When I joined Apple Music in 2016 I was awestruck at how many albums I could listen to without having to illegally download them. Mixtapes were always my forte unless I heard about, say, a Freddie Gibbs x Madlib collaboration that I couldn‘t wait to cop. I even set the date on my iPhone, looked out for singles and videos, and kept my eye out for any updates on media. I just as eagerly awaited mixtapes such as J. Cole’s Friday Night Lights, or Wiz’s Kush & OJ. Twitter was a key source for album or mixtape announcements, and subsequently, their release.
Twitter was a much different place when I joined in 2010. I loved its interface, accessibility, and hip hop centric community. Generation Z will never experience the old platform; full of discovering new artists and making like–minded friends across the world.
It now rots with trolling, bullying, and Twitter fingers without confrontation. In the early aughts artists such as Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Logic, Freddie Gibbs, Tyler the Creator, Nicki Minaj, and more had under 500K followers (give or take.) Back in 2011 I tweeted Logic and he actually responded. I vividly remember screen-shotting his response, knowing I‘d never be able to speak to him again. I knew he was going to be huge. It was experiences such as these that showed me the magic of the platform.
My fellow hip hoppers and I had 3 options to listen to music 1) iTunes 2) CD‘s and 3) downloading off the web. There was no Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Google Play, SoundCloud. As soon as Napster debuted in June of 1999 CD sales plummeted but still served as a huge source of income for record labels. Best Buy, Walmart, Target and the like carried a large stock of new albums as well as back catalogs. For example, when Tha Carter III dropped, fans flocked to these brick and mortar stores eager to grab their physical copy.
CD‘s and downloading moved to the first significant streaming platform, Spotify. The Swedish company launched in the US in 2011, but many knew nothing about it. It picked up steam as the years passed, but mixtapes and CD’s were still king. Eventually all followed suite – most notably Apple Music. Most platforms charged $9.99 a month (or a free subscription with less features) to stream an endless amount of albums. So what’s the caveat?
Whether we recognize it or not, music hits platforms at the speed of light. ‘New music Friday’ has become irrelevant. I have an enormous backlog of albums I’ve been meaning to listen to, but haven’t had the time. At this point even looking at Apple Music gives me anxiety. I am far from an ‘old head,‘ angry and bitter at how things have changed. I just have no idea how I will move forward. Technology only advances. And that is a scary thought.