Cincinnati Bengals wide-receiving duo Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens refer to themselves as the Batman and Robin of the NFL, but in the hip-hop world, Jay-Z and Eminem are more like the Batman and Superman of music. And just like it's rare to see the two titans of comics together in the same panel, you know it's a special occasion when Slim Shady and Jigga team up for a live show.
That's why fans are freaking out about the first of four planned joint concerts between the dynamic duo, which kick off at Em's hometown stadium, Comerica Park, on Thursday night (September 2) and wind up next weekend in Jay's backyard at Yankee Stadium on September 12 and 13. Nobody knows who the pair will bring onstage as special guests or what they'll play, though we did learn Wednesday that VMA nominee B.o.B will open all four dates.
But how do the massive careers of these two titans measure up? Both have sold tens of millions of albums and played to hundreds of thousands of fans during their decade-plus in the public eye, and each brings a unique strength and style.
Let's break down their numbers to get a sense of what led up to this historic collabo:
On the Charts
Eminem has been a chart titan for his entire career, posting six #1 albums in a row on the Billboard 200, along with four #1 singles on the Billboard singles chart. According to Nielsen SoundScan, his U.S. album sales are 38.3 million, with an additional 30.5 million U.S. downloads on songs where he's the lead artist.
His best-selling download to date is "Lose Yourself," which SoundScan reports has sold 2.9 million copies, while his feature on the Akon tune "Smack That" pads his résumé with another 3 million in downloads credited to 'Kon. Marshall's best-selling album is The Marshall Mathers LP, which has banked more than 10 million copies.
Jay has some equally gaudy numbers, beginning with a jaw-dropping 11 #1 albums on the Billboard 200, along with four #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, though that includes only one solo #1, "Empire State of Mind," and three features.
Though Eminem has stronger overseas sales, Jigga's not far behind in total U.S. album sales, with Nielsen SoundScan reporting that the Yankees fan has sold 31.4 million discs to date, including collaborative works with R. Kelly and Linkin Park. He's also no slouch in the download department, clocking 21.4 million downloaded tracks as a lead artist, with the Alicia Keys-featuring track "Empire State of Mind" ringing up his biggest digital numbers at 3.9 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life stands as Jay's best-selling album to date, with more than 5.3 million units shifted.
When Nielsen SoundScan released the list of the best-selling artists of the decade so far, Em topped it at 31.1 million, with Jay rounding out the top 10 at #10 with 19.4 million.
The pair are almost even when it comes to Grammys, with Eminem edging out Jay 11-10. But when you tally up total worldwide sales, it's clear that Slim Shady holds the crown, with more than 80 million units shifted to Jay's 40 million.
On the Stage
"Rap, as a genre, does not translate as well to a concert stage as bands in the recorded music world," Pollstar Editor in Chief Gary Bongiovanni said. "And not a lot of acts have that strong a touring career, but among touring rap artists, I'd have to say these two, along with 50 Cent, are among the most successful touring rap artists of their time."
Eminem has the lighter touring résumé, according to Bongiovanni. Unlike Jay, who has toured more than half a dozen times in this decade, Em, 37, has only really had a handful of major outings, starting with some non-headlining dates in 2001 on the Up in Smoke Tour, as well as taking the lead on the inaugural dates of his Anger Management package.
In 2002, he headlined the second Anger Management outing, hooking up with Papa Roach, Ludacris and Xzibit and the X-Ecutioners, which Bongiovanni said averaged around 23,000 fans per show and grossed $1.3 million per date and, like the first effort, also went overseas for some European dates.
There were a few sporadic shows in 2003, and then Em brought Anger Management back in 2005 with Ludacris, G-Unit, Lil Jon and 50 Cent for a 24-show swing that, according to the data on the 22 shows reported to Pollstar, averaged more than 15,000 fans and grossed more than $1 million per show. The planned European dates were scotched when Em checked into rehab for treatment of an addiction to prescription medication.
Since then, Shady has only performed a handful of times. "There's something to be said for pent-up demand," Bongiovanni said of Eminem's success at drawing major crowds during his sporadic touring career.
Jay, 40, on the other hand, has lately made touring an intricate part of his career. He's gone from headlining 3,000- to 6,000-seat venues in 2001 to playing to an average of more than 10,000 on his aborted Best of Both Worlds double-bill with R. Kelly in 2004 — which grossed more than $1.4 million per stop — and right around that for his 2009 Blueprint 3 Tour with N.E.R.D., Wale and J. Cole. That tour hit arenas and played to an average of 8,500 fans, grossing $543,000 per show.
While he continues to be a big draw in Europe, with his high-energy, full-band presentation, Jay solidified his place as one of the premier rap touring acts in the U.S. in 2010 by hooking up with Young Jeezy and Trey Songz for a sold-out arena tour that averaged 12,900 fans and around $1 million per show, according to Pollstar. Jay will also open some dates for U2 in November and made stops at the Coachella and Bonnaroo festivals this summer.
That puts the two rap giants around even, so you can expect them to bring the goods at what promises to be a historic four-night stand.
What special guests do you hope Em and Jay will bring out at the hometown shows? Let us know in the comments!