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J. Cole’s Puts “Born Sinner” vs. Kanye West’s “Yeezus”: Stupid, or Stupid Like a Fox?

Posted by Nathan S. on 05/20/13 | Filed under Top Stories, Opinion, J. Cole, Sales
Today J. Cole declared that he was moving the release of his "Born Sinner" album up a week, from June 25 to June 18, which would put Young Simba's sophomore album in direct competition with Kanye's "Yeezus". In other words, Cole (and/or his people/the label) watched Ye's performance on "SNL", realized "oh shit, Kanye's serious about this June 18 release date," and decided to go at his royal Yeezyness directly.

"Kanye West is one of the greatest artists of our generation, which is exactly why I'm moving up my release date. Born Sinner June 18."

I won't lie, my initial reaction was Ron Burgundy jumping into a bear pit. Why...the...fuckity...fuck...would you actively move up a release date to go against one of the best-selling artists of the last decade?

Whether it's a movie or an album, you don't actively choose to open the same week as a guaranteed blockbuster. You just don't. Especially in 2013, people are only going to see one movie a weekend; don't make them choose between your movie and "Ironman 3", they won't choose yours. Sure, there are some die hard movie buffs who will see both movies, but the average person - and it's average people who ultimately determine sales - is going to pick one.

Similarly, hip-hop heads and Cole supporters might buy both Cole and Kanye's album, but the average person? The person who maybe only buys an album a week, if that? They're buying "Yeezus" and skipping "Born Sinner", that's the album everyone will be talking about, and they don't want to feel left out. Doesn't "Cole" remember what Ye did to 50 Cent? It was a massacre (pun intended), and Jermaine doesn't have a fraction of the marketing power Curtis did in 2007.


There are two ways to look at "Curtis". One, it sold nearly 500K less copies first week then 50's previous album "The Massacre", and Kanye's a big part of the reason why. All the people who might have bought "Curtis" any other week decided to go with "Graduation" instead, and Fiddy paid the price.

Or two, "Curtis" would have sold even less if it weren't all the publicity he drummed up with the retirement threat/competition with Kanye. Did the additional copies he sold from all the publicity and people actively buying the album to support him in the competition outweigh the amount he lost from people who chose Kanye's album instead?

Unfortunately, it's impossible to prove a negative. 50's next album, "Before I Self Destruct", only did 160K first week, so 50's sales were clearly falling regardless; the only question is whether going head to head with Kanye slowed or accelerated that fall. Conventional industry wisdom says it was ultimately a mistake for 50, an example of ego trumping good business decisions, but conventional music industry wisdom isn't always right is wrong a-fucking-lot.

Cole isn't stupid, and neither is Roc Nation, they clearly think the "added publicity will outweigh lost sales" is a gamble worth taking. If I had to put money down on it (god I wish Vegas would let me bet on this like this), I'd bet this will prove to be a mistake, but only time will tell. No matter how it turns out for Cole, it's already a win for people who like to analyze the music industry like it's fantasy baseball, and I know I'm not the only one in RefinedHype Nation who will be watching this closely.

June 18, mark your calendars. It's going down. Until then....

UPDATE: Follow up quote from Cole, it's a direct challenge:

"I'm not going to sit [here]... I worked too hard to come a week later after Kanye West drops an amazing album. It'd be like, 'Oh and J.Cole dropped too, a week later.' Nah. I'm going to go see him on that date. He's the greatest. So it's like, I'm a competitor by nature so it was instant, it wasn't even a thought."

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See Also:  J. Cole’s Born Sinner Series Gets Personal With Kendrick Lamar (Video)
See Also:  General Awesomeness: Kay Cole, J. Cole’s Mom, Speaks On The Day She Retired (Video)

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