Hate It Or Love It: Kanye West's Dominance Of The 24-Hour News Cycle

Last week's releases of "Mercy" and "TheraFlu" showed that Kanye West's music and personal life still make headlines. Hopefully, there continues to be a message behind the music once he has our attention.

Last week, while visiting friends in Nashville, Tennessee, a local news brief covered Kanye West’s possible relationship with socialite Kim Kardashian. I found this surprisingly funny for a number of reasons—including but not limited to Nashville’s love of Country Music siren Taylor Swift. After all, it was West that launched a thousand Internet memes and committed ritual suicide to his Q-rating by bumrushing Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards with the Hennessy-fueled declaration that “Beyonce had one of the best video of all time!” On a day when there seemed to be plenty of other newsworthy stories to cover, why were Yeezy and Kim getting the TMZ treatment on an ABC affiliate in a mid-size media market? I think the short answer to that question is because we wanted them to. I also think the next wave of Kanye West’s “G.O.O.D. Fridays” will prove that our current news cycle has created a perfect climate for West to dominate all areas of media. Whether that’s a good (no pun intended) or a bad thing is still open for debate.

Kanye West: The Man Versus The Music

“What if somebody from the Chi that was ill got a deal / On the hottest rap label around / But he wasn’t talkin’ about coke and birds / It was more like spoken words / Except he’s really puttin’ it down / And he explained the story / About how blacks came from glory / And what we need to go in the game…” –Kanye West, “Through The Wire.”

Kanye West ingrains his personal life in his music, so the task of separating the two is a daunting one. From rhyming about hopes of marrying his longtime girlfriend on “Never Let Me Down” (“So I promise to Mr. Rainey I’ma marry your daughter / And you know I gotta thank you / For the way she was brought up…”) and subsequently breaking up with her (808’s & Heartbreak), nearly losing his life in a car accident, and losing his mother, you can literally follow the timeline of Kanye’s life through his lyrics. But if you can look solely at the numbers, it becomes rather obvious that a large number of people like Kanye West strictly for his musical talents. As of Wednesday’s Nielsen SoundScan report, West’s collaborative Watch The Throne album with Jay-Z has sold over 1.4 million units. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was also a domestic platinum seller. The album spawned a platinum single in “All Of The Lights,” and People magazine named it as the top album of the last decade. Even the melancholy 808’s & Heartbreak went platinum, and that album was powered by a quadruple platinum single (“Heartless”) and another triple platinum single (“Love Lockdown”). Prior to that—in 2007—Graduation was America’s top-selling Hip Hop album. If we factor in a slight decline in sales over the last few years—which conveniently coincide with the 2009 Taylor Swift incident—West remains one of Hip Hop’s most commercially successful artists.

In my opinion, this further complicates the love/hate dynamic. If you break down the number of Hip Hop/Rap artists to repeatedly release platinum selling albums in the last five years, a few familiar names begin to surface. Eminem, Lil Wayne, Drake, Jay-Z and The Black Eyed Peas emerge as the only artists to repeatedly sell more than 1 million copies of their albums. I chose to omit singles to eliminate “one hit wonders.” I also limited the list to the top three sellers in any given year to isolate the most mainstream artists—since, in theory, they risk the most by rhyming about controversial subjects.

Repeat Platinum-Plus Hip Hop Artists Since 2007

2011 – Lil Wayne: Tha Carter IV (2 million), Jay-Z & Kanye West: Watch The Throne (1.4 million), Drake: Take Care (1.6 million)

2010 – Eminem: Recovery (3.5 million), Black Eyed Peas: The Beginning (2 million), Drake: Thank Me Later (1.3 million)

2009 – Black Eyed Peas: The E.N.D. (1.7 million), Eminem: Relapse (1.7 million), Jay-Z: The Blueprint 3 (1.5 million)

2008 – Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III (2.8 million), T.I.: Paper Trail (1.5 million), Kanye West: 808’s & Heartbreak (1 million)

2007 – Kanye West: Graduation (1.8 million), Jay-Z: Kingdom Come (1 million), 50 Cent: Curtis (1 million)

Of all the above artists mentioned, how many consistently address race, religion, sexuality and politics? I’m of the opinion that West is head and shoulders above his mainstream competition. Fans love when Immortal Technique, dead prez, Jasiri X and other artists rhyme about these topics. They should. But, if nothing else, for the sake of variety, having an artist on a major label with the potential to reach over one million listeners during each release keeps the dialogue moving. I think it’s implied that fans of independent Hip Hop music have a certain sensibility and may already know about 2008’s 509 Chicago homicides referenced by West on “Murder To Excellence.” But, to me, being among the top three sellers in any genre means you’re reaching listeners outside of your normal fan base. That’s not to say one audience is more important that the other. But reaching suburban listeners more in tune with Katy Perry than Public Enemy carries a certain amount of power and cultural capital.

Shared Blame For The 24-Hour News Cycle

“As a final insult to this beautiful culture / Scavengers feasting on the dead like a vulture / Snackin’ / How you keepin’ up with my rappin’ / You barely keeping up with Kardashians / You caught up in distractions…” –Talib Kweli, “Distractions.”

I genuinely wonder how much of that goodwill erodes when ‘Ye and Kim Kardashian start posting images of themselves together on Twitter. What two people may or may not have done behind closed doors is none of our business. But again, Kanye West ingrains his personal life in his music. So while I love the obvious connection between flipping LL Cool J’s line from “Illegal Search,” there’s also some subtext behind a simple line like, “Can’t a young nigga get money anymore?” I don’t want to have to hear about Kanye’s equal disdain for Kris Humpries and love for Kim Kardashian to get such lines. Kardashian is at best a socialite best used for hawking products and providing fodder for TMZ. At worst, she’s a jumpoff that got famous for leaking a recorded video of herself getting plowed by Ray J while lying in bed like a dead fish. As a listener, am I justified in thinking “TheraFlu” serves the dual purpose of announcing a possibly contrived relationship with Kardashian to drum up press for the next Kanye project? To be a fan of Kanye West means dealing with both the pride in a song like “Who Will Survive In America” and the dismay when he bumrushes Swift or takes shots at a middling NBA player while letting us know he’s smashing another starlet.

Of course, I think it would be disingenuous to write this without admitting the part that HipHopDX and other media outlets play in facilitating the 24-hour news cycle. Kanye tweets pics with Kim K because we’ll post them and distribute them to the masses. On their own, they have very little news value whatsoever. But it keeps Kanye’s name buzzing, and it’s essentially free press. We post such minutiae because you repeatedly click on it, read it, and we make money. And we have the numbers to prove many of you are interested in who Kanye is smashing on any given day. So really, we’re all at fault to some degree.

Universal Music Group: Corporate Thuggin’

“I step in Def Jam’s building like I’m the shit / Tell ‘em give me 50 million or I’ma quit…” –Kanye West, “Mercy.”

I feel like the real winner here is Universal Music Group. When “TheraFlu” dropped, it was a set up to Kanye’s official single “Mercy.” Roughly 24 hours before “Mercy” dropped, UMG let various sites like DX know that they would be subject to having advertising money pulled by opting to freely stream “Mercy” instead of directing people to iTunes for an official purchase of the single. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that mentioning a song and suggesting fans purchase it without streaming at least a snippet is akin to free advertising. The people who regularly populate DX’s comment section have accused us of being in bed with labels before. For what it’s worth, I can also prove that’s not true. But this looks like more of a grey area. It’s a case of one out of only three major distributors—Warner, Sony and Universal are the only ones left—pulling a power move and bullying media outlets into promoting one of their high-profile artists. In the interest of full disclosure, DX opted to post news of the release of “Mercy.” A Def Jam-sanctioned, free stream of the mp3 was provided later in the day.

I also find it interesting that UMG chose this route, after West essentially bypassed his label altogether in 2010 by giving away the bulk of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for free via G.O.O.D. Fridays. My only guess is that UMG was looking for a larger return on what was rumored to be a huge budget on a critically acclaimed album that boasted solid but not stellar sales. Either way the entire situation reeks of corporate bullying, vertical integration, entitlement and a bunch of other seemingly non Hip Hop qualities.

So now what? I can’t speak for everyone that may read this, but the numbers tend to lean in the direction that most of us are still Kanye West fans. His popularity may have taken a hit after bumrushing Swift in 2009, but West still moves the needle. Given all the racial epithets directed at him, and his response on songs like “Chain Heavy” (“Y’all forget that / I got called nigger on Twitter so many times / Yo I lived that…”), you can make a solid argument that the incident forced America to come to terms with some ugly truth about the state of race relations.

So either we genuinely still like the music or we’re at least mildly interested in both the commentary and the spectacle surrounding its release. That still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. The only concrete conclusion I can draw is that it all adds up to Kanye continuing to dominate the news cycle. For my part, I hope there continues to be a message behind the music once he has our attention.

Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has  been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @FourFingerRings.


  • Acesun

    Kanye aight with me, he managed to get former Pres. GW Bush to say that, when YE said "GBush doesn't care about Black People", was the worst moment of his entire Presidency. (Even worse than 911??) Wow. And our current President Mr. Barack Obama called him a Jackass, so he's managed to piss off two U.S. Presidents and sell millions of records and now will be in the Media everday both for gossip and music. Genius.

  • real Q

    She's a hoe how can you date someone when you just got out your marriage even though it was fake if you dont want people to think it's fake wouldn't you have wait to get a man? I can't fucking wait until this chick empire collapse and she ends up broke and nobody will love her anymore her and her family and Kanye your a sutpid ass you know this bitch a hoe why u wanna fuck with her oh that's right you dont want nobody to know that your a gay fish correct?

  • Mr Flamboyant

    "At worst, shes a jumpoff that got famous for leaking a recorded video of herself getting plowed by Ray J while lying in bed like a dead fish." I found this funny yet true. To Kanye's credit, he's done a whole lot and is about the most transparent artist that we have today on a mainstream level. He just doesn't give a f truthfully and I like that about him, especially being a fellow midwest nigga such as himself. Hell he's carrying Jigga's tired career right now and that's saying a lot. That's the ONLY reason that horrible Watch The Throne was made...simply for Jigga to be a latch on and enjoy the ride. As one of my one cool peeps said years ago when that awful ass BP3 dropped: "If I want to hear a Kanye album, then I'll buy a Kanye album". Jigga has tapped into that Kanye chamber for a long time now and has rode it to a damn collab album where he's, you guess it... rhyming like Kanye. In essence, I'm happy for the brother. I really didn't care for all the devilish rhetroic in his last album, but I do get the point and concept with where he was coming from with it. It was totally genius as a matter of fact and told the telling tale of what cats, mainly those from where we came up, would do to get fame, loot, and bitches....in essence make deals with the devil damn near. Nonetheless, Kanye is the man. And he's still willing to work with damn near anyone in the effort of getting some cool shit and push boundaries. He's using his star power for good (no pun intended)

    • Acesun

      HA Ha ha, astute observation about HOV latching-ON, but what else do you expect? HOV is a hustler, all those fools he used to make his empire of fortune, all have the same in common, They wished they all knew the business aspect of it before they got involved, HOV treated them like they was -family but never schooled them on game, basic common sense things like you need an account and most importantly a lawyer to handle your legal aspects (review contracts,etc.) But when most new artists go from 0 to 12K a show the last thing your worried about is a lawyer or an accountant. You just sign documents and accept money that your "Man" "Hov" and Dash hooked you up with and you go smoke your PIFF and 10 years down the line you realize "Jigga" jerked you out of hundreds of thousands in royalties...

  • Zeek

    Also shouldnt relapse be on there? It sold 2.2 million in 2009.

  • Zeek

    Actually Eminems Recovery sold over 4.2 million in the US. 7.5 ww.

  • Nathan Brooks

    No matter what anyone says, you cant argue with fact. There are barely any artists that can have the sales Kanye does, address as many topics as Kanye does, and not just be have the album of the single on Rap Websites, but across the board from all music websites such as Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. Also, rarely do any rappers produce the way Kanye does, youll never see Lil Wayne or Jay-Z produce, which shows Kanye isnt just a rapper, hes an overall musical genious. Hate him or love him, theres no denying his talent as an artist.

    • FUCK YOU!!

      Are you two fucking stupid?? Nathan Brooks said, "barely any artists that can have the sales Kanye does...." Key word being "barely!!" No where did he state that Eminem didn't have as much sales or less than Kanye. You stupid asses get off your high horse & learn how to read, interpret what someone writes.

    • Anonymous

      Nathan Brooks: Seems u live under a rock or something...Never heard of Eminem ??? He sells 10x more than Kanye !!!

    • real nigga

      are u fucking dumb Eminem sales are higher than kanye west

  • the_observer

    Nas u shuld have accepted Kanye's request to produce his next album but Nas dont see the big picture nd thinks he knows best therefore he wont b moving units like Kanye, Jay Z nd Em

  • Anonymous

    Damn... how many nigga's has KIM KARDASHIAN been with... that girl a straight hoe

    • 490717

      Aint that the truth, and if you fall in love with a hoe dont that make you a trick? And who knows what he means when you do it twice.

  • Anonymous

    hate it or love it kanye west likes dick lol and mother fuckers dont never say shit about z-ro now that man has shit the rap game is not ready for i give west his props but fuck him that nigga is gay and fake he turned his back on damne dash when he was the one singed him jay z did not even want to sign his bitch ass

  • j

    To bad he's a douche nozzle

  • Anonymous

    People only say Kanye is a genius because he's one of the marginally talented artists they let into the mainstream. I can name 50 producers and at least 100 rappers better then him without even trying, but I wont cause its a waste of time

  • Bianca

    I think the crux of the issue for me as a fan is that there is such a steep and profound disparity between the man as an artist and the just the man. I don't know him and perhaps its unfair of me to look at his social/personal life and judge...but really...Kim Kardashian? the man is arguably a genius. Its just so strange to see him with less than an equal. To me it makes me question the quality of his character. Shes is a beautiful woman no doubt. But is that really important?

    • Anonymous

      Kanye may be a genius talent wise but as a man he's an overgrown 5 year old, he throws temper tantrums and whines about everything, him & Kim were made for each other

  • Swordz

    Solid fucking article! I was about to give up on this site - we need more intelligent analysis like this @ DX. Keep it up!

  • coldfire

    Kanye is talented. But this industry still sux on indie talent. Repeal the radio act! to give indie artist a shine. All these are manufactured promotions... We hear about the same folks everyday, coz the top ten in the nation is dictated by some corporate honcho. Who dish out songs you hate at first, but sing everyword to weeks later coz its constantly on.

  • Derrick

    This site is very crap..Who cares about his fucking news.. I guess u guys dont have anything reasonable for us to read...

    • Anonymous

      you could make that same dumbass argument for any artists. what kind of dimwit looks for new music on cnn. get a fucking grip

    • rn506

      Agreed.. who cares about publicity stunts.. Hip Hop is quickly becoming a JOKE. They say he "dominated" the news cycle... what one? The Hip Hop website one? No one cares.. CNN is the news cycle, not Hip Hop DX.. you guys just copy and paste things!!!

  • Anonymous

    Where's MBDTF???...Sold 1.2 million in 2010... From 07-11 dude has over 5.4 million album sales...special stuff This lead me to look at some overall production numbers. Over that same time span, here is a list of artists' overall sales production who sold over a million records with all album sales combined combined... Wayne-6.4 million Eminem-5.8 million Kanye-5.4 million JayZ-3.9 million Drake-2.9 million TI-2 million Rick Ross-1.7 million 50cent-1.5 million Jeezy-1.5 million Game-1.2 million Ludcaris-1.1 million If I left anybody out feel free to add them, but it was interesting to take a look at overall sales numbers from this period. ...before Wayne stans comment about his numbers just know these show his recent success...In career totals-Eminem has 75 million, Jay has 50 million, 50 Cent has 20 million, Wayne has 13 million sold overall, Kanye 12.3 million, Game 10 million... I think this shows how important outside business ventures, and/or PR related endeavors help add to artists' ability to maximize their success

    • ETK

      Those numbers are off man, T.I. should be harboring 3 million at least, Paper Trail went 2x plat

    • Swordz

      To add on, no idea where or from what year your stats are from, but some of those artists are in 360 deals; touring and merchandise deals which are undisclosed. These are guesses as best. Some own 20% of their touring (Lil Wayne) but others own none of their masters (Game, 50). Some get nothing of distribution (50, EM). My point is - Jay is the only one on your list that a) owns all his masters, (except Reasonable Doubt - see angry Dame) b) owns 50% of all his touring, merchandise & record label deals (50% Gross profit - distribution, placements, sponsorship through RocNation) c) Owns 100% of all his artists & former artists masters through publishing companies (Rocafella & StarRoc) That's why he Obama's number one rapper. Jay is an Owner. "I show you how to do this son"

    • rn506

      I know artists who haven't sold one record who are doper than Wayne... f**k sales.

    • Anonymous

      Eminem's career total is within 85-90m

  • Anonymous

    Kanye is definitely not in the top 5 lyricist in the game but he has a perfect understanding of how the industry works. Music is somehow just like the computer industry, you always have to update your hard and software. Word to those longing for 'the college dropout' kanye, if Jobs had buried his head in the first computer he made and not thought of pushing the envelop would apple be the powerhouse it is today? Think innovation and next to that word is kanye.

    • Anonymous

      Who's copying Yeezy's flow ??? Don't be stupid. Every underground rapper i know is better than Yeezy !!!

    • the_observer

      he aint the best up there wit Nas & Scarface, but he def improving - listen to College Dropout nd his latest music - he's like a scholar constantly improving his grades - dont write him off lyrically as soon he'll be ale to write songs like ;fried chicken', 'niggaz bleed' or 'heavy mental'

    • Jetter Jatter from 98' staten island Boooyyyyyoi....

      Kanye def top 10. Since came out he has set pace - everybody rapper copy his flows his cadence's his metaphor styles. The range of subject matter genres and topics X production genius. He def an artist - rapper is too small a box dude. Fuck it - he aint on no list.

    • Anonymous

      Co-sign. Kanye is definitely not in the top 20 lyricist, but he's mad innovative !!!!!

  • hiphopdx

    is he really that culturally relevant for this site to pretend as if they care about his life so they can get people to come to your site and see these sendgrid ads that you guys get money for, i guess so, ALL ABOUT THE DOUGH!

  • gsonii

    Kanye sucks as a rapper. If it were say 50, T.I., or someone else who has had several so-called beefs doing this type of stunt mess people would claim that they are only doing it for attention because they can't sell there music by just letting it speak for itself, but poor little bitchmade Kanye gets away with it because he is so pussy and harmless.

  • tre

    btw, you left out MBDTF when listing the repeat platinum-plus hip hop artists. It's actually kind of insane thinking about how long Kanye has stayed relevant.

  • tre

    Kanye West is important because he is one of the only artists pushing musical boundaries. And this fact matters more than any of his antics or personal life news. But Kanye is also a smart man. His controversies have kept his name relevant for years and and then the quality of his music always shuts down all his detractors. The release of Theraflu instantly created an insane amount of buzz about Kanye. And then Mercy drops and debuts on Billboard even though it hadn't been out for a full week.

  • Anonymous

    You forgot 'Dark Fantasy'

  • Cam

    AYYY!!! Put out the facts you said you got. Blast those that need to be blasted! I'm doing a paper on hip-hop (pop) as a spectacle and how the negative spectacle that is promoted by companies such as UMG are contributing to negative ideologies surrounding Blackness. Holla at me! The world needs real critical hip-hop heads to start educating those who uncritically consume our beautiful culture and exploit it for profit.

  • Lois Farrakhan Fan

    I still don't get it what Kanye find so attractive at this industry dirty whore cum dumpster Kim. Someone help him, Kanye is lost.

    • Kanye to the Yeezy

      I hear you :Louis. I aint comfortable about it either it's just ... fuck that black supremacy shit. I'm with you on the unity but spaceships?? ....and the paedophilia???? ....Anyway I need a big old dumb pagan booty. Plus, I got an album coming out soooo.... Write back in November... I'll be on to the next one :)

  • TylertheDestroyer

    I think he just fell in love with a porn star, turn the cameras on KIM a born star!

  • redrum

    Kanye tryng so hard to cover up the fact his gay KK is a tranny

  • room2roam

    hip hop fans are wack.. thats why the musics at its lowest point..cuz of the sensitive azz fans...

  • Anonymous

    Kanye is the best fuckin rapper of all time! LOL just playing. But i think this article makes it clear his albums never suck and thus he has the best discography of any rapper. I am a little dispaointed that hes slacking off with his songs these days(MERCY)

    • Anonymous

      It's not really HIS song as such, though, bare in mind. He has to accommodate for his fellow artists.

  • Anonymous

    thank you based god for kanye west

  • Yoeman Johnson

    Not sure I caught the point of this article here Omar. Are you trying to say people are still interested in Kanye West? Most people still are. What else is new???

  • jerrycur

    Its bittersweet seeing Niggas in Paris and Mercy top the charts becuase I used to love Kanye and felt like he was one of the last remaining great artists(many good ones faded away or were forced to put out commercial stuff that ruined them). Kanye is big enough that he can put out whatever he wants and the lables wont interfere...On that note it is dissapointing to see him put out songs like Mercy and Niggas in Paris. I love seeing him succeed, but I feel like he can do so much better....he HAS done so much better as we all know. Songs like Niggas in Paris and Mercy are hot right now but lets face it...theyre not classic songs..I just know that hes still capable of making classics and hes one of the only guys with teh power to put it out. Cant tell me nothing, Jesus Walks, Gone, Diamonds from Sierra Leone...etc. Those are classic songs that are timeless, truly timeless. I know that if he put out a song today that sounded like any of those it would still tear up the charts and we all know those songs are better overall songs than his newer shit.

    • tre

      Not sure you should necessarily judge him based on Mercy and NIP. Mercy is for a compilation album and NIP was for a joint album. Don't forgot Power was the first single he released for his last solo album. And it was quite good and comparable in quality to his past singles. So I'm kinda waiting to see what his next solo single will be...

    • jerrycur

      You are correct it is a matter of preference. I just think that any real rap fan can tell the difference between a quick hit and a classic. The overall quality of rap has gone way down, and this young jeezy/kid cudi/rick ross era is clearly not as good as the jay-z/biggie/dre/nas era...I just don teven think people are exposed to what a complete real rap song is. Like if diamonds from sierra leone came out today and were to be played on the radio next to some of the recent hip hop hits I think people could tell which one is better. I would hope at least....I just wish Kanye continued to make classics. I just know that the radio would still push them and I have hopes that younger people would have a better idea of what good rap is.

    • Hip Hopper

      Yeah I understand yor point. When I first heard niggas in paris it didn't sound like a typical kayne cut. I didn't think that it would be as big a hit as it became neither. Otis was more kanye style because kanye is known for using dope soul samples on his tracks. Niggas in paris and ham had that hard bass hood sound to it not something kanye did in the past. When a producer mixes soul samples on the track it can sound really good. Example BIG Krit production style can make a mixtape sound like album. It also really depends on the style of music you listen to. Hood niggas like that hard bass and hittin snares. Hip Hoppers like complex lyrics over dope beats. Some people just want to dance. Others just listen to what's ever on the radio.

  • New001

    kanye is fuckin the only girl i've ever truly loved in this world

  • Anonymous

    jeezy is going to look like joe jackson when he's older

  • insanemacbeth

    KANYE should just breed K.K., and done!

  • M.I.C


  • Anonymous

    Recovery -4.5m Relapse - 2.2m.