Hear that? It's the sound of beef sizzling on the grill.
“60K first week for the Bada$$ / 200K to this day I know you n****s mad / With the 80-20 split my n**** do the math / My nigga Kirk just outsold Troy Ave”
For those of you who don't remember your rap internet history, that's a reference to when we were collectively ethering Troy Ave last year for going double-Happy Meal with his Major Without a Deal album. Things got so bad for Mr. Ave that even Billboard, who likes to stay above the fray, couldn't help but get in on the action:
"Despite a healthy amount of coverage, hype and guest stars, Major Without a Deal has moved approximately 9,000 copies in three tracking periods. For comparison, Joey Bada$$ -- whom Ave recently went after on Twitter, blasting him as "fake independent" -- moved 54,00 copies of B4.DA.$$ in its first week. Who's fake indie vs. real indie might be a subjective question, but one thing is objectively true: This album is not selling. It moved 4,000 in that first abbreviated sales week, followed by 3,000 copies in its second frame. And finally, it sold less than 2,000 copies in its third week." - Billboard
Ouch. Rappers lie, numbers do not, and the numbers say that if the rap game was basketball, Joey Bada$$'s would be Kawhi Leonard and Troy Ave would be Brian Scalabrine*.
They say that hurt people hurt people, and so Troy Ave responded today with an all out assault, the aptly-titled "Bad Ass," that notably included some shots at Joey's late friend Capital STEEZ, who committed suicide in 2012. That feels like a crossed line, but we've also heard worse in diss track history. Let's not forget that on "Beef" Biggie referenced anally raping and killing children. Remember that time Cam'ron said that Aaliyah was "just another dead bitch" in his diss track to Dame Dash?
My point is rap's always crossed the line, but as a music business nerd, I was particularly interested in Ave's alleged break down of he and Joey's album sales revenue.
You sold 60K, it's funny, nobody cares / Miss Ninety Percent is taking 20, nobody cares / That's $480 worth of money, nobody cares / 50 percent go to Johnny, nobody cares / That's $240 worth of loot dawg, nobody cares / Tell Cinematic come in coupe dawg, nobody cares / $150 budget down to $90, ooh Lord, nobody cares / I made $114, that's more than you dawg, fuck outta here!
First, it feels a bit odd for Ave to brag about allegedly making $114 to Joey Badass' $90, $14 isn't exactly the type of thing you write a diss track about, but whatever. Second, for the record I have no idea who "Miss Ninety Percent" is (anyone?), but Johnny is Jonny Shipes, the founder of Joey's label, Cinematic Music Group. I have a hard time believing Shipes takes 50 percent, if so Joey signed a terrible deal, but that could be true. Who knows? In the end it almost doesn't matter, because if we're really going to play the "who has more money?" game than looking at album sales is like [staring at a tree hoping].
Instead, we need to look at music's real money makers in 2016, touring and merch. For his part, Joey routinely sells out his Pro Era merch, just got off a 30 city B4.DA.$$ U.S. tour followed immediately by another 30-city world tour that took him everywhere from Belgium to Japan, and has upcoming shows at Coachella and Governor's Ball.
By comparison, it's unclear how much of his merch Troy is moving, plus this NWA ski mask is like a trademark infringement lawsuit you can wear on your face. As for shows, his site doesn't even have a section for tours and shows (not a good sign), so I couldn't tell you. Some wider Googling reveals that he has an upcoming show at Jimmy's Nightclub in Calgary, which boasts a 600-person capacity. It's not exactly Coachella, but he probably gets a couple drink tickets, which is nice.
I clearly have a preference here, but to be clear, I have no actual side in this fight. My only allegiance is to the truth, and the truth is that if Troy really wants to play the "who makes more money from music game?" this beef is not going to go well for him, because nobody's going to care about Troy Ave playing his diss track to small nightclubs while Joey's performing "Ready" in front of 180,000 people at Coachella.
*Did you just have to Google who Brian Scalabrine is? Are you not quite sure if he's still playing? Exactly.