Strange Relationships: DMX’s Dominance, Gorillaz’ Looney Tunes, Jane’s Side Dishes

A weekly tale of the tape for the statistically obsessed.

In this week’s chart and sales analysis, we get down and dirty with DMX, Jay-Z and the late, great Tupac Shakur; Gorillaz’ monstrous sales figures inspire us to revisit other U.K. exports, including Dido, Radiohead, Coldplay and David Gray; and we examine what a difference a hit makes in the world of Jane’s Addiction side projects.

All About DMX

DMX is making history with The Great Depression. When his new album tops the Billboard albums chart at #1 next week (see “No Surprise — DMX Is Billboard Top Dog” ), it will become the Yonkers, New York, MC’s fourth consecutive LP to pull off the chart-topping feat.

DMX’s previous three efforts, …And Then There Was X (1999); Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998) and It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot (1998) all entered the Billboard 200 at #1 (selling 698,000; 670,000 and 251,000 copies in their first weeks in stores, respectively). Unlike DMX’s last two albums, which were both issued a few days before Christmas, The Great Depression didn’t need a seasonal sales rush to spike its figures. The record racked up some 439,000 copies out of the gate, according to SoundScan.

With the four-peat, DMX becomes the first artist in the SoundScan era (which dates back to May 1991) to have the first four albums of his career all debut at #1 — an accomplishment even unassailable by contemporary chart heavyweights such as ‘NSYNC, Eminem, Backstreet Boys, Limp Bizkit or Creed.

Both ‘NSYNC’s and Backstreet Boys’ eponymous debuts took a while to catch on with audiences and ascend the charts, as did Limp Bizkit’s Three Dollar Bill, Y’all and Creed’s My Own Prison. And for all the pomp and bawdiness surrounding Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP, the album debuted at #2 in February 1999 (behind TLC’s Fanmail) with first-week sales of 283,000 and never reached the #1 spot on the Billboard 200.

In theory, one of the few artists who might have a chance of catching or matching DMX is pop siren Britney Spears, whose …Baby One More Time and Oops! … I Did It Again both debuted at #1 — as Spears’ new album, Britney, is likely to do when it arrives in stores on November 6. But considering DMX’s prolific nature (only seven months separated the rapper’s first two albums, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood), we wouldn’t be too surprised if he tosses out his fifth and sixth albums before Spears can cut a follow-up to Britney.

Even though DMX has only released four solo records, his career sales and chart accomplishments are even more impressive when stacked against a contemporary such as Jay-Z, or even the legendary Tupac Shakur.

According to SoundScan, DMX has already sold a total of 12.17 million copies in his career, with both It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and … And Then There Was X moving more than 4 million copies each. Assuming The Great Depression sells at least as well as those records, DMX should easily cross the 16 million mark by the time Depression plateaus.

By comparison, Jay-Z has sold some 13.49 million copies so far in his career, including sales of his five solo records: Reasonable Doubt; Vol. 1 … In My Lifetime; Vol. 2 … Hard Knock Life; Vol. 3 … Life and Times of S. Carter and The Blueprint, as well as The Dynasty – Roc La Familia 2000, the mostly-Jay-Z album featuring his Roc-A-Fella crew.

To his credit, Jay-Z’s most recent four releases, The Dynasty included, all debuted atop the Billboard 200, with The Dynasty selling more than 557,000 copies its first week in stores in November 2000. However, Jay-Z only has one 4 million-seller, Vol. 2 … Hard Knock Life (4.97 million), while DMX’s smallest seller, Flesh of My Flesh (3.07 million), has outsold every other Jay-Z LP, just edging out Vol. 3 … Life and Times of S. Carter (2.83 million).

If DMX can maintain his current audience with the next two records after The Great Depression, he will likely push into the rare air of rap sales titan Tupac Shakur, whose records have sold more than 22 million copies — a figure that includes his Greatest Hits compilation, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (recorded under the pseudonym Makaveli) and Still I Rise, an LP credited to Tupac and West Coast rappers Outlawz.

Considering that the newest release from Shakur’s estate, Until the End of Time, has already sold more than 1.75 million copies in seven months — and that the rest of Tupac’s back catalog continues to sell at a clip of 15,000 copies per week — Shakur’s numbers could keep DMX at a distance for some time.

Eminem and Dr. Dre are also players in the career sales category, and both may rival Shakur’s numbers — assuming they both continue to release solo efforts, which is perhaps a bigger question for Dre than his protégé. Even though Dre and Eminem have only issued a pair of solo albums each, their career numbers already bookend DMX’s career total. Dre is just behind DMX with 11.48 million copies sold of The Chronic and Dr. Dre 2001, while Eminem is just ahead of DMX with 12.81 million copies sold of The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP.

Go Gorillaz, Go Go Gorillaz

With more than 943,000 copies sold of Gorillaz, the U.K.’s virtual supergroup has perhaps become the most popular animated act since the Archies stormed the airwaves with their bubblegum hit “Sugar, Sugar” in the late ’60s.

The album, the brainchild of Brit artist Jamie Hewlett and performers such as Blur’s Damon Albarn, Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, Del the Funky Homosapien, Kid Koala, Cibo Matto’s Miho Hatori and Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club-bers Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, is undoubtedly one of the more stupefying hits of the year. We must admit, though, we’re a little shaky on classifying Gorillaz as a U.K. act — especially considering the nonfictional members’ mixed ethnic and national backgrounds — but that’s how they were presented.

The real surprise is that with almost a million copies moved in America, the cartoon Gorillaz have gone ape as one of the biggest U.K. hits of the last few years — ranking ahead of Coldplay’s Parachutes (842,000 copies sold) and Radiohead’s Kid A (918,000), but well behind David Gray’s White Ladder (1.46 million) and the biggest Brit import in recent memory, Dido’s No Angel (3.55 million), an album that didn’t hit the charts until mid-2000, almost a year after its release.

Albarn is doubtlessly reveling in how Gorillaz’s Stateside sales have put to unyielding shame those of Oasis’ most recent studio effort, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (187,000 copies sold). But you probably won’t see him gloating at his Brit rock nemeses the Gallagher brothers too much, as he knows that Blur’s last album, 13, only moved 133,000 copies in the U.S., according to SoundScan.

Coming Down The Mountain

Speaking of bragging rights, you have to wonder if Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro is having a little bit of fun needling frontman Perry Farrell over their respective solo releases during Jane’s current tour.

Navarro’s Trust No One and Farrell’s Song Yet to Be Sung were both released in June, and Navarro’s solo debut has gotten the better of the Jane’s Addiction frontman. Buoyed by Navarro’s alternative radio hit, “Rexall,” Trust No One has so far outsold Farrell’s Song by a margin of 182,000 to 30,000. But if that gets mentioned, Farrell could bring up Deconstruction, the self-titled album Navarro and former Jane’s bassist Eric Avery cut as a group after Jane’s split-up in ’91. Issued in ’94, Deconstruction has sold less than 38,000 copies to date.

Porno for Pyros, the band featuring the other half of the Jane’s Addiction splinter — Farrell and drummer Stephen Perkins — fared much better with their eponymous debut (658,000 copies sold) although Porno’s second album, Good God’s Urge (293,000), took quite a dip trip.

Navarro might then remind Farrell that the 1995 Red Hot Chili Peppers album he played guitar on, One Hot Minute, sold over 1.71 million copies, according to SoundScan. Farrell could then retort that the RHCP records that bookend One Hot MinuteBlood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication, both featuring John Frusciante on guitar — sold more than 4 million copies each.

Hopefully, Perkins would then intervene and remind the two that Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual De Lo Habitual are RIAA-certified platinum and double platinum, respectively, and that the Jane’s Addiction catalog is continuing to fix another 100,000 in sales a year.

Then, maybe, they might get to work on recording something new together.

Next week, Strange Relationships examines the decade-long sales apprenticeship of Lenny Kravitz and goes inside the sibling sales figures of Michael and Janet Jackson.

[In SoundScan we trust. All figures, unless otherwise noted, are according to SoundScan's audited sales numbers and reflect sales as of press time.]