Have Eminem and Lil Wayne Traded Places?
In the past week, roughly 608 thousand people supported Eminem and bought the shiny plastic disc known to the world as Relapse. Leading up to the album’s release, the question everyone asked was, will it outsell Lil Wayne’s The Carter 3?
Record sales aside, the question to ask is, to the general public, have Wayne and Eminem traded places?
Eminem hasn’t had a worthwhile project out in five years, and in a music industry climate (hell, maybe even an entire country) that resembles the terrain in Terminator Salvation, 608k is a LOT of records. The guy has been out of the public eye completely.
Then in mid April, XXL leaked their June covers to Rap Radar, and all of a sudden Em was back. Nobody had heard any music at all, (other than “Crack a Bottle,” which apparently was a big record, but I admit, never even heard it before the album dropped) but he was back. “We Made You” dropped, and MTV, which abandoned videos for original programming long ago, somehow found it in the network’s Interscope’s best interest to premiere the music video on their channel, in prime time no less.
The response to the hokey jokey video was, hey what is this crap? He’s doing this same pop culture reference shit he’s done his whole career, and we’re supposed to care? Critics pondered, is Eminem still relevant?
The numbers are in (and I’m not even going to address the myriad other ways besides record sales- which are prehistoric- to quantify “relevance” in ’09), and the answer is a resounding, “yes!”
But it seemed like most fans and critics alike were betting that Em would struggle to outsell the million plus copies that Wayne’s The Carter 3 sold last June. In all fairness, the odds of Em outselling Wayne were slim to none. Actually, it was impossible.
Lil Wayne appeared on what seemed like at least two dozen records from other artists leading up to The Carter 3 dropping. Pretty much everything that dropped, he was on. He dropped mixtape after mixtape, hundreds of songs literally floating out there for free in cyberspace. Every two days there was a new Lil Wayne track popping up. Carter 3 songs were leaking left and right. On top of that, he was on magazine covers galore. Every music and pop culture rag in existence had his tattooed mug all over it.
Wayne also had a lot of controversy surrounding him. He had this mysterious penchant for kissing his record label CEO-turned-foster parent, Baby, on the lips (“Ewww, how gay”). There was the styrofoam cup (“What’s in it- Cough syrup? Coke Zero? Soy Machiato from Starbucks?”). Then his relationship status (“Who’s he dating- Superhead? Trina? Nivea? Oprah?”). This guy would get a tape recorder put in front of him and just say the most outlandish shit possible (“I’m the greatest rapper alive.” “I’m a martian.” “Treat me like Martin Luther King.”)
Compare Eminem with Wayne in the month since he’s been back out, and well, Shady’s been pretty tame.
Let’s watch him on Jimmy Kimmel, a week prior to his album dropping.
Nothing even remotely outlandish about that appearance. In interviews, he’s talked about his sobriety, how he was struggling with drug addiction and depression, and how he lost a lot of weight running on a treadmill. There’s no scandal there. He didn’t even become anorexic to drop that poundage. He even went to far as to admit that he’s been chatting it up about addiction with his once sworn enemy,
the leader of the gays English pianoman, Elton John.
Look at young Eminem, he’s all grown up now. Such a role model.
That drug problem? Oh, that’s Wayne’s styrofoam cup. Relationship problems with Mariah and Kim? That’s Wayne’s Nivea, Trina, Superhead issues. Legal problems? All Wayne’s. Eminem used to sell a million records in a week, now Wayne does. They’ve traded places.
And finally, if last night’s Drake performance in NYC is any testament, Wayne’s protege is shaping up to be his proverbial 50 Cent. The only things missing are Drake’s weed carriers, a crafty catch phrase, and perhaps some beef with another storied record label.
Meanwhile, Eminem’s still talking about his Mom. And Mariah. And nobody seems to care besides Nick Cannon, who in fact, may not even care anymore. Dr. Dre’s production, while serviceable and head-knod worthy, only seems to work because Eminem is just that good. And Relapse, thematically, exists in its own space, its horrorcore ethos echoing an early 90s aesthetic that hasn’t been heard since…well… the early 90s. In short order, Eminem made Relapse not for his fans or for a rap audience that is hungry for its next microwaved movement, but for himself.
That may be the biggest trade Eminem and Wayne have made with each other. While Em walked into the game already having found his voice (Em’s first 3 LPs), then losing it (Encore), then finding it again (Relapse), Wayne’s made a steady progression towards that goal, culimating in The Carter 3, and everything that has dropped after it.
Who do you think has the upper hand right now?