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50 Cent Vs. Kanye West
As Kanye West says in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, "Hip-hop is the only sport of music. Rock artists aren't thinking about each other to that extent. And these are like the championship moments."
Today is that championship moment Kanye is talking about, as both he and 50 Cent, two of the biggest names in hip-hop are dropping albums on the same day. This kind of thing happens a lot, actually it has happened pretty much every Tuesday in the history of Tuesdays.
So why is this particular Tuesday such a big deal? It involves two men who have accomplished as much as artists as they have as hype machines. That’s why. The two are as adept at soundbites as they are with soundboards.
While 50 may have thrown his shots at 'Ye including, "I'll retire if Kanye sells more than me" (a statement he has since taken back) the truth of the matter is that this "rivalry" was completely manufactured. The two seem to genuinely like and respect each other (watch the video of their interview with Rolling Stone). This showdown was created to get people doing something they haven't been doing - buying CD's. But did it work?
We went to the Virgin Megastore on Sunset at midnight to find out.
Entering the store at two minutes after midnight, it was clear that the hype worked. A line 40 deep of eager hip-hop fans had assembled. A line in a record store? I had to take a picture of that, even if it was with my camera phone.
Back in November I went to the very same store to purchase Jay-Z's Kingdom Come, there were six people in line that night. That album went on to sell 680,000 copies in its first week.
So now that we know people are buying, it was time to find out what they were buying. Was it 50's Curtis or Kanye's Graduation?
I eavesdropped on some conversations, asked a few questions of my own and paid close attention to the cash register. After all that, my very unscientific hypothesis is that the majority of the buyers in line were either buying both albums or just Kanye's. There were definitely some Fiddy supporters in the building, one was blasting Curtis' killer single "I Get Money" as he drove into the parking structure, but it was Graduation that seemed to be ringing up the most sales among the hardcore "I need to buy the CD at midnight" crowd.
What that means on a national scale? I'm not sure. We'll have to wait and see who wins the Soundscan war. The real winner either way is the Universal Music Group, the parent company of DefJam (Kanye's label) and Interscope (50's label).
As far as whose album is better, you know, musically (something we may have forgotten about in the midst of the hype), I am going to agree with practically every other music critic around and say Kanye West. 50's album has its moments, Ayo Technology is quite the banger and the rockish sound of My Gun surprisingly works well with 50's lyrics. If I wasn't hypnotized by the marketing scheme into comparing the two and just looked at the album on its own I would probably say that its a good album, better than The Massacre (his second album) but not nearly as good as Get Rich or Die Tryin' (his first album, not the movie nobody saw). I'm not though. So, I'm saying that it doesn't hold up against Graduation which pushes the limits of hip-hop and music as a whole. Kanye, when he is not saying outlandish things like “I should be in the bible” or crying about not winning awards at every award show is busy taking hip-hop music and culture places few have ever even tried to take it.
Ironically, as TMZ mentioned earlier today acoustic folk singer,Colbie Caillat's Coco is currently the number 1 album on iTunes. The album has been out since July. Kanye, who is doing a signing at the Virgin Megastore at Hollywood & Highland on Thursday night, is sitting at number 2 and Curtis finds himself at number 9.
AP Photo of 50 Cent and Kanye West facing off on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards by Mark J. Terrill, photo of Virgin Megastore line by Tim Hammer on my phone
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