A dispute between 50 Cent and Rick Ross last week resurfaced one of my biggest pet peeves in hip-hop — something many other fans take as a given.
When taking his usual jabs at his litany of foes, 50 Cent clowned the first-week sales of Too Good to Be True, Rick Ross’ joint album with Meek Mill. “When you sold 31,009 CDs, I shouldn’t talk to you,” Fif said during the latest Instagram recap of his worldwide tour. Rick Ross responded by referencing 50 Cent’s purported girlfriend and claiming that he and Meek Mill were already rich.
50 Cent certainly wasn’t the first artist to do so (LL Cool J’s “90 percent of your fans don’t exist” line against Canibus comes to mind), but his method of using record sales as ammo in his beefs has bothered me as I’ve matured as a hip-hop fan. When Fif took on Fat Joe and Jadakiss in 2005, instead of focusing on his superior lyrical skills or digging up dirt, he used a simple trump card: he sold more records than them, so he was better.
Any hip-hop fan knows record sales aren’t equivalent to talent – we’ve seen plenty of chart successes who make wack music and lyrical heavyweights with little presence on radio and at award shows. Besides the fact that the sales argument is uninspiring, it also dilutes the quality of hip-hop debates among fans. There’s nothing worse than a stan on the timeline propping up their favorite artist by parroting record sales and chart positions instead of focusing on what makes the music worth listening to in the first place. The only people who should be boasting about sales are the faceless record execs whose job is to make money.
As Fabolous pointed out, sales stats aren’t much of a validator. In today’s market, 1,500 streams count as one unit sold. “EVERYBODY is streaming music through DSP’s now,” Fab stated in the comments section of Fif’s IG post. “I’m sure there’s a few people who actually buy the product but not enough to care over streaming anymore so why is this low sales number narrative still being pushed?” He’s got a point.
The Listening: Detroit rapper Elzhi (formerly of Slum Village) has always been one of my favorite lyricists, but I was still caught off guard by his latest album, Heavy Vibrato. Oh No produced the record, and the duo teamed up for an album with off-kilter, unpredictable energy and otherworldly lyricism. My favorite cut so far is “Trick Dice,” but the whole album slaps. Also check “Bishop,” Elzhi’s recreation of 2Pac’s character from the classic film Juice.
Do the Knowledge: As the entertainment industry and fans deal with the fallout of mounting sexual assault allegations against Sean “Diddy” Combs, writer Andre Gee calls out the men who were complicit in the alleged behavior for years before stepping forward.
They Reminisce Over You: Busta Rhymes recently released his new album Blockbusta, which spotlights a legion of younger, contemporary artists. He’s also celebrating the 25th anniversary of his brilliant third album, Extinction Level Event. Lots of songs here are worth revisiting, but we’ll opt for his futuristic video with Janet Jackson for “What’s It Gonna Be?”
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