Nas might’ve pulled off the impossible. No Billboard Top 50 single. No
catchy dance you can do in the club. No stellar reviews for the artist
formerly known as Escobar. But when the smoke clears, there will be
300,000 plus copies of Hip Hop Is Dead sold in its first week. And it
will go down in history as the most important rap album to come out in
2006. Nas took off the blazer, loosened up the tie, pulled it out the
casket…Hip Hop is alive.
Now I’m not praising the album (I skip about 6 songs) nor am I saying that
300,000 is some monumental number. Young Jeezy and Game both did as
well, but they’re both only on their sophomore albums. HHID is Nas’ NINTH
(counting Lost Tapes) LP. His Illmatic fans probably have kids old
enough to be my interns. His peers (Ghosface, LL, Meth, Busta) are all
bitter and flopping. Nas isn’t supposed to be this relevant! Why is he
doing these big numbers?
Some people might point to Christmas shopping as the reason for the
heavy numbers. Others might point to his baby mother’s NY Times best
selling book (#21). But I think the Def Jam capo hit the nail on the head. Jay-Z
spoke about rap needing “event albums”. Albums that carry a certain
sense more importance and create a level of hysteria among the fans. Not
just a hit record or a club banger. And that’s exactly what Hip Hop Is
With his album title, Nas put the pressure on everyone from the jaded
hip hop purist to the king of the “I’m Not A Rapper” rappers Young Jeezy
to prove him wrong. He sparked thousands of barbershop arguments, a few
hundred blog rants, tons of radio discussions and one controversial
Ludacris t-shirt. Suddenly the public had their own opinion about the
current state of affairs and what to do to make it better. But the most
amazing thing that happened through all of this occurred December 19th.
People lined up in droves and copped multiple copies of HHID, as if to
say “I won’t let it die, so I’m copping TWO copies”. Genius! Checkmate.
Game, set, match Jones.
I always say promoting a hip hop album is like a political campaign. You
pick your platform, shake hands, kiss babies and go on promotional tours
spreading your message. Then people try to pick apart everything you say
and stand for to make sure you are what you say you are and not what
they thought you were. Election Day is your release date and the first
week numbers are the number of votes you’ve received. And it seems that
after his Hip Hop Is Dead campaign; Nas has won himself another 4 years