And the winner is ... drum roll ... Mr. West!
Kanye West easily bested 50 Cent in their much-hyped SoundScan clash, pushing 957,000 copies of Graduation against 691,000 copies of the G-Unit star's Curtis in its first six days of sales, according to Billboard. Both albums are the artists' respective third solo projects.
"This is a great day for Kanye West and Roc-A-Fella Records and a fantastic day for hip hop and artistry," said Jay-Z, president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings. "It's a good sign that heartfelt, sincere and honest music can do these types of numbers."
(See what you, the readers, had to say about Kanye West being crowned chart champ over 50 Cent, in You Tell Us.)
Early projections last week had West moving 800,000 copies to 50's 600,000. A late surge over the weekend, perhaps, created the distance that left the battle pretty much one-sided in the producer's favor. (Sales tallies ended on Sunday when SoundScan closed for the prior week.)
Both artists did last-minute campaigning over the weekend, with West stopping by the Emmys and Fif hitting NYC for his 5 Borough Tour.
In interviews leading up to the September 11 release date, 50 claimed he would retire from making music if West outsold him in the first week, although he later qualified those remarks.
50 also seemed to be in disbelief by the comparisons drawn between his sales prowess and West's. He claimed he was the bar against which the first-week numbers should be judged in the current climate of sagging CD sales.
The G-Unit rapper later began lashing out at Def Jam, claiming West's label was purchasing copies of this Graduation to boost sales. As it turns out, West's Graduation posted the biggest opening-week numbers for an album since his 2005 album, Late Registration, opened at #1 with sales reported at 860,000-plus.
Country-music star Kenny Chesney, who made his own bold prediction to Entertainment Weekly about his project landing atop the charts, will debut at #3 on the Billboard albums chart. His Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates moved a reported 387,000 copies.
The rollouts for Kanye's and 50's albums weren't exactly smooth. West released two singles before finalizing an album date, which coincided with 50's date.
50, by contrast, had a much more difficult time, which was documented by tirades and temper tantrums. Most infamous was his meltdown in G-Unit's office in midtown Manhattan, New York, where 50 tossed his cell phone out the window and ripped a flat-screen TV from the wall after learning the video for his Robin Thicke collaboration "Follow My Lead" leaked to the Internet. The clip wasn't planned for release until much later in the album cycle for Curtis.
50 most recently revealed plans to release his Before I Self Destruct album early next year. And he has also vowed to release one G-Unit project for every Def Jam project if West's first week sales top his.
Let the real battle begin.
[This story was originally published at 11:37 pm E.T. on 09.18.2007]