Kanye West beat out 50 Cent in the much-hyped battle for top album last week. West’s Graduation out-sold Fiddy’s Curtis—957,000 copies to 691,000 copies—marking the first time since 1991 that two albums raked in first-week sales of more than 600,000 copies each. It was a phenomenal week for hip-hop sales, but some critics and industry experts said the record business, especially gansta rap, remains in sad shape.
Fiddy had said that he would retire as a solo artist if West won, but seems to have gone back on his word: After initially canceling his upcoming European tour, he just announced new dates. He’s also accused West’s label, Def Jam, of rigging the sales statistics.
There’s no doubt that this was an exciting week at the top of the chart, said Katie Hasty in Billboard. “But despite the hubbub” over the Kanye West and 50 Cent showdown, overall record sales “are still down 9% compared to the same week last year.” So, record company executives shouldn’t get too excited yet.
If record companies want to have more weeks like the last one, said April Joyner in FastCompany.com, they need to stage more rivalries and maximize the Web’s potential. “The media blitz sparked by 50 Cent’s threat to retire only illustrates the growing advantage that the Internet, once seen as a threat, now offers to the recording industry.” Fans on Facebook created over 430 groups related to the Kanye-Fiddy showdown, and the largest group on there had 7,701 members. Not to mention all the blogs that were writing about this. “And just like any other industry, the outcome of this marketing drive will influence future products to come.”
The rivalry certainly helped sell albums, but “the competition has a deeper meaning,” said Jim DeRogatis in the Chicago Sun Times. “Since the early ‘90s, gangsta rap has been the dominant sound in hip-hop,” but that sound “has long since become a tedious cliché.” Fiddy’s new album is more of the same, but West’s is full of a “kind of self-deprecating honesty” that’s “rare in a rap world obsessed with fronting.” And that’s what fans are connecting with.