Kanye West outsold 50 Cent last week when the rappers released new albums on the same day in a showdown expected to resonate through the music world. Fiddy had vowed to quit making solo records if his Curtis didn’t outsell West’s Graduation -- which got far better reviews -- on the first day in stores.

Fiddy’s lost his gritty charm, said Dan Chamas in The Washington Post, and money’s made him soft. “Hearing a broke rapper brag about cash is quaint. Having a multimillionaire bully you with his financials is just mean.” And his lame challenge to Kanye West “gives the impression that he can’t even find a suitable enemy to fight,” which isn’t surprising considering he now “lives in a mansion in Farmington, Conn.”

Isn’t it obvious that the whole thing was just a marketing strategy? said Julian Benbow on Boston.com. Kanye West and 50 Cent are “master marketers,” and they’ve turned a “simple” release date into “the day the nerd fought the bully, soulful hip-hop fought gangster rap, and good fought evil all at once.” But in the end, it’s no contest, because “artistically, West is always moving, while 50 is at a standstill.”

Fiddy knows he has to evolve in order to remain a relevant force in hip-hop, said the AP’s Nekesa Mumbi Moody in The Miami Herald (free registration). His new album is “jam-packed with mainstream pop artists, a first for him, including collaborations with Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, Mary J. Blige and even Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls.” It’s clear that this move was “commercially calculated,” and some people might even wonder if he’s “gone too pop.”

The funny thing is, these guys are fighting for a shinking share of the pop-music pie, said Lauren Carter in the Boston Herald. Rap sales have decreased “by 21 percent from 2005 to 2006, while country music sales increased by 5 percent over the same time period.” And just take a look at last year’s list of top ten best-selling albums: “You won’t find any rappers on it. You will, however, find three country artists: Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and the Dixie Chicks.”