Rappers 50 Cent, West Battle for Sales

Music labels are hoping for better sales this year. Two highly anticipated albums have arrived, stoking a much-hyped rivalry between performers 50 Cent and Kanye West. It's a heavyweight battle for sales.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Now to another ailing wing of the entertainment industry. 2007 has been a particularly bad year for record sales, especially hip-hop. Music labels are hoping for change this week. Two highly anticipated hip-hop albums dropped on the same day - September 11th. Forget the national significance of the date, for hip-hop producers, it was the date for a championship sales match. Imagine this.

(Soundbite of bell ringing)

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

In this corner, weighing in with two previous multi-platinum albums, wearing a Louis Vuitton backpack and designer shades, Kanye West.

(Soundbite of song, "Stronger")

Mr. KANYE WEST (Rapper): (Rapping) Now that that don't kill me can can only make me stronger. I need you to hurry up now 'cause I can't wait much longer.

INSKEEP: And in the other corner, weighing in with more than 12 million in U.S. sales, wearing a little more than a suggestive grin and well-oiled muscles, 50 Cent.

(Soundbite of song, "Straight to the Bank")

50 CENT (Rapper): (Rapping) I see nothin' but hundred dollar bills in the bank roll. I got the kind of money that the bank can't hold. Got it off the street moving bundles and loads.

MONTAGNE: Anyway, that's how they'd like you to see things. Last month, 50 Cent said he'd quit rapping if Kanye West's album, "Graduation," outsold his album "Curtis" in its first week. Both artists appeared together on the cover of Rolling Stones. So who's winning?

INSKEEP: Well, both the labels behind the albums are owned by the same company, Universal, so this is largely a publicity stunt. And even if the competition increases sales, neither Mr. West nor Mr. Cent figures to sell as many...

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: That's what it says here, mister...

MONTAGNE: Mr. Cent.

INSKEEP: Figures to sell as many of their new records as they did last time around. Renee?

MONTAGNE: In any case, 50 Cent has backed off his threat to retire if he doesn't win the competition, which may be wise, since after the first day Nielsen SoundScan reported that 50 Cent was being outsold by Kanye West.

(Soundbite of song, "Champion")

Mr. WEST: Did you realize that you are a champion? Yeah, right. You don't see just how wild the crowd is? Yeah, right. You don't see just how fly my style is? Yeah, right.

MONTAGNE: And this is Mr. Edition. I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: I'm Steve Inskeep.

Mr. WEST: I don't know, I just wanted better for my kids. Yeah, right. And I ain't sayin' we was from the projects. Yeah, right. But every time I want it, layaway or a deposit. Yeah, right. My dad'll say, when you see clothes close your eyelids. Yeah, right. We was sort of like Will Smith and his son in the movie. Yeah, right. I ain't talking about the rich ones.

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