Kanye Takes the Lead, Is 50 Headed for an Early Retirement?
By Nathan S.
What exactly would 50 Cent do during his retirement? What would the king of New York look like playing shuffleboard in Florida? It’s hard to picture the former crack dealer turned hip-hop icon clipping coupons, but if 50 follows through on his vow to retire if Kanye West’s new album Graduation outsells his album Curtis, the early bird dinner at Dennys might need to make space for a new guest.
September 11 was slated as a clash of the titans, a battle for hip-hop's crown and the very future of the hip-hop industry: Mr. West vs, Mr. Jackson, brains vs. brawn, Louis Vitton suits vs. bulletproof vests. The nation awaits the results…the envelope please…and the title goes to...Chi-town's Kanye West. Official sales and chart positions won’t be determined until Soundscan closes Sunday, but based on the preliminary reports Graduation is projected to sell approximately 600,000-700,000 copies, while Curtis is expected to land somewhere in the 500,000-600,000 range.
"It's probably at 3 to 1, with Kanye outselling 50 with our sales so far,” said Carl Alvarez, the urban buyer for Virgin Entertainment Group, in a L.A. Times interview. “I anticipated 60 percent of people picking up both, but we anticipated Kanye selling more."
Smaller retailers back up Alvarez’s findings, with stores ranging from the east coast’s Newbury Comics to the west coast’s Amoeba Records reporting watching Kanye’s sales outpace 50’s by as much as two to one.
“I’ll probably just download 50's,” said Chris Hughes when asked if he planned to buy either album on his way into Amoeba’s L.A. store. "I want to support Kanye. I bought his other albums and they’re classics.”
The G-Unit boss won’t be the only one sweating Hughes’ comments; record label executives are using the albums’ success as a state of the industry report. Album sales have been down sharply, not a single hip-hop artist was included in 2006’s top selling albums chart, and it appears even the Kanye vs. 50 marketing machine won’t be enough to rescue the sinking ship. 50 Cent’s smash album The Massacre was released in 2004 and sold 1.4 million units in its first week, but retailers will now be happy if they can sell half that many. In fact, country music singer Kenny Chesney might just challenge both hip-hop moguls with the release of his album Pirates and Poets, which is quickly climbing the charts on the strengths of two hit singles receiving massive airplay on country radio. Is there room at the top for three?
Never count 50 Cent out, there’s still a long way to go and sales can swing sharply in a matter of days, but September 11 has not been the triumphant day he envisioned. Still, if 50 can survive nine gunshots he can certainly weather Kanye’s day one lead. Kanye has won the battle but the war for hip-hop's throne continues, who will be left standing? Stay tuned.