thing you know, he's accumulated a pretty dare I say, average discography. It also doesn't help when you go around saying that your own albums aren't that good, even to you!
5. Slaughterhouse- I was so excited back when this group formed. It was a lyrical rap fan's wet dream seeing MCs Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, Royce Da 5'9", and Joe Budden form this supergroup. All these guys were proven, lyrical heavyweights in their own right, so if you combined them, and throw the support of the Shady/Interscope records juggernaut behind them, what could go wrong??!!! After releasing a handful of projects featuring ill-fitting beats over their aggressive flows, that never really lived up to the hype behind a group like this, and reportedly stalling their next release due to nitpicking and various other reasons, the group's overall momentum and buzz has seemed to fizzle out. I'm still pulling for these guys to get it together as a group, but to be honest, they all seem more focused and appear to perform their best on their solo projects as opposed to as a group.
6. Kanye West- Do I even need to explain this one? For me, part of the appeal of rap music is being able to relate to the lyrics and topics the MC is speaking on. Kanye at one time, I felt, provided a much needed voice in hip-hop for middle class black kids who grew up in the city and have an appreciation for certain "non-hood" things. Now, he's just that weird second cousin of ours who's won the lottery, moved out to the suburbs, is self absorbed, alienated from any kind of struggle, and likely voted for Trump.
7. Jay Electronica- This one hurts me the most, and there is a part of me that is still willing to spend $15 on whatever album Jay Elec drops, whenever it drops. Jay has always struck me as an artist's artist's artist, a man who will be uncompromising with his music, but most of all, a lyrical beast who could put 95% of the rap game to shame. But unfortunately, homie just doesn't seem that interested in putting out music at the moment. He blessed us with phenomenal features, freestyles, and mixtape tracks as early as 2007, but after a few years of waiting for an official release...well, we're still waiting. Maybe he doesn't want to dip his toes in this crazy, fraudulent rap industry? Maybe he's uninspired? Maybe he's just uninterested? Maybe whatever album he had in the works got mired in record label/A&R interference? Maybe he has bigger priorities on his plate right now? But this unofficial state of retirement he's in doesn't bode well for hearing an album from him anytime soon.