The hype is palpable.
It all started when Kanye West tweeted “June Eighteen.” The rumor mill went into overdrive as people speculated that the date represented Kanye’s new album release date. Sure enough, the night before the speculation was going to be put to rest with his appearance on Saturday Night Live, Kanye again tweeted about the debut of a new song on projections in 66 cities worldwide within a few hours. Sure enough, “New Slaves” became one of the biggest public spectacles and ingenious marketing schemes in recent memory.
Such things are expected from one Kanye Omari West. The official artwork for his Yeezus album finally surfaced today (and it’s quite minimalist). However, Kanye’s not the only artist who will be releasing a new album on June 18. Pittsburgh native Mac Miller, whose debut album Blue Slide Park sold north of 150,000 copies independently in 2011, claiming the top spot on Billboard 200, is also going to retail on that day with his sophomore album Watching Movies With The Sound Off. Even Donald Trump has chimed in about Miller’s upcoming release, and clothing brand Neff is even piggybacking off the release with a Mac Miller collection of shirts, hoodies and watches.
As if Mac Miller and Kanye West releasing on the same day weren’t enough, Roc Nation’s J. Cole has decided to join the fray and drop his Born Sinner to compete head-to-head with Kanye and Miller. Cole’s decision is in part related to the Kanye West and 50 Cent’s head-to-head at retail a few years ago that produced a very memorable Rolling Stone cover. J. Cole believes competing with Kanye is the best way to go, and while that may seem absurd at first, it’s also admirable.
And that’s not all. A great producer and compilation-maker Statik Selektah is also dropping an album on June 18. A brilliant media clip was released today in which Statik visits Duck Down Records office to raise his concerns about releasing Extended Play on the same day as Kanye’s Yeezus and Cole’s Born Sinner. In terms of viral marketing, this is also ingenious.
While first-week sales – and commercial success in general – are not necessarily reflective of a great album, hip-hop media outlets and fans increasingly pay attention to first week sales as a barometer of success. It appears the week of June 18 is going to be one of the most competitive release dates in recent memory. Epic even. Safe money is on Kanye West’s Yeezus, but it will be interesting to see what kind of numbers J. Cole, Mac Miller and Statik Selektah do. Either it will be a bonanza for all of the artists, or some valuable lessons will be learned.