How 3 Legendary Artists Found Greater Success By Switching Genres

Releasing an album that doesn’t match your previous work is sort of a scary thought. There’s a lot to be anxious about, primarily, losing your fan base. However, several prominent musicians have walked that line and become more successful by doing so.

Here are three musicians who were able to switch their genres and stay successful.

1. Childish Gambino tried a lot of different things before hitting it big with soul music.

Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, started in YouTube sketch comedy, then worked his way from there to writing for 30 Rock, starring in Community, and finally becoming a musician. He’s certainly no stranger to change.

Most recently, he released a funk/soul album, despite finding success in hip-hop. His new album Awaken, My Love! received critical acclaim, with the hit song reaching 104 million plays on Spotify.

For Glover, switching genres was more about following the path of a renaissance man than about trying to rebrand, and for that, he stayed a success and gained a new audience.

2. Snoop Dogg had a brief stint as a reggae artist.

Snoop is a legend in hip-hop, releasing some of the most defining songs of the late 90s and early 00s. He has stayed in the spotlight with cameos and for being a marijuana advocate, and it didn’t come as a huge surprise when he rebranded as “Snoop Lion” in 2012.

With his new identity, he released an album with heavy reggae and dub influences and a documentary about his time in Jamaica. He basically went to Jamaica, hung out with Rastafarians, and said to the world, “I’m Snoop Lion now.” Most fans reacted along the lines of “sure dude, do your thing.”

The album was pretty successful, but after the release and a tour, he decided to go back to his original identity. Nothing was lost, but he definitely gained a ton of media exposure through the whole ordeal, so it was the right move.

3. The Beastie Boys got their start in the punk scene.

The iconic hip-hop trio from New York actually got their start in the punk scene. MCA and Mike D were part of The Young Aborigines. Later, Ad-Rock joined the group, and they released a 12” album that was more on the side of experimental hip-hop.

Upon finding success with the record, they decided to transition fully into hip hop and have stayed with the genre since. In this case, the decision was based on being rewarded for taking a risk. Their roots in punk stay apparent, especially in the hit song “Sabotage.”

These artists found success by timing their transitions well. Whether you’re in a lull, looking to grow, or just following your destined path, you can be successful in a shift so long as you jump in with both feet.

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Gabriel Dufurrena is a mathematician, writer, and educator living in Oakland, CA. When he’s not watching YouTube videos or teaching math, he’s bumping music from his car stereo.

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