Every once and while there are some watershed moments that show us a picture of what's going on in our culture. The last one we had was when 50 Cent & Kanye West clashed. It wasn't a clash on a song or at the club, but this battle happened at the retailer spots where their music was available. That sales battle was a battle not necessarily of skill, talent or even marketing as much as it was a battle over the prevailing ideas of American culture. 50's music was aggressive, harsh and overtly misogynistic. Meanwhile Ye's music was part introspective, part celebratory and very much escapism from the gritty harshness 50 Cent pushed. Especially considering America (and really the world) was in the midst of the biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression and in the wake of the whole Don Imus "nappy headed hoes" scandal was America in the mood to deal with 50 Cent's music?
Apparently not. And with the "promise" of a retirement from music if 50 Cent lost, people responded by purchasing more than 380,000 MORE copies of ‘Graduation’ than ‘Curtis’ in the first week alone. People didn't change when the albums dropped, the change was only reflected the week of September 11, 2007. After that, artists like Drake, Kid Cudi, Kids in the Hall, The Cool Kids and more came to the forefront with music that was much less aggressive than the music that artists like 50 Cent and the rest of G-Unit were creating. The old guard fell behind and was largely discarded for a less "street" sound.
We may be on the cusp of another watershed moment this coming September. Two artists living in Atlanta and largely the front runners of two different ideologies are releasing a new album on the same day. Christian rap artist Lecrae & trap rap star T.I. are releasing albums on the same day. Like it was in '07, this battle isn't about the artists rather about what they represent and where the culture stands with these ideologies. Western culture is currently deep in a public discussion about faith and its playing out in every other facet of pop culture. Sports figures are being adored not for their skills but rather for their faith. Tim Tebow (NFL), Tim Thomas (NHL) & Jeremy Lin (NBA) are just a small few the culture loves - or hates - because of their representation of their faith. Lecrae is the brightest shining "star" (he'd hate that term) in rap representing his faith in Jesus. He is also one of the biggest names in independent music. T.I. is the big named major artist representing many of the things that are the polar opposite of what 'Crae talks about.
Is the public ready to fully support faith in public square? Or maybe in this era of big companies getting away with abusing the system for their own gain while the rest of the public struggles or are we ready to support an indie artist more than the flashy, rich "1%" lifestyle T.I. represents? I know you're thinking "Lecrae has NEVER sold as much as T.I.! How is this a discussion?" But history shows us that Kanye West had never even come close to 50 Cent's numbers prior to their 2007 face-off.
September 4, 2012 could see a changing in the guard. We could get a picture of where the culture is headed when it comes to issue of faith. We could see where the public stands with regard to the underdog indie artist. This could be a watershed moment. It could be something much bigger than just ‘Gravity’ or ‘Trouble Man.’ It could be a picture of ourselves. And this picture can't be captured on Instagram, instead it could be captured on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Target & wherever you buy music. 9/4/12 - could be picture day, say cheese :)
Leave a comment on what you think below.
UPDATE 7/20: A few hours after this article posted, T.I.'s release date was apparently changed to September 19th. Not that this article is correlated to that change in any way. This does however mean that Lecrae will likely have no releases challenging the chances of his album hitting #1.