We're almost at the finish line in the epic 50 Cent vs. Kanye West showdown. While early projections have Kanye comfortably leading in sales, the official tally won't be made public until Wednesday.
In the meantime, everyone — including 50 — seems to have had something to say about the red-hot battle. On Friday, Fif phoned in to Hot 97 and said the fix was in. He accused Def Jam, West's label, of practicing underhanded methods, such as buying copies of Graduation to rig Kanye as the first-week SoundScan king.
Regardless of 50's claims — which Def Jam hasn't responded to — Kanye's Graduation LP has been well-received, as has Curtis. Billboard reported Friday that Graduation leads with 781,000 copies sold over the 603,000 moved by 50 Cent's Curtis, according to projections.
(See what you, the readers, had to say about Kanye West being crowned chart champ over 50 Cent, in You Tell Us.)
Fans can't stop talking about the showdown, and opinions are also being tossed around left and right in the music industry. We talked to a few industry figures who weighed in not only about the excitement 50 and 'Ye have generated but who they thought would sell more copies of his new LP.
"It's only one magic album, the other one is just there," 50 told MTV News of the hyped-up competition.
But others see the race as much closer.
"It's a great promotional tool," Timbaland said about West's and 50's albums coming out on the same day. "To me, it's the greatest thing ever. I think people should do it more often. I'm a fan of both albums. Hip-hop needs this right now.
"It's gonna kinda come [out] evenly," he added about his prediction of the sales. "I say 500,000 to 500,000. That's a million records total in hip-hop. That's too much for the consumer."
Timbo says that the rap overload will likely cause a third-party candidate to reap the spoils. Country superstar Kenny Chesney also dropped a new album, Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates, on Tuesday.
"[Chesney] sells like 600, 700 [thousand]," Timbaland said. "He's gonna be #1, though. Why wouldn't he? It's happened before when a country artist came out and a hip-hop artist came out. ... It's nothing different. It's gonna be tight. Maybe [8,000 more] for 50 or [8,000 more] for Kanye. But Kenny is gonna do 600,000. He's a country artist. Country never fails. Just like 'High School Musical.' "
Even legendary MC Nas says he's excited about the competition between his two mic peers.
"I love what's happening," Nas said. "At first, with the sh-- 50's doing [creating controversy], I thought it was disgraceful that he [would need] Kanye West to help him sell records after last year, when he talked [trash] about everybody. But now I see what he did is something he needed to do to make people pay attention to him. I look at the excitement of it."
Nas added that he had enjoyed Kanye's album and that he was also interested in hearing what 50 was bringing to the table with Curtis (see "50 Cent Album Preview: Eminem, Dr. Dre Help Curtis 'Keep It Funky' ").
Super-producer Jermaine Dupri, on the other hand, had already heard both LPs when MTV News caught up with him prior to the Tuesday release date — he too said he would be staying impartial.
"It's a tossup," he said. "Both artists are different. I got both albums, and I think people should buy both. I hope everybody sells a ton of records. It's gonna make everybody realize hip-hop is still here and it's strong."
And in case you don't believe that hip-hop is still strong, rockers have been sounding off about the 50/Kanye showdown as well. Last weekend, (+44) drummer Travis Barker gave MTV News his two cents on the matchup, saying he was planning to pick up both discs. "They tricked everyone into thinking they have beef ... but I think it was just a good ploy to sell records," he said.
We're still a few days away from seeing who wins the first-week battle, and Kanye and 50 are likely hoping their efforts last week in New York, when they tried to gin up support for their respective LPs, will help. On Tuesday, 50 appeared on "TRL," and later in the evening, the MCs were interviewed jointly on BET's "106 & Park." Jay-Z made a surprise appearance during Kanye's performance on the show, and backstage, both the G-Unit and Roc-A-Fella toasted to the monumental release date. Later that night, Kanye and his fiancee Alexis were seen partying in lower Manhattan.
50 also kept busy by launching his 5 Borough Tour (see "50 Cent Joins Forces With Jim Jones, Covers Kanye West At First Of Five NYC Shows") — and taking over Hot 97 for 24 hours midweek. While he was on the air, he told host Angie Martinez that if he loses to Kanye in the first week, he's going to war. That means putting out an album every time a Def Jam artist releases an LP — namely Jay-Z, Young Jeezy and Ludacris.
Come Wednesday, we'll know if that's a promise he needs to keep.