Multi-platinum recording artist 50 Cent (G-Unit/Aftermath) threw down the gauntlet several months ago, challenging Kanye West (Good Music/Def Jam) to a battle in record sales, stating: “If Kanye West sells more records than 50 Cent on September 11, I’ll no longer write music. I’ll write music and work with my other artists, but I won’t put out anymore solo albums.”
(read more about the “beef” here.)
Today the results are in. In the first week, 50’s Curtis went Gold (selling around 600,000 copies), while Kanye’s Graduation damn near went Platinum (selling over 957,000 copies). I wonder if this is indicative of a change in the minds of rap fans and Hip-Hop heads. Has the balance of the force, tipped back towards the Jedi, away from the Dark Side??
50 Cent was not delusional in his overzealous claim that he could out-sell Kanye. His solo debut, Get Rich or Die Trying sold over 10 million records, Kanye has yet to push anything near that. But that was a different era in Hip-Hop. That was before the grassroots movements of Black youth started mobilizing against violence, misogyny and minstrelsy in Hip-Hop. Take Bomani Armah for example with his epic, “Read a Book” (see – Read a Motherfn Book) which made a satire of the gangsterism and commercialization of Hip-Hop. Or the Philly movement, “Stop Cooning” (www.stopcoonin.com) – a website, business and consciousness movement, which compares some mainstream rap to minstrelsy. With documentaries like, A Letter to the President and Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, with BET taking Uncut off the air and artists such as Lauryn Hill, KRS, Outkast, Saigon and Talib Kweli speaking out; It appears that the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction. This backlash was inevitable. When Jazz music was appropriated by mainstream white society, it experienced it’s biggest commercial boom, which some artists (such as Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane) called “the death of Jazz”. These same artists set the foundation for a new musical movement, which rendered the Swing Jazz era obsolete. Now with such artists as Nas dropping albums called Hip-Hop is Dead we only need to look to the past to see where Hip-Hop is headed. If this contest between Ye’ and 50 is any indication, it appears to be moving away from 50 Cent-style gansterism, misogyny, and violence, and more towards Kanye’s consciousness, eccentricity, innovative beat making/wordplay, and political subject matter.
Last year, 50 Cent called himself “The George Bush of Hip-Hop.” Calling Bush his “homebody” 50 went on to state:
In some ways, I’m the George W Bush of hip hop – nobody likes me, but I’m still gonna run it for the next four years (read more here).
Well 50, it looks like your term is up just like your “homeboy”. And not a moment too soon – because as Kanye West so eloquently stated after Katrina in 2005,
George Bush doesn’t care about black people.