Although the rap game has changed tremendously since the advent of streaming and social media, one factor remains ever-present: “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t,” as JAY-Z famously (and somewhat savagely) reminded fans during his aptly-named track “Reminder” in 2009. As we’ve seen throughout hip-hop during the course of 2017, such a sentiment often reigns true, with the conversation seemingly remaining as focused on rappers’ album statistics and the commas as it is on the bars and the beats.
While the sales numbers swayed in the favor of some of the most popular artists this year, with JAY-Z, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Logic leading the pack, others fell on the opposite end of the spectrum, with artists such as Wale, Lupe Fiasco, Nav and Young Thug falling under a barometer of 50,000 equivalent album units. Lil Yachty, for one example, felt compelled to issue a statement regarding how his debut album, Teenage Emotions, performed in its first week, chalking up the situation of garnering low sales to being misunderstood as an artist.
“I understand first week numbers didn’t do what most people expected but that’s only because they don’t understand me,” the 20-year-old rapper wrote in a lengthy post on Instagram. “They don’t understand us. I don’t expect anybody to. I make it for those who listen.”
From Drake smashing streaming records with More Life racking up a whopping 384.8 million streams its first week to Wale sparking countless conversations about the downside of releasing his album, Shine, a week prior to its scheduled date as a surprise to fans, artists this year have certainly been delivering plenty of material for us to digest, as well as are providing countless talking points regarding how to define success in hip-hop’s fourth generation.
The music industry has updated how it collects sales data to adjust to the modern era, with Billboard now factoring in traditional sales, track equivalent album units and streaming equivalent units to make up the total album equivalent units—the number that gets the most attention when it comes to building a case whether the album was a commercial or cultural success (or both) following its release.
From Drake to Kendrick Lamar and more, take a look at 21 of the biggest first-week sales we’ve seen from rappers so far this year in the gallery here.