[This article was updated on July 6 and 12, August 30, and September 9, 2016. Updates are in square brackets.]
It’s time for a good old-fashioned rap battle! (I suppose rap is a relatively young genre, so it can’t be that old fashioned. But it can still be good!) Instead of rhyming for their rep, though, artists are going mic-a-mic for the top spot in our odds to sell the most albums in 2016. (These days, “sell” equates to “pure album sales” plus “streaming equivalents.)
The biggest feuds in rap have always been geographically based, but rap and hip-hop are longer exclusively American genres. From the East Coast to the West Coast to the Gold Coast, rappers and hip-hop artists the world over (like Kendrick Lamar, Future, Drake, etc.) have hit us with new albums in 2016, and more are going to do so in the months ahead (Run the Jewels, Isaiah Rashad, Iggy Azalea).
Before we can pit regions against each other, someone has to emerge as the rep for that corner of the world. Think of it like the early rounds of March Madness.
Today we’re looking at the odds on who will have the top-selling rap album from the East Coast/Midwest, the West Coast, the dirty South, and the international scene. I’ve included some longshots in the mix to give you some exploring to do.
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo: 1/1
Lupe Fiasco – Drogas, Skulls, Roy: 12/1
Pusha T – Darkest Before Dawn: 15/1
Aesop Rock – Impossible Kid: 15/1
Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book: 18/1
[Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition: 20/1]
Run The Jewels – RTJ3: 100/1
Goldlink – And After That, We Didn’t Talk: 150/1
[Ka – Honor Killed The Samurai: 200/1]
[Apollo Brown and Skyzoo – The Easy Truth: 250/1]
As much as I’d like to see Kanye knocked from his perch atop the hip-hop sales charts, it’s not going to happen. TLP was his seventh straight album to debut at no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200. Eerily, the rest of the list is filled with Kanye disciples of a sort. Hopefully Lupe, Chance, and Pusha T don’t succumb to whatever disease of the mind is eating away at Kanye’s cortex.
Run the Jewels is way down the list because RTJ3 won’t be out until late in the year.
Goldlink is still a relative unknown for the masses. His debut album And After That, We Didn’t Talk will have all year to sell, and the DC rapper has a unique blend of mellow beats and in-your-face lyrics that could have broad appeal. (Think Kendrick Lamar meets Travi$ Scott.) But outselling Kanye? Ha, not this year.
Meanwhile, Ka’s Honor Killed the Samurai has been getting rave reviews. Will it muster enough strength to climb the charts and slay the bigger names?
Lurking just behind in the dark like ninjas are Apollo Brown and Skyzoo who have collaborated on The Easy Truth. But the truth may hurt because, while talented, these gents won’t be anywhere near Kanye when it comes to sales.
Whether you lend them a hand in the sales department or not, every artist above deserves your ear.
Kendrick Lamar – untitled, unmastered: 3/1
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – This Unruly Mess I’ve Made: 9/2
[Schoolboy Q – Blank Face: 9/1]
YG – Still Krazy: 20/1
Kendrick Lamar & J. Cole – Album name TBD: 100/1
The poppiest hip-hop is near the top of the odds once again. Tupac is probably rolling over in his fake-grave seeing Macklemore near the top of our “West Coast” rap odds. But we’re strictly using “West Coast” in a geographical sense! I swear! Thank goodness for Kendrick, is all I can say.
[Kendrick’s Black Hippy collaborator Schoolboy Q is back with a new solo effort, Blank Face. Evidently, he’s not sweating the sales numbers. But given how well Oxymoron did in terms of sales and downloads, Blank Face should be another boon for the South Central star.]
Speaking of Kendrick, he and J. Cole are working on something, and it will be massive when it drops, but that probably won’t be this year.
Kevin Gates – Islah: 3/1
Future – Evol: 5/1
2 Chainz – ColleGrove: 8/1
Isaiah Rashad – Album name TBD: 25/2
Young Thug – Slime Season 3: 50/1
Gates’ Islah has been charting for 14 weeks and had the no. 1 spot on the rap/hip-hop charts awhile back. He’ll be hard to catch. Future’s Evol has been selling strong, too, though with over 125,000 copies sold in the US alone.
Young Thug’s Slime Season 3 – the finale to his Slime Season trilogy – debuted at no. 7 on the Billboard 200 and has had a lot of traction for a mixtape, but it’s not going to pull the upset.
Drake (Canada) – Views: 1/5
Die Antwoord (South Africa) – We Have Candy: 20/1
CL (South Korea) – Lifted: 25/1
Skepta (England) – Konnichiwa: 25/1
Iggy Azalea (Australia) – Digital Distortion: 30/1
M.I.A. (England) – Matahdatah: 100/1
Drake already has this thing wrapped up. Views may be the biggest seller of the year, regardless of genre. But don’t let that stop you from exploring what the rest of the international rap world has to offer!
Aussie Iggy Azalea will be releasing her second album, Digital Distortion, soon enough. If the lead singles “Azillion” and “Team” are any indication, the album will be a commercial success. CL might be bigger than Beyonce in her native Korea. When the cover is lifted on Lifted, the nation’s 50 million people will make it one of the biggest selling international rap albums of the year.
Skepta’s Konnichiwa has received massive critical acclaim and sold pretty darn well, reaching no. 2 in UK album sales. His popularity with club DJs will ensure continued traction. It’s unfortunate that I’ve lumped all non-Americans together. He’d make some serious noise in a Euro category!
M.I.A. has already released a handful of tracks from Matahdatah, but the album itself still doesn’t have a firm release date. I’m getting a bit concerned.
(Photo credit: Merlijn Hoek (wikiportret.nl) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)