Lil Wayne tops the 1 million mark with first-week sales of ‘Tha Carter III’

June 19, 2008 at 9:57 am | Posted in 50 Cent, kanye west, lil wayne | Leave a comment
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Like a superhero arriving in the nick of time, rapper Lil Wayne has swooped in to stem the tide, however briefly, of both the record business’ general slump and the steeper slide that rap music has suffered in recent years.

The New Orleans rhymer’s “Tha Carter III” has become the first album to top the 1 million sales mark during its first week in stores since 50 Cent’s “The Massacre” more than three years ago. It also is the first rap album to top the national sales chart since Jay-Z’s “American Gangster” held that spot in November.

“I’m sure there are people who thought we wouldn’t see a 1 million copy week again,” Geoff Mayfield, Billboard’s charts director, said Wednesday. “This doesn’t mean there isn’t trouble in the music business, but it does mean if you have the right record at the right time, it’s still possible.”

The fact that Lil Wayne, who is less a household name outside hip-hop circles than Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem or 50 Cent, managed to hit that threshold speaks to the groundswell of popularity he has generated through a string of singles and mix-tapes released over the Internet in the last year.

His single “Lollipop,” which he sang Monday at his release-week concert at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, is one of the year’s biggest hits. In recent weeks it has ridden high on both Billboard’s Hot 100, which measures radio airplay, physical and digital sales, and the magazine’s Hot Digital Tracks chart, indicating its popularity as a download.

“There had been a lot of anticipation building for the album,” Mayfield said. “It shipped 1.3 million copies, which is a number like the old days.”

It’s a dramatic step up for Lil Wayne, whose previous album, “Tha Carter II,” sold 238,000 copies during its first week in stores in 2005, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and peaked at No. 2 on the chart. The closest anyone has come to the 1 million sales week since 50 Cent was West, whose “Graduation” album logged a first-week figure of 957,000 last September.

Kanye West And Selita Ebanks ‘Just Friends’

June 4, 2008 at 12:37 pm | Posted in kanye west, Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon, Selita Ebanks | Leave a comment
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Lingerie model Selita Ebanks is not dating rapper Kanye West – they’re just good friends, according to a close pal of the beauty.

The Stronger hitmaker sparked rumours of a romance with Victoria’s Secret model Ebanks when they were spotted leaving New York club Tenjune together on Saturday (31May08).

Ebanks also made an appearance at an afterparty following the rapper’s performance at Madison Square Gardens in the Big Apple last month (May08).

But a source close to Ebanks insists their relationship is purely platonic.

The insider tells People.com, “They are just friends.

“They were with a large group that included Serena Williams and Selita’s dad.”

West split from his fiancee Alexis Phifer in April this year (08). Ebanks broke off her engagement to rapper/actor Nick Cannon last year (07). Cannon is now married to R+B superstar Mariah Carey.

The Story Behind Kanye’s “Flashing Lights”

May 28, 2008 at 8:45 am | Posted in kanye west | Leave a comment
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In an up-coming interview with HHNLive.com, “Flashing Lights” producer Eric Hudson tells the story behind Kanye’s monster hit and who the beat was originally intended for. Eric Hudson on how the collaboration went down:

“I was in one studio and he was in another one [close by], and we had an initial respect for each and a good relationship from some of the other joints that I had produced. I heard he was in the other studio so I just went by to say what’s up. You hear Kanye’s in the studio and you’re going to go say something! So we was in the room and he was like, “yo, you got a joint? My album’s closed, but if you can give me that one banger I’ll put it on there if it’s crazy.” So I start wonder, do I got CDs on me? And by the grace of God I had that beat man. He came into the other room and I played it for him. He listened to the beat for about ten seconds man…the beat didn’t even drop totally. He took it, put it in Pro Tools and did the song right then and there…He wrote it right there. He freestyled it and then next I’m hearing he went and put the “flashin’…lights, lights,” he put that on there…”

Eric Hudson on who the “Flashing Lights” beat was originally intended for:

“Yo, I had originally did that beat for Beanie Sigel. To me it could have been an R&B joint or a rap joint, but I had intended for it to be a rap joint.”

At local stops, hip-hop just flops

May 27, 2008 at 3:34 pm | Posted in Alicia Keys, beyonce, jay z, kanye west, Mary J. Blige | 2 Comments
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Kanye West was snubbed here twice. Beyonce played to more empty seats than occupied ones. And now Alicia Keys has joined the Cold Shoulder Club.

It’s sad but true: Tampa Bay is a brutal market for major R&B and hip-hop concerts. West, Beyonce and Keys are multiplatinum superstars that have fans of all ages, genders and races. I want them to come back. But do you?

On Saturday, the 27-year-old Keys — who’s had four consecutive No. 1 albums — played to 7,201 people in the St. Pete Times Forum, a Tampa venue that can seat about three times as many. The show was a dazzler, but it would have been better with a full house cheering her on. Tickets started at $39.50, a relatively good deal these days.

You could blame the recession, the price of gas, the price of life. But other major tours are doing great in the Tampa Bay area (Radiohead, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen). Plus this is a trend that tracks well before 2008.

In July, Beyonce played to a smattering of fans in the Times Forum, probably no more than 4,000. Final figures were never released, no surprise there. Minutes before the show — in a move I’ve never seen before — people in the upper levels were invited down to grab a seat in the lower level. Even more amazing? There weren’t enough people in the pricier seats to complain.

The last two times rapper West set up shop in Tampa Bay, a widespread case of couldn’t-care-less broke out. In October 2005, as he was selling out consecutive nights in Madison Square Garden, West drew a measly 3,572 in the USF Sun Dome, which has a capacity of about 10,000.

A few weeks ago, West came to Ford Amphitheatre with a hit-making supporting cast of Rihanna, Lupe Fiasco and N.E.R.D. They drew just 9,200, or about half of the venue’s capacity.

The very next night, at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, which holds 19,600, Kanye & Co. performed for a sold-out crowd, according to the Miami Herald.

Granted, we’re not Miami, and we’re definitely not New York. But something’s going on here.

DJ Trauma, an on-air personality at Wild 98.7, one of the few local stations that play West and Keys, says there are two major reasons why R&B and hip-hop shows are tanking. First of all, “They don’t have the proper promotions behind them,” he says. “They don’t know how to get the word out to the right people.” Much has been made of Tampa Bay’s dearth of urban radio choices, which could also be part of the problem.

But DJ Trauma also points to the success of Wild’s two annual hip-hop festivals: Wild Splash and the Last Damn Show, multiact events that cost about $20 and routinely draw huge crowds.

But “all these people around here don’t have $40 to spend on a concert,” he says. “There’s a lot of money in Miami and Dallas. This is different here.”

A few R&B and hip-hop acts do well here: Mariah Carey drew 16,493 fans to her 2006 Times Forum show. Gwen Stefani, whose biggest hits are hip-hop collaborations, drew 16,500 at the amphitheater last year. Not as good, but not awful, were crowds for a double-bill of Eminem and 50 Cent (13,593, Times Forum, 2005), and R&B belter Christina Aguilera (11,538, Times Forum, 2007).

Overall, Tampa Bay is considered a good, if unreliable, concert market. Country acts always fill the seats. Veteran performers (a la Neil Diamond, coming Oct. 24) are slam-dunks. And ’80s acts (such as Cheap Trick, Heart and Journey, a triple-bill coming July 30) are money in the bank, too. Those sales numbers are reflected in the local abundance of country and classic-rock radio stations.

But hip-hop shows? Not so much. And that’s too bad, especially since West, Keys and many more have made hip-hop the most creatively daring genre in popular music.

According to Billboard magazine, one of 2008’s hottest tours is the tandem of rapper Jay-Z and “queen of hip-hop soul” Mary J. Blige. Tickets start in the $30s, and nightly grosses in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Oakland have topped $1-million. There are no plans for Jay and Mary to come to Tampa. With our attendance records, why would they?

Common Exerts ‘Control’ On New Single

May 24, 2008 at 9:04 am | Posted in common, kanye west | Leave a comment
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Rapper Common has chosen “Universal Mind Control (U.M.C.)” as the first single from his upcoming album, “Invincible Summer,” due in mid-July via Geffen. The track was produced by the Neptune and features that outfit’s Pharrell Williams on the chorus.

“Universal Mind Control (U.M.C.)” is a high-energy track reminiscent of Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force’s “Planet Rock.” “I created this music for the summertime. It’s about feeling good,” Common told Billboard.com last month. “This is the type of music I felt was missing from my body of work.”

The Neptunes and Outkast producer Mr. DJ produced the bulk of “Invincible Summer.” Kanye West, who helmed the production on Common’s last album, 2007’s “Finding Forever,” did not contribute any tracks this time around.

“Finding Forever” has sold 551,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Kanye, Common, Method Man Sued Over Jazz Sample

May 24, 2008 at 8:59 am | Posted in common, kanye west, method man | Leave a comment
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Rappers Kanye West, Method Man, Redman, Common and their record companies were sued yesterday (May 22) by late U.S. jazz musician Joe Farrell’s daughter, who accused them of using her father’s music without approval.

The lawsuit, filed by Kathleen Firrantello in the U.S. District Court in New York, names the rappers along with various labels owned by Universal Music Group.

None of the record companies or representatives for the rappers were immediately available for comment.

The lawsuit said all the rappers used portions of Farrell’s 1974 musical composition “Upon This Rock” in three separate songs — West in “Gone,” Common in “Chi-City” and Method Man and Redman in their song “Run 4 Cover.”

Firrantello is seeking punitive damages of at least $1 million and asked that no further copies of the songs be made, sold or performed, according to the lawsuit.

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