It’s a benchmark in hip-hop that only three MCs have ever realized: selling 1 million album units during an opening release week.
Eminem achieved the feat — with his second and third albums, The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show,
respectively — and in 2008, Lil Wayne joined the exclusive club as he pushed seven-digits worth of his sixth set, Tha Carter III, an act that cemented his ascent to super-stardom.
50 Cent is the only debuting rapper who ever came anywhere near the mark when he pushed more than 800,000 copies of Get Rich or Die Tryin’. The G-Unit general later pushed past the mark, though, with his sophomore set, The Massacre. And Kanye West came close with his third collection, Graduation, but stalled just short of the platinum plateau.
Now, on the verge of releasing his major label debut, Thank Me Later, many are wondering whether Drake — last year’s mixtape wunderkind — can deliver on all of the hype to become only the third rapper to break the one-million mark in first week sales.
“I always said that his setup was so impeccable, so crazy, that I just thought he would get really close to 1 million,” Vibe magazine editor-in-chief Jermaine Hall told MTV News. “The one thing he needed was that big record and I don’t think he was able to get his ’Lollipop’ out the gate,” he said referring to Wayne’s breakout Carter III single. “But still, I think the setup is incredible and I expect him to sell 500,000 to 600,000 the first week.”
While “Find Your Love” is a favorite among Drake’s fans, the Kanye West-produced single has yet to crack the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The melodic track followed Drake’s first official single from Thank Me Later, the brooding “Over,” an unconventional ode to the paranoia fame can bring; not an especially traditional pair of singles for an upstart rapper.
Also, Thank Me Later, while highly anticipated, is just the latest offering from Drake, who has released a string of records post-So Far Gone, from “Fear” to Forever.” Add to that the fact that his album leaked online well ahead of its June 15 release date.
“Obviously, it’s 2010, it’s not 2003 anymore and the industry has changed a lot and I think everyone has sort of had to trim their expectations because of that,” Entertainment Weekly’s Simon Vozick-Levinson said. “That’s not something that reflects on Drake personally, it’s just that it’s hard to sell records. To look at some more recent examples of people who have sold more than 500,000 [in a week], Sade did that, Eminem, last year, did about 600,000. These are artists who were gone for a while that had big fan bases waiting for an album to come out. Drake is at a different place in his career.”
The EW scribe also said he believed Drake would not cross the one-million mark, instead predicting sales of 300,000 to 400,000 copies of his debut.
XXL’s Bonsu Thompson shared the same sentiments, predicting 400,000-plus sales; he noted Drake’s achievements and emphasized the rapper’s long-term potential, even as he drew the line below gold certification and well below platinum.
“I don’t think Drake will do a million his first week,” Thompson said. “First, you have to compare it to the rapper who did achieve that, that was Lil Wayne. You have to look at all the elements that contributed to him selling 1 million in the first week. I don’t think [Drake] has that smash single. The girls like ’Find Your Love’ and the guys dig ’Over,’ but it’s not like that smash crossover, where everyone is in a state of panic and we have to have this album right now.”
Much like box office tallies, first-week sales in music make for splashy headlines, yet ultimately a blockbuster’s health is measured not by the opening haul but by how strong the project fends off sharp dips and maintains a steady stream of revenue.
A true star’s worth may lie in his ability to avoid the dreaded second-week dive. That’s the theory the New York Times’ Jon Caramanica subscribes to, noting Drake’s own goal may not be realized via those first-week sales. Instead, he noted Drake’s ambitious plans, outlining how the rapper’s sales down the road may be a better indicator of the impact of his debut.
“I think the real question for Drake is what are his fifth-week numbers, what are his 10th-week numbers, what are his 20th-week numbers, if he still pops in July, in August, in September, then that’s a win,” Caramanica told MTV News. “Then it doesn’t matter if he sells a million the first week. But if he’s gonna last, that’s the thing, that’s a Kanye, that’s a Wayne, that’s a Jay. And I think ultimately, that’s the guy he wants to be considered as. I don’t think anyone should get bent out of shape. They should get bent out of shape if he only sells two [copies].”
Drake is MTV’s Push artist of the week. For more about the making of his new album go to Buzzworthy.MTV.com.