With the transparency and intimacy enabled by digital media, music fans now have the opportunity to listen to a track being built right there in front of our eyes and ears. No longer sealing themselves in the studio until a track is deemed “finished,” artists now leak works in progress to build anticipation and garner feedback during the creative process. An alluring recent example of this is J. Cole’s new track “Problems.” Dropped last week on a mixtape, the track is one of the most interesting I have of a half-done hip-hop song.
Problems, J. Cole
Built around a spare but catchy beat, this song has highly polished rhymes that continue to mark J. Cole as someone whose observations are as sharp as his flow. Maybe it’s just me, but I also hear in this song purposeful echoes of 99 Problems, one of his boss’ most famous tracks.
But, just as you might be drawn in to the beat and the verses, you’ll notice all these empty bars through the song. Placeholders, for a hook to be added later. If I were a betting man, I would say that a female vocalist is going to drop in, much like Rhianna here, or Erykah Badu here.
Some might say that it’s crazy to leak a song that’s not quite done. But I think that, if it’s well-managed, it’s a great way to engage fans not only in the consumption but in the creative process. I’ll keep a lookout for the next version of this song, and we can continue the conversation.