Not only is God’s Son seeded in rap’s ongoing greatest of all time debate, he has proven himself a constant commercial draw over the course of his 20-year career, with millions of records sold, as well as five #1 LPs. His latest Life is Good nabbed Billboard’s top spot with 149,000 copies sold in its debut week. It’s a respectable number, but even with declining album sales, shouldn’t more fans have shown up in support of the rap king?
What an amazing story it would have been if for his 10th album Nas would’ve raise a gold or platinum plaque on his debut week, proving that no matter the era, good music trumps everything. Esco set the critical bar high with his classic 1994 debut Illmatic, hurdled over the sophomore slump with It Was Written and rose triumphant on 2001’s Stillmatic. Most hip-hop artists would be lucky to have just one classic LP in their discography. With Life is Good, Nas arguably has four.
Hip-hop purists have long-bucked commercialism, waving an imaginary “Keep it Real” flag, championing lyrics and hard-nosed beats while denouncing formulaic radio singles. On Life is Good, Nas put a premium on his words, chose choice instrumentals and widely ignored the basic radio formula. In fact, “Bye Baby,” the album’s closing track where Nasir raps about his divorce from his ex-wife Kelis, is no club banger, as it plays on for almost a full minute before the drums kick in. “Daughters,” a track Nas dedicates to his teenage girl Destiny Jones, carries that type of messaging that was heralded in rap’s golden era, and “The Don” sounds straight out of the beloved 1990s.
One fan on Twitter argued that the promotional budget surrounding Life is Good was weak. Now I haven’t seen what Def Jam budgeted to promote this album, but I can’t imagine what more the label could have done. First off, having a name synonymous with quality music is more valuable than any amount of marketing dollars a label can spend. Secondly, Nas was plenty visible. He appeared on the covers of XXL and Complex leading up to this release, starred in his own episode of VH1’s critically acclaimed series “Behind the Music,” performed on ESPN’s ESPY Awards, made the late-night rounds (“Letterman” and Kimmel”), walked onto BET’s “106 & Park” and sat with Sway Calloway on our very own “RapFix Live.” That’s a ton of press for the usually reserved rap star.
Another fan on Twitter agreed that there was adequate awareness surrounding Nas’ latest, but argued that in this dwindling economy the rapper’s main demographic couldn’t afford to spend the money for a CD (or digital download). It’s a rebuttal worth exploring, but Nas, Drake and Lil Wayne for the most part have a similar demographic and the Young Money boys both neared 1 million albums sold in their respective first weeks in 2011. Weezy and Drake both have a tremendous hold on radio, but neither has the longevity of Nas.
The bright side is this: Nas doesn’t hinge his art on the amount of records he sells, but it just would’ve been nice to see him get his just due this time out.
Do you believe Nas should have received more fan support with his first week sales? Sound off in the comments!