Rappers Like Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole Reclaim the Game
Vernon Holman | Staff Writer
Turn on the radio and you will likely hear music from the same set of artists: French Montana, Juicy J, 2 Chainz, Drake, and Lil Wayne amongst others. Old school lyricist have often commented on how they are frustrated with the fact that the hip-hop genre is dominated by “club songs” and associated only with catchy hooks and hot beats. Many, including old school rappers, feel that lyricists aren’t as respected as they used to be, a fault of the radio, which controls what many people listen to on a day-to-day basis.
Some have argued that the radio is no longer the dominant media outlet and that the Internet is the now the great equalizer. But has it really made a difference? When artist like 2 Chainz, Future, and French Montana seem to be featured on every hit record and MTV names 2 Chainz as the second hottest MC behind Kendrick Lamar, it seems that radio still dominates.
However, despite their radio popularity, numerous features on hit records, and large budgets from huge music corporations, the album sales of these mainstream “radio rappers” are horrible.
2 Chainz’s “Based On A Tru Story” album only sold 16,000 copies in its first week of sales and after that, sales basically stalled. French Montana saw similarly dismal album sales, selling only 56,000 copies in his first week. Future’s “Pluto” sold close to 16,000 units while Juicy J albums had album sales of 64,000. These numbers greatly defy the amount of success one would think these popular rappers would have, considering their features on hit records, music videos, and radio spins.
In an interview in May, French Montana said,“ I don’t make money off CDs. I do shows. I do other things. So that don’t bother me…It don’t concern me because I’ll keep working hard regardless.” In regards to his album sales, rapper 2 Chainz put it simply, “Slow motion is better than no motion.”
Although these artists display a nonchalant attitude in regard to their album sales, sales are critical to longevity and successful careers in the music industry.
In contrast to these radio rappers, serious lyricists who are more concerned with making good solid bars than club bangers, are seeing more than 100,000 units in their first week sales. It seems that independent artists are doing better than radio rappers.
In its first week Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid m.A.A.d city,” debut album, sold over 241,000 copies and has now gone platinum. Toronto rapper Drake, sold more than 600,000 copies of his latest studio album “Nothing Was the Same” in its first week also going platinum. J. Cole’s “Born Sinner” was released with far less promotion compared to other rappers and yet still sold 58,000 copies in its first week. The album is now Gold.
Artists who suffer from even less publicity such as Mac Miller, BIG K.R.I.T, Joey Badass, Chance the Rapper, Odd Future, and Yelawolf have all sold over 40,000 copies in their first week, and have gone on to sell thousands of more copies. Is this a sign that music is coming back lyrically? Or, is it a sign that the Internet allow for a greater appreciation of diversity in hip-hop as to the line in the original legendary Golden Age of Hip Hop? Rapper KRS-One said, “There was always a balance of lyricism and feel good music, but now the industry lacks balance.”
Maybe the balance is coming back.