“The Battle For Hearts & Minds”

07.20.07 11 years ago 30 Comments

Kanye West In The Studio

50 Cent Bullets

Words by Patrick M.

So Def Jam is rumored to be moving Kanye’s album to release on 9/11/07, the same day as Curtis drops. Def Jam, at this point, has not given any reason for it and it may simply have something to do with polishing off a few tracks, or re-recording a few takes, but somehow I doubt it. So I’m going to see if I can’t crawl into the President Hov’s mind and drum up a rationale for what goes behind this challenge.

Because, if true, this is a challenge, meant to strike while the competition is at its weakest. Curtis has been moved back repeatedly, whether for fear of leaks, or perhaps in a last effort to actually make some hot tracks. The lead single, “Amusement Park,” is pretty damn terrible, no matter whether it’s getting run on BET or MTV. At this point, the buzz for Graduation, at this point far outstrips that of Curtis. “Can’t Tell Me Nothin” is fire and even “Stronger” is something a little different, the kind of song I know will grow on me in about two weeks.

Kanye, meanwhile, has been able to do what Curtis has not – cross over to the mainstream, become a household name even in Muncie, Indiana, but maintaining the critical lauds from the hardcore hip-hop fan community. Even when he his descended into beefing, he has done it on a much grander scale than 50: calling out George Bush got him a lot more attention than even “How to Rob.”

So if this is happening, what Def Jam has done is set up a battle royale, between the epitome of gangsta style over substance (50,) and the most popular musician with a capital M in hip-hop right now. It’s not hard for me to pick who I’m rooting for. They are both egomaniacs, but I’ve got to give props to Mr. West in this situation. Kanye built and maintains his stardom through his music, producing more hot tracks than anyone save The Neptunes over the last five years. 50 has to revert to calling out Master P in an endless cycle of pointless and boring rap beefs to keep his name in the press.

Here Def Jam accomplishes two things. In setting up a money feud between 50 and Kanye, they re-establish themselves as the label that bests represents “pure” hip-hop, with Kanye as their horse. They obviously have the history, but this gives them casual fan pub. Second, they force 50 to push all-in. If Curtis gets pushed back again, it will look like 50 is acknowledging he can’t fuck with Kanye and is ducking the competition, regardless of whether the album needs more work or not. That takes some of the shine off the supposed king, but hey, it’s hard wearing the crown, especially when the emperor ain’t got on no clothes.

What Def Jam is banking on is that rap fans actually mean it when they bemoan the death of hip-hop, and that they will come support the superior artist to drive Kanye to a sales victory and deal 50/G-Unit a blow which will be tough to recover from. Moreover, if they do win, it can be proclaimed through the hip-hop head-o-sphere as a new Renaissance where content matters more than image.

Of course if Curtis blows Graduation out of the water sales wise, (which I don’t think it will,) Kanye will still have the love of the critics to fall back on. All us rap snobs will have to admit though, that maybe 50 is onto something about keeping it simple.


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