Sep 11, 2007

Kanye West post 9/11

That’s the invisible marketing pump for 2007’s fight of the year. In one corner, weighing in at 21 million worldwide sales, hailing from Southside, Queens—the man you love to see hated—50 Cent. Diametrically across the ring, weighing in at six Grammys (including Rap Album of the Year for each of his two previous LPs), representing the South Side of Chicago—the man you hate to love—Kanye West.

The contest will begin on the historically heavy date of Sept. 11, concluding eight days later, Sept. 19, when the victor will be crowned the top-selling recording artist in America.

Styles make fights. While 50’s robe reads, Give me riches or give me death, Kanye focuses on something more coveted than currency in certain circles: acknowledgment. He named his record company G.O.O.D. Music. You can imagine the flowing script stitched on terry cloth: I’m God with an extra O.

See, ’Ye isn’t just battling to win over the average rap fan. He’s fighting for hip-hop’s rights—rights to have options in a genre that’s lulling itself to sleep with formula. In fact, Kanye thinks many of those likely to buy his album don’t really want to be his fans. They simply don’t have many options. Released as it was in the gangsta saturated climate of 2005—alongside the likes of Young Jeezy, The Game and that 50 guy—Kanye’s last album, the XXL-rated Late Registration, was a choice that wasn’t even a choice for 2.8 million consumers thirsting for a different perspective.

So Kanye’s ready to rumble. This past spring, against his label’s protests, he leaked the irresistible and appropriately titled “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”—potent, confessional braggadocio deliberately delivered over DJ Toomp’s cathedral keys. In the summer, he followed with “Stronger”—techno-tinged hip-hop futurism accentuated by a Japanimation-inspired sci-fi video. By August, his third full-length work, Graduation, stood as iTunes’ most preordered album.

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