[First of all: See, I told you bitches I was a journalism legend. Not just in the South either. Support me by... um, buying something. Also, now that my legend status is official, I am no longer to be subjected to criticism in any form, per the rules of hip-hop as determined by legions of southern rap stans on the Internet - the true leaders of the genre.]
Now that Ghostface’s new album Fishscale has been out for a week or so, I figured it was as good a time as any to do a little Monday morning quarterbacking. A few weeks (or years, or whatever) ago, I went out on a limb and predicted that Fishscale wouldn’t do very well saleswise. Granted, this wasn’t too controversial a stance to take – Ghostface’s last five or whatever albums all sold less than the ones that preceded them. But then this is the first album Ghostface has released on the new Def Jam, headed by President Jay-Z “Jimmy” Carter.
[Tangent Alert: I suppose that would make Memphis Bleek Billy Carter. And of course Armadale would then be the infamous Billy Beer. Yeah, I know. Legendary.]
Well the first week’s sales figures are in: Fishscale moved about 110,000 units, which on the hand, is probably a few more than you would expect given the first week sales of The Pretty Toney Album, but on the other hand, doesn’t really account for the fact that Def Jam is basically giving away copies of Fishscale to any and all takers. Rather than just having Jimmy “Double Fantasy” Iovine buy a bunch of copies for himself, which is what they usually do, they’ve dropped the retail price all the way down to a measly $6.
[Also, at this point I should note that apparently record stores in the South have some sort of scheme in which they replace the bar codes on certain albums with other bar codes (for what - jars of pickles?). So that may account for a certain amount of irregularity in his sales figures. (It's no wonder they lost the Civil War. They can't even count!) Still, I heard it "shipped platinum." That's gotta count for something.]
Before I was concerned that there was no way in hell Def Jam could actually expect to make money on this shit. Word on the street is that the OG tall Israeli Lyor Cohen orginally signed Ghost to Def Jam shortly before he jumped ship to Wonder Bros., knowing good and well Ghost wasn’t about to sell shit. LA “Two Occasions” Reid, who then became President, wanted to drop his ass like a bad habit, but instead “sabotaged” the marketing of The Pretty Toney Album by making Ghostface do a song with acclaimed record producer Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott.
The truth of the matter is that Def Jam probably couldn’t convince very many more people to buy a Ghostface album if it came with a coupon for free sex with Kristin Cavallari. I may have been wrong though to assume that Def Jam wasn’t already accounting for this fact. I was talking yesterday with someone who would know (a legend, natch) and he was saying that Def Jam has pioneered a scheme in which they no longer pay producers to work on an album, but instead give them points on the back end, Jack Nicholson-style. Should Fishscale somehow manage to turn a profit, MF Doom would, um, actually get paid.
And if it doesn’t, they can always write it off on their taxes as a loss. Hence Def Jam Left. Still, this may actually work out well for hip-hop as an artform. Jimmy and, um, “Jimmy” get a few extra gozillion in their pockets, while the rest of us get albums by consumate artists like Ghostface and The Roots with actual major label backing. Who said capitalism didn’t work? And lord knows we could use something to stem the tide of all this awful southern rap….