You may have seen these particular numbers floating around your Twitter timelines today, most likely accompanied by a witty comment or snarky meme directed at Troy Ave. The New York rapper's debut album, Major Without A Deal, was released last Friday, and despite a number of high-profile guest features and years of building hype through mixtape releases, XXL covers, Summer Jam appearances and the like, the album sold only 30 physical copies and less than 4,500 units in total, according to SoundScan (via Complex).
At first glance, you might think the album has been a total flop, that's certainly been Twitter's take. I mean, this is an album with A$AP Ferg, Cam'ron, Diddy, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Jeezy, Ma$e, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg, T.I. and Ty Dolla $ign. Those are big names, and the ones that aren't as big today (Cam, Joe, Ma$e) at least harken back to an earlier age in NY hip-hop - aka Troy's sweet spot. This is a man who has been referred to as the next King of New York, whether he ever actually said that or not.
Then again, Troy Ave is an up-and-coming independent rapper and this is the year 2015. What's the last physical album you bought? What's the last album you bought at all? 30 physical copies may sound low, but since the majority of people I know don't even own a CD player, it seems like more of a nonfactor. Surf did not sell a single physical copy, does that make it a failure? These sales figures don't account for streaming, and for all the talk of downloading and purchasing being a thing of the past, why aren't people mentioning the fact that the album is also on Spotify? Oh, and he has no major label backing his efforts. I won't even get into the fact that his Friday release meant a shorter week with which to work and that the physical albums didn't truly hit stores until this last Tuesday, as Billboard pointed out.
So why all the hate? Dom Kennedy's album sold about 9,000 units in the same time span (via HipHopDX). That may be double Troy's numbers, but still in the same ballpark, and I don't see any jokes aimed Dom's way. Well, Troy Ave is a controversial figure. The media, particularly NY outlets, has been building his hype for years, proclaiming him as the embodiment of the "New York sound" and the next big star. He himself has been brash and outspoken when it comes to giving himself props. This is the man that told Vibe in an interview:
I know that New York City: The Album is classic, and I’m charting on Billboard and I’m independent. It’s album of the year, and that’s not just my opinion, that’s everybody’s opinion
Beyond that, he's been critical of other, more beloved artists, such as Kendrick and Chance. The world today, as much as the news doesn't like to admit, is moving past outdated stigmas. The youth are more enlightened when it comes to acceptance, and knocking others for being weird and continuing to put on an arrogant, "too cool" attitude isn't gaining you new fans in the days where emotional, boundary-pushing artists like Kanye and Drake reign supreme. Troy managed to construct a perfect storm of undeserving boasting and closemindedness, that when coupled with media hype and strikingly low sales figures, opened the doors for slander. Simply put, a lot of people are sick of hearing that they are lame for not fucking with Troy's music, and this was the perfect time to strike.
Twitter may have briefly led me to the false premise that Troy's career ended this afternoon, but at the end of the day the man is making a living doing what he loves, and has no major label to answer to. He knows it's him against the world. This is not a failure by any means, but rather a disappointment. It's further validation that album sales are dying, that the Internet is full of haters who find enjoyment in laughing at the expense of others and that while Troy Ave's fan base isn't seemingly as large as he and some corners of the media may believe, he's still a self-made rapper more successful than 90% of those ridiculing him. But hey, at least the memes are funny.
[By Brendan Varan. He's not the next King of New York, but he does live there. Follow him on Twitter.]