Are Hip Hop Albums Getting Shorter?

What do Kanye West, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, and Nas have in common — besides being amazing artists who have their fingers on the pulse of popular culture?

They all released albums this month with exactly 7 songs on them. 7 songs. That’s the length of an old school EP. I know that Kanye had a hand in all of these records, but still, it begs the question, is this a coincidence?

‘Ye’, ‘Kids See Ghosts’, ‘Daytona’, and ‘Nasir’ all contain no filler whatsoever. No joke tracks. No weird skits. No recordings of secret converstions or answering machine messages with their own associated track number. In the age of Spotify, people just skip past those anyways. Maybe we have finally moved beyond the idea of filling up a CD to get your money’s worth.

To prove to myself that the trend of shorter albums was real, I decided to grab all of the albums that had tracks on the Billboard Hot 100 from 2000–2018. Then I used Spotify’s developer API to find out how many tracks were on each of those albums. After removing singles and compilation records, I could see whether the number of songs per album is in fact going down.

Album Length for all Genres

First, let’s take a look at the number of songs per album, averaged over the years from 2000 to 2018

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We do notice a very slight downward trend from just over 14 songs per album in 2000 to just under 14 in 2018.

Maybe if we average per month instead of year, we can observe the trend better.

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Again, the same trend is observed. It also shows that most albums have between 11 and 16 songs on them.

Looking at Only Rap Albums

Of course, the most egregious use of filler material has always been on rap records. If we look at only rap albums (as defined by the genre of the artist on Spotify), then we can see that the trend is more pronounced

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Now it’s clear that we went from about 16 songs per rap album in 2000, to only 15 songs now.

Looking at the monthly averages give more granular data

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Here we see that rap records have way more variance than most genres. And again we go from around 17 song per record in the first month of 2000, to under 15 now.

Conclusions

It does seem that records are getting slightly shorter. As music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music take over from traditional mediums, we can expect even more variance in album length, and specifically, shorter albums.

Notes

1 — all code and data used for this project can be found at https://github.com/taubergm/AlbumLengths

Written by

Engineer in San Francisco. Interested in words, networks, and human abstractions. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

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