Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Charts on Fire: 09/20/07 (Special 50 vs. Kanye Edition)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 21, 2007

“In every spiritual tradition, you burn in hell for pretending to be God–and not being able to back it up!”

So by now you almost certainly know the story, but let me sum up for those of you too busy with the pennant race and/or Britney Spears’s tragic undoing. Kanye and 50 have been beefing arguably all the way back to anti-Kanye comments 50 made some time in ’05, but tensions have been recently brought to the surface by the concurrent release of both artists’ third almbums (Kanye’s Graduation and 50’s Curtis), which pre-release had already spun off a combined seven singles and were generally being prepped as the two biggest hip-hop releases of the year. A dozen years later, the US were finally having our Blur vs. Oasis–not like rappers have never feuded before, but rarely has it occured in such an organized, non-physically threatening and easily quantifiable manner. Chart watchers across the country rejoiced.

And naturally, such a feud could not go without some arrogant trash-talking. Mostly on the part of 50, who started refering to Kanye as a “worker bee” and to himself in the third person (a sure sign of the onset of supervillainy), parodying “Gold Digger” in concert, and even making the bold proclamation that being so confident in his imminent victory, he would quit the music business altogether were he to lose the battle. One day, and most likely a very sobering conversation with his publicist (“uhhh yeah, 50, about that…”), later, 50 issued a retraction of his promise, but still conceded that if 50 were to be outsold, it would mean that Kanye had made a better album.

Well, the results are in, and as everyone outside of Jamica, Queens could have predicted, 50’s ass got trounced–Curtis pulled in a would’ve-been-impressive- by-anyone-else total of 691k (not so much compared to the 1.1 mil of The Massacre), while Kanye’s scored a career-best 957k (the best total for any album since, you guessed it, 50’s ’05 chart Massacre). In addition to this, Kanye also lands the top spot on the singles chart this week with current mega-smash “Stronger” (Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo, you have your first US #1!!!), and even the chart’s top debut with his T-Pain-featuring (sic) “Good Life” at #1, while 50 remains landlocked at #5 and #42, with “Ayo Technology” and “I Get Money,” respectively. It’s a landslide: No on 50.

And frankly, it couldn’t have come at a better time. In the space of the four years since his ’03 breakout, 50’s shit has gone from charmingly cocky to uncomfortably complacent to disturbingly disinterested. No other celebrity in recent memory with even a claim to musicianship has ever shown as much contempt for his medium of choice as 50, a disgust brilliantly vocalized in review site Coke Machine Glow’s recent piece on the album. I couldn’t even say for sure that 50 made the lesser album, since I doubt I’ll ever listen to it, but if the four singles released are any indication (two of which are actually pretty hott, though due little to 50’s involvement), he’s as uncommitted and unmotivated to doing anything above-average as someone with countless millions who never liked music that much to begin with probably should be.

Thing is, 50 follows after Jay-Z in this matter–business before pleasure always with his music, with getting five mics never as meaningful as getting five top ten hits. But while Jay-Z at his best still felt like he was about as hungry in his music as he was in his personal finances, 50 has always treated music as a means to an end. If he could get the same amount of fame, cash, respect and ass as he does now being a plumber or an interior decorator, you get the feeling he’d have no problem switching careers in a heartbeat. Kanye’s arrogance is far more upfront–he’s made a career out of it, practically–but 50’s is much worse, much more deep-seated and much more destructive. ‘Ye’s arrogance drives him to continually be proving himself as much as he possibly can, 50’s arrogance drives him to try to maintain the status quo while exerting as little effort as possible. It’s the kind of unnervingly prevalent “less is more–for meee!!!” attitude that’s leaving me totally dispirited about mainstream hip-hop in 2007.

So man, is it doing my heart good to see Kanye (who looks about as narcissistic as Skee-Lo in comparison) beat him unequivocally on the only level that 50 truly understands, the numbers. He can spin this however he likes–and over the next few weeks, I imagine he will–but on this one, it’d be hard for the most over-confident-with-the-least-reason-to-be man in music to chalk it up as anything but a loss. Now you can’t tell Kanye nothin’, right?

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