Hip-Hop Sequels: The Gift & The Curse

Hip-Hop Sequels: The Gift & The Curse


It’s a subject t debated in cinematic circles. Can the sequel ever surpass the unique? General consensus errs towards no, although exceptions do exist. The Godfather II for instance. Empire Strikes Back is one other fan-favorite. The Dark Knight is all-but revered, the place Batman Begins is just celebrated. Yet it’s largely understood that sequels must be approached with narrowed eyes, with an integral query on the thoughts: is it fuelled by creative motivation, or merely a haphazard try at capitalizing on a wave?

In hip-hop, sequels aren’t solely unusual. In truth, they’ve been padding the canon for many years. Jay-Z’s Blueprint 2. Nas’ Stillmatic. Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP II. Dre’s 2001. Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter franchise. Raekwon’s Only Built four Cuban Linx II. Kid Cudi’s Man On The Moon 2. Logic’s Bobby Tarantino 2. Migos’ Culture II,  with talks an eventual trilogy. It feels as if there are extra rappers with sequels than these with out.

With that in thoughts, let’s contemplate the motivation behind revisiting a longtime physique work. I’d be keen to guess that almost all sequel-spawning tasks are thought-about “classics,” or on the very least, private highlights in an artist’s profession. Looking on the aforementioned examples, a easy genealogical hint reveals glorious albums throughout the board. Since it appears protected to imagine that an artist wouldn’t select to revisit something they deem lackluster, it’s doubtless that the choice to craft a sequel stems from a need for reinvigoration. A shot adrenaline to a stagnating profession, or just a shoulder-tapping reminder: give me validation. Either manner, the varied efforts which have emerged all through the years have me questioning whether or not a sequel has turn into considerably a foregone conclusion. But to what finish?


They thought I would make one other Illmatic
But it is at all times ahead I am movin’
Never backward silly this is one other traditional

– Nas, Stillmatic (Intro)

Consider a pair bitter rivals-turned-homies, Jay-Z and Nas. Both delivered sequels on the flip the century, with one notable distinction between the 2. Jay’s Blueprint II: The Gift & The Curse arrived one yr after its predecessor, The Blueprint. On the opposite hand, Nas’ Stillmatic arrived practically eight years and three studio albums after Illmatic. Right f the bat, a distinction might be made.

Given the relative brevity between chapters, it feels as if Jay merely wasn’t completed, although there admittedly stays a curious absence thematic or musical connective tissue. While boasting a number of glorious songs, Blueprint 2’s tonal shift is much faraway from the soulful vibe Blueprint; the funds feels a lot greater, borderline unwieldy. Were the Blueprint albums movies, it looks like they could belong to totally different genres altogether. Suffice it to say, Jay was hardly seeking to capitalize on a particular period. Rather, it appears as if he had been extra involved with “worldbuilding,” widening the scope his interior circle to incorporate some the period’s finest and brightest producers.

Stillmatic arrived underneath solely totally different circumstances. Though Illmatic, and to a lesser extent It Was Written are held in excessive regard, the again to again launch I Am… and Nastradamus marked a low level for the Queensbridge lyricist, significantly over the latter challenge; one would possibly make a comparability to Eminem’s Revival, which discovered a as soon as mighty lyricist turn into considerably a crucial punching bag. It’s no surprise that Nas turned to the previous, harkening again to his immediate traditional debut for inspiration. Unlike the Jigga Man’s sequel, the aptly titled Stillmatic looks like a non secular successor to its predecessor, each musically and lyrically. An AZ reunion picked up the place “Life’s A Bitch” left f, with manufacturing from Large Pressor and DJ Premier bridging the hole. Though Nas discovered himself fielding scathing photographs from Jay-Z’s “Takeover,” his counter riposte proved equally lethal; to today, followers nonetheless debate whether or not “Ether” or “Takeover” is the superior diss file. In any case, Stillmatic was met with widespread acclaim, thus re-entering Nas into the pantheon hip-hop royalty. Is it nearly as good, if not higher than Illmatic? Was that ever a risk? Still, it honored the unique’s legacy, enjoying out like a logical conclusion to the narrative; few one-two punches are as potent.


So, one final time, I am again
Before it fades into black and it is throughout
Behold the ultimate chapter in a saga
Tryin’ to recapture that lightning trapped in a bottle
Twice, the magic that began all of it

– Eminem, “Bad Guy”

Raekwon’s Only Built four Cuban Linx…Pt II stands amongst these uncommon sequels held in excessive regard. Like Nas, Rae discovered himself going through an uphill climb. His debut, Only Built four Cuban Linx…, stands among the many biggest hip-hop albums all time. Yet Rae by no means really confronted the identical hurdles as Nas; although his subsequent drops did not stay as much as his admittedly lty bar, he by no means discovered himself catching the wrath a public-scorned. What then prompted Rae to ship Only Built four Cuban Linx…Pt II in 2009,  fourteen years after the unique? It must be famous that Rae’s earlier solo album, The Lex Diamond story, was launched in 2003, marking a six-year hole between tasks. It’s solely attainable that Rae was seeking to recapture public curiosity by evoking a bonafide traditional. He even made certain to faucet his co-star Ghostface Killah for the event.

Like Stillmatic,  Cuban Linx II did justice to the unique’s legacy. Perhaps missing partially one’s lethal urgency, given Rae’s established place within the recreation, the legendary rapper managed to revisit thematic threads like one rides a bicycle. This time round, Rae opened the door to a range producers, together with Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, Dilla, Necro, Alchemist, and Erick Sermon; naturally, RZA opted to play the person backstage, sacrificing hands-on manufacturing for a extra curatorial function. Nearing launch, Rae spoke on RZA’s involvement, stating:  “he undoubtedly put his two cent in and made his components, and that’s what it’s about. But I can’t permit one man to steer my future no extra.”

Eminem tried an identical tactic when he introduced The Marshall Mathers LP 2 in 2013. Though Slim Shady LP and The Eminem Show are definitely touted extremely amongst followers, the individuals have topped Em’s sophomore album The Marshall Mathers LP to be his magnum opus. Arriving on the peak a brand new period, through which public sensitivity was at a (then) all-time-high, Em’s scathing lyricism and sheer technical prowess captivated the lots. Plus, you had Dr. Dre showcasing unparalleled adaptability, offering Em with a novel batch Carnival-esque bangers. A very distinctive album, and one which has stood the check time. It’s no surprise that Eminem ultimately determined to ebook a return flight, practically 13 years later.

Though Em’s spirit was doubtless impressed by his former work on MMLP, the connective tissue was inherently totally different. For one, the manufacturing staff had modified solely. Where the unique featured work from Dr. Dre, Eminem, Mel Man, and The Bass Brothers, the sequel had enlisted Rick Rubin, Alex Da Kid, DJ Khalil, and extra; the one uniting thread being Eminem’s personal contributions. Tonally, the albums couldn’t be extra totally different. The unique is a bad-trip stroll down a nightmarish alleyway. The sequel is a drunken stumble from a dive bar. Gothic piano preparations and minor-key progressions had been changed by rock samples, guitars, and synthesizers. Not inherently dangerous, although complicated to these anticipating a non secular successor. Of course, glimmers lyrical associations are current all through. “Bad Guy” is a direct sequel to “Stan,” and “Asshole” picks up the place the blase cynicism “Who Knew” left f. Yet like Blueprint II, Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP 2 feels prefer it stems from a unique collection solely. It appears as if Eminem’s intention was to reinvigorate himself by trying backward, with out totally committing to the trigger. For that purpose, many followers had been left feeling as if Em was merely trying to capitalize on the challenge’s legacy, whether or not an correct evaluation or not.

To really develop a speculation, I would have to spend far longer researching the myriad sequels at my disposal. Perhaps the notion reaching a concrete conclusion is a idiot’s errand. It’s solely doubtless that many alternative components can encourage an artist, together with a number of explored above. Reinvigoration, be it inventive or business, seems to play a big function. Brand recognizability is likely to be one other, with franchises like Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter collection having a confirmed observe file; might that even be why Migos stay adamant on dealing nearly completely within the sequel enterprise? It’s troublesome to say. Perhaps sooner or later, once we’re ready for good child mAAder metropolis, we are able to revisit.