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Beef Of The Week #362: 50 Cent v Jay-Z

By | Published on Friday 7 July 2017

Jay-Z & RIAA's Cary Sherman

Jay-Z has released a new album. Everyone knows that. And there’s been much talk of the beefs contained within its lyrics, calling out both Kanye West and possibly Future. But that album came out last week and those digs were not well masked. That makes them beefs of last week. Get with the programme, granddad. It’s lucky you’re not in charge of this column or it would be chaos.

It’s alright though, more has happened in the days since existing Tidal users were given access to ‘4:44’. First, it emerged that Snoop Dogg had given the album a listen, but he’s not really on board with streaming, so he’d pirated it. Or at least, he’d got someone to pirate it for him. Snoop’s complaint was a legitimate one though. He wanted to give Jay-Z money for his record, but that record was only available via a single platform, and one that he doesn’t use and has no intention of using.

“I’m on iTunes and shit”, said Snoop in an Instagram video. “I don’t understand [Tidal] – y’all gotta explain that to me. I went to iTunes looking for his album and I couldn’t find it. But my homie sent it to me, you understand me?”

But Snoop hadn’t downloaded the album so that he could speak ill of it. ‘4:44’ is, he said, “a motherfuckin hot album”. Because Snoop has no interest in disparaging the art of others. Anyone deserves a chance, whether they’re an old hand or a new kid on the block.

“I ain’t no hater”, he said. “I love the game for what it’s worth – the young niggas and the old niggas. Practice that. Practice showing love. Practice supporting other muthafuckas other than yourself. Yeah, do that”.

I think that message was pretty clear. But when 50 Cent had a go at providing his own review of ‘4:44’ on Instagram a few days later, it didn’t go quite so well. Actually, it started just fine. “I thought the shit was alright”, he began. “I liked the shit”.

Shit has been approved. Fine. Leave it there.

Does shit require nuance? Well, let’s continue.

“I’ma keep it 100: The shit was a little… the shit was too smart”, he added, on reflection. “I felt like I was supposed to be wearing glasses and shit, and tie a fucking sweater around my waist. It was like Ivy League shit. I ain’t gonna hold you up. Some of that shit was like golf course music”.

Golf course music! What is golf course music? I found this playlist on Spotify which suggests Maroon 5 feature heavily in that category. But it was Big Boi who crossed the line and allowed Adam Levine on his album, not Jay-Z. I also found this, which doesn’t sound right either.

There’s not time to ponder on this though, because 50 Cent also quickly broke Snoop’s second very clear rule for commenting upon the work of others by saying that he reckons Jay-Z is too old now and should let some younger rappers have a go. Perhaps this is why Fiddy’s ‘Street King Immortal’ album has been shelved since 2011, rather than the various label issues that are assumed to be behind the delay.

“I’mma tell you the truth: Niggas hot out here”, he went on. “They don’t wanna hear that shit. They just wanna have a good time. Fuck that. You can’t be the best rapper at 47, because the new niggas is here”.

Whether or not you can be the best at something deemed inherently youthful at 47 years old is a debate we could all have. Or you could ask whether it is even possible for one person to be the single best at doing anything? Especially something like music, which must be judged on numerous different qualities, most of them immeasurable.

The one thing you can measure, however, is popularity. Which means that the suggestion that people simply don’t want to hear Jay-Z’s ‘too smart golf course music’ is something we can check. Unfortunately for 50 Cent, he made his (now deleted) comments just as it was announced that ‘4:44’ had gone platinum in the US – making it the country’s sixth best selling album of the year, and a million seller, in the space of five days.

That news came via an official proclamation from the Recording Industry Association Of America, complete with an exclamation from its CEO Carey Sherman that “he’s done it again! Another platinum album adds to an already iconic career”.

But, hey, there may be some reprieve for 50 Cent yet. Because while those ‘4:44’ achievements sound very impressive, something does seem a little odd about it all. The album is only available to stream on Tidal. Let’s say that Tidal has a million active users – according to chart rules, each of them would have had to play the album in full 1500 times in order to push the record up to platinum status.

Then there’s the more curious revelation that a photograph of Jay-Z and Cary Sherman with the rapper’s brand new platinum disc was taken before the album was even released. Either there’s something extremely fishy going on here or there’s more to this than meets the eye. Or both. Probably both.

Actually, there is more. I was hiding some information from you in order to build up the drama, even though the information I was hiding is more interesting than the build up. Sorry. This has ended up a bit like the worst documentary of all time, ‘Searching For Sugarman’. Seriously, that’s a fucking terrible film. Stop saying it’s good, you idiots.

See, it turns out ‘4:44’ was not only made available to stream on Tidal; there was also a download promotion via Tidal’s newish shareholder Sprint, the US mobile phone company, which offered a million downloads to its customers for free.

Since the announcement of the platinum certification, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation company has confirmed that it was downloads in the Sprint promotion that got the album its platinum certification. In fact, Tidal streams weren’t even factored into the calculation.

So, it seems, the taking of that photograph before the album’s release wasn’t an astonishing case of wishful thinking. The album had actually already sold over a million copies at that point – just to a single customer, which planned to hand them out for nothing. Which you could, just possibly, argue is cheating.

Though we’ve had that argument before, of course.

This is all a re-run of what happened with Jay-Z’s last album ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’, which was given out for free by Samsung. That time different rules were applied by the music industry’s different stat counters, meaning the record was deemed to have quickly racked up a million sales and therefore platinum status, but none of those ‘sales’ were counted towards the record’s chart position.

‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ still went to number one in the Billboard 200 in its first week. But those were different times. By which I mean pre-Tidal times. The record was available from various places where there were sufficient sales to top the chart.

But if we ignore the Sprint give-aways and just count Tidal streams, ‘4:44” would need to clock up 792 million plays in order to match the chart-recorded first week sales of its predecessor. Though the good news is, it’ll only have to get 223.5 million plays to beat the sales of this week’s US number one, DJ Khaled’s ‘Grateful’.

Either way, I suspect Jay-Z may have been slightly less quick to have his photo taken with Billboard Editor Mike Bruno ahead of Tuesday’s chart publication. So maybe, when we look back in years to come, it will appear that 50 Cent was right.

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