There’s been a lot of hype behind the one major rap artist to actually release an album this summer. No, pushback, patna, the T.I. vs. T.I.P. platter is in those few record stores that still exist today and available for legal downloads (believe it or not, there is such a thing). Now it’s up to them consumers. Not us critics, editors and bloggers. We’ve had our say and most of it hasn’t been exactly glowing.

Still despite the poor forecast reports, Clifford Jr. hasn’t seemed to lose any of his swagger. He feels he’s got a classic in his mitts and he’s pushin’ his product down our throats. The top selling rapper of the ‘06 has been promoting harder than Don King doing everything from chin-checkin’ rival rapper Ludarcris’ manager, snubbing Tony Yayo’s outstretched hand at the BET awards to remixing his single “Big Shit Poppin’” for ESPN. Anybody watch SportsCenter lately? You can’t escape that damn song.

Apparently the premiere network for all things athletic has some contest goin’ on about who is today’s ultimate sports star and Mannie Fresh’s bombastic track serves as the soundtrack. Plus if you listen close enough you’ll hear Cliffy cashing in with some new lyrics (cha-ching!): “Now let me hear you say/SportsCenter poppin’/Everything stoppin’/When SportsCenter poppin’/Everything stoppin’/ When SportsCenter poppin’/You know everything stoppin’/You wanna know who ballin’/We gonna show you all about it/Now do it, do it, do it.” Ha! I don’t make this shit up.

OK, this ain’t no Jay-Z Kingdom Come pre-game push, I’ll give you that, but all things considered, the Rubber Band Man is in good standing. This is probably the first real test to see just how terrible rap sales are in today’s climate. 300K is the new gold? Shit, Tip sold 522K the first week the last time. Anything less than that is uncivilized. And a big failure for Lyor Cohen and the fine folks over at Warner/Atlantic could be disastrous.

Now I haven’t used any of my industry juice to find out what them pre-orders are lookin’ like, I’m just gonna wait til manana and go on hitsdailydouble like the rest of youse. But I’ll keep the fingers crossed that like it says on my wife’s mag, T.I. has the last laugh. You see as much as y’all enjoy watching these car crashes, unless somebody proves to be a true rap heavyweight I’m gonna be out of business like EPMD. You see I can’t make the songs but I can sure as hell sell the muthafucka that makes ‘em. And I’m just not ready to put Talib Kweli on the cover yet. Sorry.

Epilogue: Picture YN coolin’ out on the Fourth of July and if you heard he was on his roof deck at his new crib in BK it wasn’t a lie.