If Def Jam had any way of knowing that Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy would sell 495,000 copies its first week out, I’m sure they would have helped give him a push over that gold-its-first-week-out hurdle by buying up a shedload of copies of their own album, as they’ve been rumored to over the years, going back possibly as far as when I was in college. Remember back when people were always accusing them of buying their own albums, Sam Adams-style? I’m not sure how people came to think that (perhaps to explain the career of Ja Rule?), or whether or not it’s true, but I’m gonna go ahead and assume that it is, until someone proves that it isn’t, because that’s my general policy with regard to conspiracy theories.
If it’s so obviously not true, it should be easy to produce evidence proving that it isn’t.
Buying a few extra copies of My Beautiful Dark Fisting Fantasy, at whatever that would cost a major label (i.e. the $12 it costs, minus the $11.50 that goes right back in their pockets), which they could probably turn around and donate to the troops, for which they’d receive some sort of tax break, in addition to whatever they’re gonna get for releasing this new Redman album (they might even want to see about getting the same tax break several of my employers have received for employing retarded people), would have prevented haters like Sandra Rose from running posts about how Kanye West somehow failed to go gold his first week out, despite the fact that he’s been all over the Innuhnets, TV, radio, magazines, and probably a few other forms of media I can’t think of at the moment, for the past several months straight, nonstop. Taylor Swift went platinum her first week out, and I didn’t even know she had a new album coming out, until I heard that it went platinum its first week out. And her videos supposedly aren’t any good.
You don’t get the idea that Def Jam had any way of knowing what MBDFF might sell its first week out. It could have sold just shy of 60,000 copies (within a cunt’s hair), as if it was a Roots album, or it could have done Taylor Swift numbers, for all they knew. And that’s if they even had anyone there crunching the numbers. They might not have a very big staff these days. I seem to recall hearing something, a while back, about budget cuts and layoffs. It could just be a couple of guys, at this point, outsourcing a lot of the work via sites like Craigslist, which I’m assuming is how they came up with the cover for the new Sheek Louch album. You know things have reached a dire state whenever you have Redman, in an interview (of which I’ll admit I only read that one excerpt), criticizing your work ethic. The Funk Doc sounded like a straw boss at a McDonalds, pissed because the floors hadn’t been mopped properly. If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.
But I don’t want to lay all of the blame with Def Jam, to the extent that there is such a thing at this point. They may not have contributed much to MBDFF’s promotion, but at least that way they couldn’t have fucked anything up. Do you think artists like Ghostface, Redman and Sheek Louch had any say in what, if anything, was done with their albums? There’s no way Sheek Louch (not even Sheek Louch) actually stood there in a room, saw the cover for Be a Gorilla, or whatever it’s called, and said, “Yeah, this seems like a good idea!” Not even if Def Jam has a 22 year-old black guy whose specific job it is to explain fucked up decisions to artists, like the late, great Sickamore’s old job at Atlantic Records.
Kanye had both his own ideas about how to promote his albums, and the means to implement. In fact, you get the sense that, for Kanye, these albums are as much about the attention whoring that goes along with promoting them as they are creating the actual music, and ultimately making money from it, if not even more so. Remember when Kanye used to brag about having spent more money making videos for the College Dropout than he actually made from the album, or how much he spent for the set design and what have you for the Gay in the Dark tour? Dressing up in all of these fancy clothes, having his picture taken and what have you must harken back to the days when his mom would dress him up in fruity outfits, as a child, because there was never a man in the house, making him wear a cape to school and a t-shirt with a picture of his own face on it. He probably could have put way less time and effort into promoting MBDFF and done more or less the same numbers, if that need didn’t exist, deep down within.