2021: ‘Fever dream’ for fans of Ye, Drake, J.Cole

Samuel Knee, Contributing Reporter

Image of Ye (formerly Kanye West) (Courtesy of Flickr)

Last Thursday, hip-hop fans were provided with an experience some would describe as a fever dream if you told them all of two months ago. Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and Drake teamed up at L.A. Coliseum for the “Free Larry Hoover Benefit Concert,” where the hip-hop icons squashed their years of “beef” and joined forces for a night to remember. 

The concert was live-streamed on Amazon Prime Video and Twitch for the world to see and showed us how even though the world has changed so much in the last 20 months, real rap is still alive. Ye went deep into his discography, something he has not done in a very long time, and Drake blessed the audience with some of our favorite tracks off his latest project “Certified Lover Boy.” 

Although the duo only took the stage together for two songs — Ye’s, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” and multi-artist track, “Forever” — the evening felt like the most appropriate way to celebrate the fever dream of a year that 2021 was for the mainstream hip-hop industry.

You may be wondering why this year has been so jam packed with new releases from the world’s favorite hip-hop artists. It was, like most things in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of big-name hip-hop releases in 2020 wasn’t due to any shortage of creativity or lack of effort though. It was solely economic-based

In today’s streaming-age of music, an album is so much more than multiple songs under a commonality. An album requires a precise rollout with strategic social media campaigns, merchandise and the core ingredient that last year lacked: in-person concerts, tours and music festivals. Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s a fact that hip-hop has remained the most popular genre on the United States Billboard charts since 2017, and what would hip-hop be, without its energy fueled concerts.

For those fortunate enough to attend a concert or music festival in the latter half of 2021, there was greater appreciation for the shared excitement of movement, sound and voices that just couldn’t be recreated in a virtual setting, or the avant-garde, like Travis Scott’s live-streamed Fortnite concert.

2021’s explosion of new music began with J. Cole’s “The Off-Season which was released on May 14. Coincidentally the day after the Centers for Disease Control announced that fully vaccinated people can take their masks off in both indoor and outdoor settings. This alone could be considered the beginning of rap fans’ “fever dream” year in which big-name rappers of the 2010s finally released what they’d been cooking-up in quarantine. 

It clearly paid off as last month’s nominations for the 2022 Grammy Awards would be dominated by the most popular names in the hip-hop industry.

Only a month following Cole’s release on June 25, fans were greeted into the summer months in fashion. With Tyler, The Creator releasing his sixth studio album “Call Me If You Get Lost,” a luxurious bon-voyage that helped solidify the Grammy-winning “Igor rapper’s diversifying sound since he began experimenting with 2017’s “Flower Boy.” 

The following weeks would consist of several intimate performances of “Call Me If You Get Lost,” including one at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg that was also broadcasted on Twitch and introduced hip-hop audiences to the hybrid performances that would eventually define the remainder of the summer with Ye’s “Donda listening parties, as well as his “Free Larry Hoover Benefit Concert,” with both being both held in person and broadcasted on streaming platforms.