Albums Are Too Damn Long Nowadays
Photo: Nataliya Serbska and Manuel Sulzer / Getty Images

Albums Are Too Damn Long Nowadays

Releases like The Game’s overloaded latest work make me nostalgic for the days of CD-R

How many times have you been called into a meeting and left feeling like everything discussed could’ve been said in an email? Usually, the person who called the meeting really just wanted to hear themselves talk and prove to the rest of the room how smart they are. Instead, said person just comes off as a pompous blowhard who does things just because they can.

At 30 songs—an hour and 55 damn minutes—The Game’s DRILLMATIC Heart vs. Mind is a meeting held by an egomaniac that could have been an email.

Listen: The Game can rap. There’s no denying that. But his latest album is a byproduct of an epidemic in the digital era of music where artists can release these monstrosities without checks and balances. It dilutes the product by taking the form of a playlist rather than a cohesive project that has something to say.

There’s probably a really good album inside of this Marvel-length listening saga. Instead, we get a music dump with a run time of just a shade under two hours and a whopping 29(!) guests. Game only did it because he could. Nobody was there to tell him no—and it’s doubtful he would’ve listened anyway. After all, he spent months telling the world he was preparing to drop a classic. But if there’s one thing that has continued to trip The Game up, it’s his own ego.

This issue isn’t isolated to Jayceon Taylor. Chris Brown’s 40-song LP Heartbreak on a Full Moon from 2017 has the nerve to append an additional five bonus songs. And Lil B has several mixtapes that exceed 100 tracks (one is titled 05 Fuck Em—talk about saying the quiet part out loud). These are more extreme examples, but still, when left to their own devices, some artists have little discretion when it comes to composing a tracklist. The end result is these excruciatingly long listens that require a chunk of time to plow through. It makes it unnatural to truly live with an album.

Consider me washed, but if I need to pack a lunch and schedule a bathroom break just to experience your album, it’s probably too damn long.

But how did we get here?

The barrier to entry in the music business has changed significantly over the past two decades. It’s both easier and cheaper to make and release music. Once upon a time, an artist had to set aside money to record in a studio. Not anymore. A lot of the legwork can be done in a bedroom closet and recorded directly onto a laptop. Artists don’t need to be in the studio at the same time as someone with whom they’re collaborating because everything can be sent digitally. That means you can pile on all the guests you desire as long as your contact list is extensive. The cost of pressing CDs? Nil. Thanks to the streaming age, you can make an album with 50 songs and it won’t cost you any more than an EP with five (recording costs aside).

These combined conditions explain one way technical advancements have set us back. The market is flooded. There just isn’t enough time to sit with an album because there are already four more that demand your attention.

It took me two weeks to listen to The Game’s latest. Why? I was busy listening to Danger Mouse and Black Thought’s Cheat Codes (38 minutes), Rapper Big Pooh’s To Dream In Color (30 minutes), Larry June’s Spaceships on the Blade (54 minutes), and Joey Bada$$’s 2000 (53 minutes).

That’s just rap albums. Other genres? Forget about it.

Consider me washed, but if I need to pack a lunch and schedule a bathroom break just to experience your album, it’s probably too damn long.

Sorry, Game. I just don’t have the time for this. I’ve got other things to do. Not to mention, 29 guests? Is this a Khaled album? Sheesh.

How do we rectify this epidemic? Chris Rock had the answer in a bit from his 1999 HBO special Bigger and Blacker in which he presented an unconventional gun control proposal.

"I think all bullets should cost… $5,000 per bullet,” Rock said, setting up the punchline. “If a bullet cost $5,000, there would be no more innocent bystanders.”

Replace “bullets” with “songs" and “innocent bystanders” with "bloated albums."

"And people would think before they killed somebody,” Rock continues. “‘Man I would blow your fucking head off…if I could afford it. I’m gonna get me another job, I’m going to start saving some money, and you’re a dead man. You’d better hope I can’t get no bullets on layaway.’”

Like bullet control, music control is what we need. This era of albums that span more than 25 songs—and are amended with an additional eight songs for the deluxe version days later, to boost streams and pull off the Billboard jig—is hurting the listener’s experience more than it is helping.

Simply put, it’s overwhelming and makes it difficult to evaluate the quality when no one has the time to churn through what feels like an endless stream of releases with projects where the overall length would make The Green Mile blush.

History tells us that hip-hop’s undeniable classics—Illmatic (40 minutes), Ready to Die (69 minutes), Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (58 minutes), The College Dropout (76 minutes), Midnight Marauders (51 minutes), Doggystyle (55 minutes), Paid in Full (45 minutes)—keep it tight with the song selection. They also weren’t released with a ton of other albums competing for the listener’s ear.

These albums had a lot to say but were concise and precise with what they said. There was little to no room for filler. Any fat to be cut from these albums had already been trimmed. It took a lot of discretion for an artist to do that but when an album has a vision, it’s a little easier.

And if your album does happen to be long? There better be a good reason. Very few complained about the runtime of The Godfather Part II because it needed every minute to say what needed to be said. Artists, make your albums more like Malcolm X and less like Pearl Harbor; both are twice as long as other films of their eras, yet one is a pillar of Black moviemaking while the other has a 24% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Unfortunately, too many artists believe that everything they make is incredible and will just pile on the music. Then they will tell you that it’s a classic before you ever hit play. We need to end the era of talking just to talk. And, in this case, rapping just to rap. Our attention spans will thank you for it.

Maybe we need to go back to the good ol’ days of albums that aren’t disrespecting our time. If you need two hours and 30 songs to convince us of how great you are, maybe we aren’t the ones you’re actually trying to convince.