by Arjun Chhabra and Ben Merisotis
Founder of Bathing Ape and producer of the popular “Tokyo Drift” instrumental, Nigo, has released a new project: I Know NIGO! The album rollout began with the release of the undeniable classic “Arya” featuring A$AP Rocky. If we had to give this song a reaction we would simply reiterate the great Pharrell Williams: “Yessir.” This song created really high expectations for the project. The next single released was a Kid Cudi song with a catchy chorus surrounded by mid verses. Nigo released 3 more singles thereafter, including a grimey Pusha song and maybe the worst Uzi song released in the past few years. After literally half the songs were released as singles, the album finally dropped. The highlights of the album included a freestyle with A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator, and a surprise Clipse feature. Unsurprisingly, on a project with multiple Pharrell features, all of the instrumentals were bouncy and NERD-esque.
I think the question we are all wondering is who gave Pharrell Williams permission to make such stupid hooks. Historically, Pharrell’s presence on a song is a positive factor, but more recently he has added unnecessary falsetto hooks to tracks like “Neck and Wrist” and “Green Juice.” On “Paper Plates,” A$AP Ferg delivers a solid verse over a hard beat, but the song is near unlistenable because of Pharrell’s chorus. Outside of lazy songs from some of the most highly regarded artists in the industry, the replay value of this album is tanked by the lack of cohesion between songs.
I Know NIGO! is the most recent installment of a recent trend in the music industry—especially in hip-hop—of making compilation albums centered around one record label or producer. Other recent examples include Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III tape and Metro Boomin’s NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES. Unlike the “greatest hits” style compilation albums (which have fallen out of style since the introduction of streaming services), these albums are completely composed of new songs. The appeal of these albums is simple: they’re star-studded albums that usually come with an extensive rollout and high-budget music videos. Compilation albums, however, have been subject to harsh criticism from music critics and casual fans alike. I Know NIGO! has been particularly polarizing, with a user score of 60% on Metacritic and a 2.76/5 on Rate Your Music.
The most common criticism is that compilation albums struggle with cohesion. With all of the different artists bringing their own unique styles to the tracklist, it’s hard to keep the music focused on a common production style or lyrical theme throughout. It’s somewhat similar to the problem that audiences have with a lot of new Marvel Universe movies. They often don’t have unique or compelling enough stories to justify their massive budgets, so they leave a lot to be desired. Compilation albums are structurally set up to disappoint listeners because they can never be more than a sum of their parts.
At the same time, it’s unfair to say that compilation albums have no place in the music industry. For labels, they offer an opportunity to showcase smaller talents in the same context as their biggest stars. The ceremony around the album builds a lot of excitement for the music industry in general, and it can serve as promotion for artists who want to release their own individual albums later in the year. Generally, compilation albums are inoffensive releases, and they can give us entertaining singles like “Arya.” Too often, however, they feature some of the most talented artists in the music industry just to make an album that relies on ceremony more than music quality. It is hard to shake the feeling that compilation albums, despite their potential, are a waste of time and resources.
Arjun is a freshman in the NHS studying Global Health. Ben is a freshman in the College studying government.