Only four new rappers have gone platinum since 2006: Drake, Nicki, Kendrick, and Macklemore.
In 2005, a lot of rap artists released their first million-selling albums: Young Jeezy, The Game, and practically the entire city of Houston. But by then, album sales had already started to crater, with rap getting hit harder than most genres. And for the next few years it would only be long-running established artists moving those kinds of units: Jay-Z, Kanye, 50, T.I., Eminem, the usual suspects. Even 2006’s biggest new artists, who have since gotten bigger, Rick Ross and Lupe Fiasco, have never moved a million copies of any one album. It’s pretty clear: gold is the new platinum.
Drake ended the drought in 2010. But since then, only three rappers have followed in his footsteps. And when you consider that Nicki’s second album actually missed the million mark, that means Drake, Macklemore, and Kendrick are the only leaders of the new school currently coming off of platinum albums.
Al Shipley, “10 Facts About Rap That People Don’t Talk About Enough,” Complex, September 27, 2013
For all that’s kinda wack about Complex, it doesn’t get enough props for giving good writers a decent outlet to do smart writing about rap and (apparently) get paid at an OK rate to do so. Sure, it’s all listicles everything, but as long as you can squeeze your ideas into the “Y Xes that Z” format, it seems they’ll publish your good ish.
When I was in America earlier this year, it was surprising how ubiquitous Kendrick was. Like, dude’s a genuinely popular rapper, and that’s weird to hear. In Australia, his record peaked at #23; in America it was #2. “Swimming Pools” was top 20 in the US but it only reached #67 in Australia. Australia’s a country that, for a start — and understandably — doesn’t have much in the way of an African American population. We don’t really get rap. I wasn’t used to Kendrick being a mainstream proposition.
But, you know, Kanye’s smart. Jay’s smart. Weezy’s… literary. I dunno if he’s smart. But success for smart rappers isn’t a strange thing. Nevertheless, it is weird for a rapper who uses his intelligence as a means of distinction to be this successful, and I don’t think it’s really happened since Outkast. And Kast did it back when dudes still went platinum. Kendrick actually went plat! That’s crazy.
And when I was in America, all across the country, I heard good kid, m.A.A.d city. It didn’t have much in the way of a breakout hit; it was all album tracks. In L.A. I’d hear “Bitch Don’t Kill my Vibe”; Seattle was “Swimming Pools”; Miami: “Poetic Justice.” Virginia: “Money Trees.” Pounding out of cars. Seeping from stereos. K. Dot was pop music.
We might live in a Macklemore world, but it’s also a Kendrick world. There’s hope.
(Aight, I feel like I should listen to the Macklemore considering what Al says up there, but seriously: I’m someone who liked a Macklemore song back before anyone heard of Macklemore, and ain’t nobody got time for that.)