Two weeks ago it was Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan, who lost more than 100 songs to the Internet all at once. This weekend it's Drake, who just lost a couple dozen songs, including high-profile collaborations with Kanye West and Beyonce, to various hip-hop forums and sketchy SoundClouds with 10 followers and 20 new Drake songs in their feeds. (These songs aren't necessarily leaks from Drake's pending studio album, Views From the 6.) The first of these leaks was a new collaboration between Drake and Beyonce, "Can I," which sounds like FKA twigs meets Three 6 Mafia meets Raider Clan. Beyonce, who sings the song's background refrain, sounds like a digital alarm clock dipped in a swimming pool. It's terrible.
When Rich Gang's trove of unreleased material hit the Internet a couple weeks ago, Complex contributor Justin Davis investigated message board KanyeToThe's stockpile of unheard music from Rich Gang. "The songs were collected from mutual friends or people believed to be within Thug’s circle," an anonymous KTT user claimed. Forum members of YeezyTalk are already claiming responsibility for these latest Drake leaks, and a batch of Kendrick Lamar leaks as well. Welp!
has it occurred to anybody in the music businesses that constantly referring to official releases/previews as "leaks" is a terrible idea
— Al Shipley (@alshipley) May 13, 2015
Unauthorized leaks aren't new to hip-hop culture. Bootleggers have been ruining rap albums since the mid-'90s, when bootleggers fenced whole albums via warehouse stockpiles or else leaked individual songs from the studio to a DJ hungry for exclusives. Nas' The Lost Tapes, for instance, is mostly just a compilation of songs that were recorded for I Am... and Nastradamus. These songs leaked preemptively to radio, however, forcing Nas and his producers to lean on the weaker material from those sessions for the official albums. Accordingly, the release of Nastradamus in 1999 was the lowest point of Nas' career.
It's one thing for an unholy alliance of hackers and weedcarriers to ruin a rapper's album rollout. Worse yet, careers and even lives have been jeopardized by high-profile album leaks. On Dec. 2, 1999, Jay Z stabbed record producer Lance "Un" Rivera at the Kit Kat Klub in midtown Manhattan during a confrontation over Un's having leaked material from Jay Z's Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter. One of those songs was the extensively subliminal "Is That Yo Bitch," which is secretly the greatest rap diss record (of Nas) of the '00s, if not of all time. Due to the song's leaking months before the Vol. 3 release date in 1999, however, "Is That Yo Chick?" didn't make the U.S. album release's final, retail tracklist. What a tragedy, even though Roc-A-Fella would resurface the song a year later as a Bleek single with full music video assistance from Twista, Missy Elliott, and Timbaland. (What a blessing.)
More importantly, there's our ostensible, philosophical concern for artistic ownership and whatnot. Alex Tumay, a studio engineer who works with Young Thug, recently became the unwitting public face of the Rich Gang leaks as he took to social media to vent his frustrations with leak culture, so-called.
"We spent months on months, more or less living in the studio, creating these tracks," Tumay wrote in a statement that he promoted via Twitter. "Whoever leaked them has no respect for music or the work that goes into creating it." As a result of such leaks, he says, new music suffers dilution of its impact and perversion of its intent. Rich Homie Quan was in the booth rapping entire verses about raping women, which he certainly didn't mean to be caught doing.
Not to go all Ghost of Christmas Past on you savages, but seriously, please, for the love of music, stop leaking all of these unlistenable Drake songs and garbled snippets of imminently mediocre Kanye West singles. Such hacks and leaks frustrate the album as a form, they jeopardize the vision and livelihood of musicians, and they're spoiling our appreciation of the latest, greatest music, which most of us won't properly pay for even when it's officially released.
Worse yet, in this case: Most of these stolen Drake songs are awful! Save for the wavy "Tryna Fuck" collaboration with Juicy J and Ty Dolla $ign. Hearing unfiltered Drake falsetto on a Saturday morning is a hangover without cause or cure. Why can't these KTT goons and OVO moles leak something worthwhile and unjustly withheld? Like, oh, I dunno—the Jeremih album.
Justin Charity is a staff writer for Complex. Follow him @brothernumpsa.