Derek Minor & Christopher Nolan: How Time Creates a Masterpiece
Derek Minor is a lot like director Christopher Nolan making The Dark Knight Trilogy. Confused, let’s explain. In 2017, Nolan commented on the current status of superhero films in relation to his own Dark Knight Trilogy, claiming the latter was afforded “the luxury of time.” He said:
“That’s a privilege that filmmakers aren’t afforded anymore…There’s too much pressure on release schedules to let people do that now but creatively it’s a huge advantage. We had the privilege and advantage to develop as people and as storytellers and then bring the family back together.”
Reading Nolan’s comments in 2019, his words gain new relevancy when applied to the music industry. Thanks to the rise of streaming and shortened attention spans (a chicken and egg question of culpability) artists are pressured to inundate listeners with content regularly for fear of fading into obscurity. This leads to bloated albums (Scorpion, Culture 2, SR3MM to name a few) and an avalanche of singles which feel like half-baked ideas instead of fully-fledged food for thought.
From 2017-2018, for better or worse, Christian Hip-Hop wasn’t exempt from this trend. In lieu of releasing traditional albums, Andy Mineo, Derek Minor, and Steven Malcolm all announced that they would drop back-to-back EPs. For Andy that came in the form of The Arrow and The Sword although it seems that plans to release the other EPs were canceled or delayed. Steven Malcolm released Parts 1 and 2 of The Second City before turning Parts 3 and 4 into a full-length album. As for Minor, he announced he would launch “four projects in four months” anchored by the phrase “Your Soul Must Fly High Above The Trap By Any Means.”
Your Soul Must Fly and High Above dropped right on schedule in 2017 but listeners had to wait almost a whole year for the third installment, The Trap. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t due to a paucity of music.
“It’s not that I didn’t have the material,” Minor shared, “Man there are so many tracks that didn’t even make the cut on The Trap.” He mentions a song that featured nobigdyl. and Foggieraw that he ended up giving to Dirty Rice. A silent prayer is said for all unreleased songs locked away on hard drives.
No, like Nolan with his Dark Knight Trilogy, Minor wanted to give The Trap the luxury of time.
“Had I released The Trap in 2017 it would have been a lot shorter,” Minor admitted. “It would have been six to seven tracks like the other EPs. The main reason why it released later was that I realized I would be giving too many projects in too little time. The returns would be diminishing. I wanted people’s appetites whetted for more music. So why force feed in order to stick to a plan?”
To have to backtrack on an initial promise would be hard for any artist and it would have been far easier if, to save face, Minor released an abridged version of The Trap. But Minor’s commitment and integrity to his art and fans anchored his decision.
“My fans are conditioned to expect art from me,” he stated, “They were cool with the delay because they knew I was making it the best it could be.”
The fact that we’re still covering The Trap here at Rapzilla months after its release is a testament to the veracity of that statement.
This more fluid release structure and the ability to “be his own boss” is what helps spark Minor’s creativity. He shared how his approach to making music varies from many; while working within restraints may spark more creativity for others, Minor feels caged in. Rather than start with a concept and making music around that concept, he goes the other way.
“Man, I just make music,” he says honestly, “When I first started, people were telling me I had to do the Flame model. Flame would treat his album like sermons. He’d have a thought and each song was a point to that thought. Every time I tried to make music that way I’d get writer’s block. The music I make is rooted in how I’m feeling at the time and my goal is to put words to what I’ve been feeling. It’s in the marketing phase where I come up with a theme for the project I’m working on because that’s where I ask myself: ‘okay so how can I make this theme easily digestible?’”
Being able to create in this way is what makes the process so fun because inspiration can come at any turn.
“I’ve had projects hit me the opposite direction, Minor said. “I can get hit with a theme after I’ve recorded a bunch of material and then I just scrap everything and go forth on that idea. I’ve learned to embrace this process. Every time I go into marketing meeting, I ask myself, ‘What will I learn that I didn’t’ get out of the initial creation phase?’”
Indeed, it is Minor’s commitment to letting things be organic that allows him to achieve such success. I mentioned “Change the World”, a cut with Hollyn off of 2016’s Reflection and he shared how out of the output of wanting to make good art, he made one of the biggest hits of his career. “That [song] wasn’t forced,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to make a pop hit. I was taking a risk doing what I love…I’m not a singer but did the best I could on that song. I think people connected with the heart of that.”
Minor’s lassiez-faire approach to dropping music applies as well to the final installment of the Up Up and Away series, By Any Means. When asked when it would drop, he laughed “I may drop it next year. I don’t know what comes next. Right now I’m just enjoying making music. I don’t have any pressure or deadlines.”
Derek Minor dives a bit into that here as well.