Home > columns, music, pondering, thoughts > When picking your music, look at the body of work

When picking your music, look at the body of work

I love this post my columns in the blog idea, cause I can explain my thought processes and give you beautiful people and Spanky, insight into why I wrote what I wrote. This column was born out of many of my hip hop conversations with people who for whatever reason do not get that sales has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the product. And as much as I love Jay-Z… I have to kill the messenger on this one. He is lucky enough to have most of the numbers work in his favor, which is a testament to his ability to market himself while putting out a credible product that ranks him among the best.


November 10, 2008 by Opinions

Column by Wesley Robinson

As a fan of music I have a lot of different tastes. For the most part, I like singles or tracks that are released individually. I generally do not buy music because the industry is so bad and right now an album with five good tracks out of 17 generally gets high praise from critics.Every now and then there will be an album by an artist I like that I have to buy because I support his or her music and understand that their livelihood depends on people like me purchasing that product. And unless it’s System of a Down telling me to “Steal This Album,” I am sure they would rather I buy a decent album than keep my money in my pocket. On some level, I condone not wasting money on an album when I will only like 30 percent of its tracks. But, on another level, I am playing into the music industry that is based solely on numbers.

One particular statement by the great Jay-Z characterizes the musical climate we are living in today. He said, “men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” Now I love Jay-Z as much as the next fan, but that statement is the main reason why music, specifically hip-hop, is in shambles.

What’s wrong with this statement? Well for one, people don’t really buy music these days except for major artists like Jay-Z, OutKast, Kanye West, T.I., Lil’ Wayne, etc. After the first week, their sales decrease dramatically until the whole album buying world has purchased the album. Look at Kanye and 50 Cent’s first-day album beef last year. “Graduation” sold almost half of the total sales in the first week, with “Curtis” seeing a similar percentage depending on how you look at worldwide sales.

Numbers also lie and make Jay-Z look bad in other ways. Jay-Z is widely considered to be the best rapper alive, but artists like 50 Cent, Eminem and OutKast are right there, if not above him in sales, and Kanye has proved that he will be in the discussion among big sales. You could argue all day who is better out of that whole group, but at the end of the day, numbers definitely don’t tell you anything other than it’s really close. Not to mention an artist like 50 Cent will manipulate the numbers and say worldwide he has sold more albums.

Jay-Z is fast approaching his goal of being the first billionaire rapper, but numbers suggest that his success is being threatened by the likes of 50 Cent, who was the top rap earner, bringing in $150 million to Jay-Z’s $82 million last year, according to forbes.com. 50 Cent has only been in the game for five years and is about halfway to the billion-dollar mark himself compared to Jay-Z, who has been on the scene as his own entity since 1996.

I say all this to support music based on quality and not the hype and the numbers behind it. I think Jay-Z is one of the innovators and leaders of a new hip-hop movement. But I also recognize that there is plenty of talent that isn’t as marketable and doesn’t have the statistical backing to support the case. Additionally, you can manipulate numbers, and superficial numbers make things look good. For example, “Reasonable Doubt” is a platinum album, but it took six years to reach that status. The album, which is arguably Jay-Z’s best, didn’t get any better over that span of time, but as the hype around Jay-Z grew the numbers started to change.

At the end of the day, it’s all about quality. Numbers may say that 50 Cent is on the path to being more successful than Jay-Z, but I don’t know anyone that would dare speak blasphemy against Jay-Z and say that 50 Cent is better.

I also don’t know anyone who knows music who doesn’t take into account the differences in their music. One definitely has more lyrical content and a traditional East Coast sound, while the other produces club bangers and street anthems that are easier to listen to. I didn’t even mention Nas, who beefed with Jay-Z earlier on this decade. He is also high up on the list of best rappers alive, and he does not compare in any of the numbers mentioned.

So what’s the overall message here? Take the time to find out quality for yourself. Don’t let hot singles or chart-topping hits dictate what you listen to and who you believe is good. I cannot count how many arguments that end up in numbers and neglect to analyze what is really going on. Maybe as a whole, society should stop using metaphorical numbers to represent success.

Yeah. I like that. You don’t have to agree, but I got it published and on the record–thats gotta count for something right? Oh yeah! I have a major major music post coming tomorrow! (At least 20 songs)


  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: