Kanye, 50 go head-to-head with new discs

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Kanye West and 50 Cent

DON'T MAKE THESE MEN ANGRY, OR THEY MAY CHALLENGE YOU TO A RECORD-SELLING DUEL. Hip hop moguls Kanye West's and 50 Cent's albums drop on the same day. Let the insults fly, gentlemen.

The world of hip-hop thrives on controversy. For weeks, the entertainment world has been abuzz with speculation over the feud between 50 Cent and Kanye West: who will sell more records? Both 50 Cent and Kanye West have remained steadfast in their resolve that each will outdo the other. The Arts & Entertainment editors break down this feud, point by point.

Michael Gregoris: 50 Cent has sold more albums in the past than Kanye. According to SoundScan, Get Rich or Die Trying (2003) moved over 872 000 copies in its first week alone, and The Massacre (2005) sold 1.14 million copies in its first four days. He’s done it before, and surely he can do it again.

Kaitlin Martin: Past sales don’t necessarily impact or reflect future sales. 50 has pigeonholed himself with his gangster rap Candy Shop bravado, whereas Kanye’s star is still on the rise. I think people are getting tired of the same-old same-old. They’re more open to someone like Kanye, who has wider appeal. Kanye’s fans run the gamut from rap fans to indie lovers.

Gregoris: It’s simple: sex sells. If anything, Kanye is following 50 Cent’s strategy of appealing to various demographics. “Ayo Technology” features Justin Timberlake and a pseudo-techno beat that is sure to gain the attention of teeny boppers and club-goers alike. 50 also collaborated with Madonna. Kanye mimics 50’s approach to wider audiences in “Stronger,” his collaborative piece with Daft Punk.

Martin: Mimic? That’s an interesting word-choice. Wasn’t Kanye experimenting with collaborations and old-school samples when 50 was still rhyming “party” with “Bacardi?” Kanye’s appealed to the masses from the beginning; it seems to me that 50’s trying to mimic Kanye’s techniques to increase his popularity.

Gregoris: Even if that’s true, isn’t the technique working? 50 sells more records than Kanye with each new release.

Martin: But even with Justin Timberlake and mega-producer Timbaland on “Ayo Technology,” the track has only reached #18 on the Billboard Hot 100. Everything Timberlake touches turns to gold " except 50 Cent. Kanye has used sampling and experimentation to greater success.

Gregoris: I suppose “Jesus Walks” would be your idea of Kanye’s definitive single. Oh snap, I forgot: Kanye wrote that for Rhymefest, but Rhymefest did not have an album out so Kanye took it and put it on his own. If stealing is how you sell records, then Kanye is clearly guilty.

Martin: You can’t steal your own track. A better example of a Kanye hit that uses a sample is “Diamonds are Forever,” which features vocals from Shirley Bassey’s old-school song of the same name. Even looking at the rest of Kanye’s catalogue, it’s undeniable that the man has a flair for creative collaboration. When you examine Kanye’s lesser-known masterpieces " think “Two Words,” his politically-driven track with hip-hop legend Mos Def and Freeway " he turns funk band Mandrill’s “Peace and Love” into something truly powerful. If Kanye follows the formula of Graduation, he’s bound to be more successful than 50 has been.

Gregoris: Still, Curtis is set to drop six different singles. So what if one single does not pan out? There are five others behind it.

Martin: It’s not hard to shoot fish in a barrel. If three of those songs are hits, that means 50 sucks half the time. Maybe we should call him 50 Percent.

Gregoris: 50 Percent, eh? I suppose that’s why he has been nominated for every major award from American Music Awards, BET, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Billboard, Grammys, Music of Black Origin Awards, MTV, MuchMusic, World Music Awards, Soundscan, Vibe Awards, The Source, and the list goes on.

Martin: Kanye’s seen his fair share of nominations, too. The fact is, Kanye nearly doubles his previous sales with each new release. At this point Kanye is greatly outselling 50 on the iTunes presales chart. If the iTunes rankings are any indication, we may see the proverbial David beat out Goliath.

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