Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Kweli Hits #2 :: WTF?

Ya Heard?

Numbers coming in from last week’s sales have Talib Kweli’s Ear Drum hitting #2 on the album chart. Yall know I’m a big Kweli fan, so I’m very happy for the man.

In the past month Common, UGK and Kweli have all had their highest debuts ever. What does this all mean?

First off, some perspective. Kweli did 60,500 copies, one-sixth of what the #1 album, “High School Musical 2 did (in its second week), a shade over half of what Common did in his first week and over a third of what UGK did in their first week. Those remain sobering numbers for rap music execs.

But let’s also be real: Kweli also had much less than one-sixth of the promotion that HSM2 did, and probably less than Common and UGK did as well. I don’t have access to what Kweli’s done in his first week for his previous releases, but I suspect that the numbers are about the same. In other words, give Kweli his props for building his audience and keeping it, regardless of distribution.

(This was a theme of an interview I did with him years back. He said then, and I’m sure he still feels now, that for artists it’s no longer about the kind of backing you get from a label. It’s about developing your base, one-to-one. He was saying this before Myspace, before Youtube.)

Industry insiders already are speculating that the chart success of Kweli, Common, and UGK this past month is all proof that hip-hop’s audience is aging. I think part of this has to do with their unwillingness to trust hip-hop audiences’ tastes, that people may be more down for “the underground” than some execs are willing to imagine.

It could also be argued that all of these artists are different, because they have enjoyed associations with bigger artists. For Common and Kweli, there’s the Kanye effect, for UGK and Kweli, there’s the Jay-Z effect.

But the age gap argument is probably truer than most of us have yet admitted. All of these artists are in their 30s and began building their audiences in the 90s. If you follow this reasoning, UGK did the best because they were able to bridge young and old audiences the best of the three.

Plies fans aside, then, aging hip-hop audiences might be the upside in this down market. Just like in the rock market in the 80s, thirtysomethings are speaking…loudly. While their younger brothers and sisters are downloading the industry to its grave, they are actually still buying albums. Not singles, albums.

The surprising bottom line might be this: older hip-hop audiences are not actually the tail, maybe they have become the foundation of the hip-hop market. If so, radio better recognize: the first 24-hour hip-hop classics format may not be far away.

Then again, we still have a couple weeks til Sept. 11th, a date hip-hop fans everywhere have begun talking about as if it’s the final cataclysmic showdown between “conscious” and “corporate”. Fact is I think those terms are as stupid as Polow Da Don’s views on women of color. But I’ll be like everyone else on that Super Tuesday.

Check back here then…

posted by @ 3:14 pm | 9 Comments

9 Responses to “Kweli Hits #2 :: WTF?”

  1. Just Chris says:

    it is good to hear that Kweli is doing well. Funny thing is, I was in Stacks Vinyl in Cerritos last weekend, having been down there buying my ticket for Freestyle Session 10th Anniversary, and I asked the guy about the album. He said it was only O.K., just a few tracks stood out so I decided to wait until I heard more from the album (I’m sick of being excited about a Kweli album and then become disappointed in half his beat selections..) but I remained cautiously optimistic. I’ll probably try to give it a listen.

    And about a 24-Hour Hip Hop Classics format, I thought that was what the return of LA’s K-Day was supposed to be, with DJ Melo-D and Icy Ice spinning for them. They busted that out a few years ago right before I moved out of L.A. I’m curious to know what happened with that?

  2. O.W. says:

    Polow’s views on white women are little more enlightened.

    Pathetic all around.

  3. Zentronix says:

    yup, almost went without saying…

  4. Eat My Shorts says:

    24 hour hip hop classic format? that sounds like a great idea.

  5. Brother OMi says:

    man those rec execs don’t know an ass from an elbow…. the music industry is done. they refuse to change with the technology. I encounter many business execs who say that from an economic standpoint, the music industry runs a terrible machine. they spend too much on promotion and get little returns even before the net. the Dj Drama debacle was their last stand

  6. southpeezy says:

    I was just thinking about the idea of a 24/7 Hip Hop classic station…it makes great sense and should have been happened. I don’t know about where ya’ll from, but in Atlanta, the Hip Hop station pretty much lets DJs come in on holidays and just mix mix mix mix…so its alot of variety and mainly vintage stuff. It always sounds great when they do it…should make it a fulltime thing.

  7. andrewswift says:


    Just checked out the blog. Some great stuff. If you don’t remember, I was you driver to-and-fro the airport in Iowa City.

    I just wanted to point you to this Washington Post article, in case you haven’t read it yet. It’s about finishing the last episode of The Wire.

    Hopefully the link works.

    -Andrew Swift

  8. Anonymous says:

    Check out Sirius 43 Backspin.
    Also, XM’s Old School HipHop channel — EP is Snoop.
    Classic hiphop already there.

  9. R.J. says:

    In Atlanta, we did have a 24 hour classic hip hop station for about a year…but then it was switched into a classic rock station. But people have been very vocal about missing 97.5.

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