Yesterday was a big day for the record industry. Kanye West and 50 Cent, self-proclaimed “Kings of Rap,” both dropped their third records in a laughable frenzy of media hype and empty boasting. If all things are right in the world, both will flop incredibly and we’ll finally be able to pin down the date the record industry as we know it died.

Sarah Royce
Lloyd Cargo

In fact, 50 Cent has implied the date will always be remembered as the day he and Kanye’s records came out. Really 50? People are going to remember Sept. 11 as the day your shitty record came out? T-t-t-totally dude.

Perhaps even more ridiculously, 50 Cent and Kanye West have actually compared their rivalry to Ali vs. Frazier, with yesterday’s release date as their Thrilla in Manilla. I suppose there is a parallel – this is each artist’s third album, just as that legendary fight was the third between the boxing legends, but the similarities end there. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were men who were actually fighting each other, with you know, punches and stuff. Kanye and 50 work for the same record label.

Maybe they’re hoping their flimsy jabs at each other will help drive up sales, but all the style in the world can’t make up for a lack of substance. As much as they’d like you to believe otherwise, neither is a great artist. Great artists don’t make records for children. 50 Cent and Kanye West are not only terrible artists, they actually are children. And for all of 50’s claims that he’s “King Kong” and “he’ll retire if Kanye outsells him,” he comes off not as “The King of Rap” but as “The Rapper Most Desperate for Attention.”

Even the 14-year-old kids from the suburbs that sent 50’s last couple records platinum will see through the hype-mongering to Curtis‘s pathetic core. He’s made the same record for the third time! Repeating a successful blueprint note for note works once, maybe. The Massacre was the second-highest-selling record of 2005 (check), but at less than half the sales of Get Rich or Die Tryin’, that’s more of an indictment of the record industry and an indication of overall interest.

And while 50 is obviously more reprehensible, I don’t want to let Kanye off the hook just because he hasn’t become a total caricature of himself – at least not yet. Kanye’s shtick of “I don’t get enough respect, but it doesn’t bother me” is getting old really fast, and while his hit-making formula works, it’s totally fucking obvious. People like when you sample Ray Charles? Daft Punk? Michael Jackson? No way! I wouldn’t argue that Kanye isn’t a talented producer, but as a lyricist he’s awful. Critics are quick to point out that his skills on the mic have improved, but that’s only because they couldn’t have possibly gotten worse.

Now, not everything about The Graduate and Curtis sucks. The video Kanye had Zach Galifinakis and Will Oldham make for “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” was funny. So props to Kanye for noticing that YOUTUBE IS POPULAR. And 50’s third single (after the first two flopped) “Ayo Technology” is pretty decent. WOW, TIMBALAND AND JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE. Revolutionary collaboration there – I’m glad 50 can recognize and help out up-and-coming talent.

Is it any wonder that major labels are struggling to figure out why they can’t sell as many records as they used to? I don’t want to get down on contemporary music – 2007 has been a fantastic year – and that’s not the reason why sales suck. There are a ton of reasons, too many to list in one column, but the most prominent is so obvious I can’t believe this shit continues: People don’t like having their intelligence insulted. Record labels have always sold shitty records to dumb people and teenagers, but they didn’t try to market them like they were the best they had to offer. The same thing happened to MTV, which has similarly destroyed its credibility by peddling to the lowest common denominator. You just can’t trust the hype.

Besides, the whole pretend “battle” Kanye and 50 Cent have over record sales is moot anyway. Kenny Chesney is going to outsell them both. What a wonderful world.

– Cargo has so many important beefs that he has to keep a Rolodex. Two of them, actually. E-mail him at lhcargo@umich.edu.

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