Bob Dylan has released roughly 500 songs (give or take a few) since his self–titled debut came out in 1962. His career has spanned almost five decades. By my calculations, that’s an average of about 10 songs per year. I think that qualifies Mr. Dylan as prolific.
Unlike Dylan, Lil B is a San Francisco Bay Area rapper who made a name for himself in the rap group The Pack and then started releasing some work on his own through his multiple Myspace pages (155 to be precise).
But in the context of Dylan’s catalogue, the recent news of Lil B’s mixtape, Free Music: The MySpace Collection, is all the more impressive (or maybe “shocking” is a better word). Lil B’s mixtape contains a mind–boggling 676 songs, which is even more outrageous considering that all the songs were recorded in the past 26 months (The tracklist is a 20–page Word doc. Just reading it is a massive undertaking). For those of you keeping score, that’s an average of 311.5 songs per year (.85 songs per day), which is a marked improvement, in terms of sheer output, over the legendary folk artist.
Free Music is the perfect embodiment of the most modern of problems for music listeners: there’s just so much out there. It’s of course great that as self–production becomes more viable, more and more people get to express themselves.
While listeners benefit from an expanded body of music, the problem is not knowing what to listen to. When there’s so much music (as is the case with Lil B’s mixtape), it’s practically impossible to decide what to spend your precious, finite time on. I didn’t even download the mixtape, because I know that I won’t have time to sift through its contents in a meaningful way.
Lil B’s mixtape is a high water mark in the age of Total Noise. It’s a counter–intuitive problem to have, but maybe it’s to some degree harmful to have too many artists to listen to — or, in the bigger picture, too much culture to consume.