Nas' tenth studio album, Life is Good, will debut at number one on the Billboard charts this week, an honor that is now considered more symbolic than anything.
The business of selling music is still in a state of shambles, as we try to figure out how to effectively transition from the ancient practice of peddling CDs to selling music online. Sales are at an all-time low.
At one time, having the number one album meant you were pushing at least 400K. Now, you're pushing 400K only if the last five letters in your name is eiber.
Just look at it like this: Nas' Life is Good sold 139,000 copies and is debuting at number one; ten years ago, God Son, Nas' sixth LP, sold 156,000 copies, and debuted at number 18.
Murky, murky stuff for the music biz.
However, there is good news for Nas and rap artists like him. Let me explain.
The thing with Nas is, while skilled and greatly beloved in rap circles, he was never a huge selling artist, like a Jay-Z or Eminem.
Nas' top selling project was his sophomore LP, It Was Written. That album sold three million copies, with 266,000 of those copies coming in the first week.
While Nas has had big first weeks (his I Am… album did almost 500K) most of the rapper's albums hover in the 100 to 200K sales range.
So what does that mean, exactly?
It means that Nas, an artist who's been releasing albums for 18 years now, is as relevant as ever, which is a good thing for hip-hop.
Since Frank Ocean came out as a bisexual, a lot has been made of hip-hop's homophobic culture. Yet, something that rarely gets reported is the fact that for years, hip-hop's other great sin has been ageism.
For ages, rap fans have been guilty of spitting out the rap legends that laid the groundwork for the culture like discarded meat. The heroes of the '80s like Rakim, Kool G. Rap, Big Daddy Kane and EPMD essentially flamed out once the mid-'90s hit, despite the fact that they were still willing and able to put out quality music.
We're not seeing that as much anymore.
Legends from the '90s like Nas, Jay-Z, Bun B, The Roots, Common, Cee-Lo, Andre 3000 and Eminem are as anticipated and fawned over as ever.
Even with all that young blood out there, nothing gets the Internet moving like Jay-Z doing, well, anything, even if it's as benign as walking out of a building in Brooklyn.
Hip-hop is always evolving and that's a good thing. As rap reaches this new place, a place where the music is colorful and versatile, prejudices are being shred.
Congrats to Nas for being as hot as he was back in 1996. And congrats to hip-hop for letting him.
Tweet Tweet @Milkman__Dead
Sent from my iPad