US rapper Kanye West’s Graduation album trounced rival 50 Cent’s Curtis in the much-hyped showdown with nearly a million copies sold in its first week.
West has sold about 957,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures posted by the industry website Billboard.com last night.
It was his best first-week sales ever and topped the year’s previous first-week champion, Linkin Park, which sold 623,000 of Minutes to Midnight when it debuted in May.
In comparison, 50 sold 691,000 copies of Curtis.
Despite his victory, West was hardly rubbing it in 50’s face. In fact, he said he was humbled by the win.
“It feels overwhelming,” West said in New York. “Everyone is coming up to me and telling me how proud they are of me.”
“We’re not gloating,” Def Jam President Jay-Z said. “He’s celebrating his win. ... in his mind, he believed he could win the whole time.”
Although selling almost 700,000 copies in the first week was a sterling achievement, it was still a considerable letdown for 50 Cent.
His last album, 2005’s The Massacre, sold 1.1 million in its first week.
Last month, 50 did not think of West as much of a competitor: “It’s great marketing on Def Jam’s part, by putting us out there at the same time and make like we can actually be compared on some level,” he said.
In another interview, he said he would retire if West outsold him.
The day after he was beaten to the top of the chart, 50 Cent pulled out of the MOBOs and other European dates this week.
But 50, who is planning a world tour for his album, was conciliatory in defeat.
In a statement, which didn’t address whether he planned to make good on his threat to retire, he said: “I am very excited to have participated in one of the biggest album release weeks in the last two years. Collectively, we have sold hundreds of thousands of units in our debut week. This marks a great moment for hip hop music, one that will go down in history.”
But while West is enjoying a number two position on the charts with his hit Stronger, 50 has struggled to connect with radio. None of his songs has matched past smashes like In Da Club, and his single Ayo Technology, featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, is languishing at number 19.
50’s album was originally scheduled to be released in June on Interscope Records, a division of Universal Music Group, but was pushed back to September 11.
Soon after, Kanye West, whose album was supposed to come out in late summer, pushed his date to September 11 as well.
But Antonio “LA” Reid, chairman of Island Def Jam, also a division of Universal, says it wasn’t initially intended to be a jab at 50.
“The decision was really driven by the (MTV Video Music Awards), because the VMAs were on September 9 ... we wanted to use it as a launching pad again for this album,” he said.
West said it was his idea to go directly against 50.
“I was the underdog because I sold less records in the past, so it was a win-win for me,” he said. “If I lost, everyone would be happy that I even went up against him. People have this perception of me being arrogant, but would an arrogant person risk the chance of coming in the second spot just to be a part of history? To me, it’s more about fans and the entertainment value and good music.”
While it was unclear whether 50 would indeed retire, Reid said he hoped he wouldn’t: “I’d like to see him making music for the next 25 years, he’s that talented.”
Jay-Z, who is featured on a new 50 Cent remix of his hit I Get Money, said this setback could actually benefit 50 in the long run.
“The worst thing about success is it makes you complacent. I think when you face any type of adversity it makes you dig deep ... everyone goes through it, all the greats go through it,” he said. “In his music, he hadn’t gone through any type of adversity. ... he’ll come back and make great music.”