The early numbers are in for YG’s newly-released sophomore album and they’re rather disappointing. HDD is reporting that Still Brazy is projected to sell only 42k first week units (30k physical copies and approximately 12k stream equivalents), which would be nearly 20K fewer copies than the rapper moved his first week in 2014, when he released his major label debut, My Krazy Life.
Despite receiving almost unanimous critical acclaim, why would an artist with tons of buzz, guests appearances from Drake and Lil Wayne, and months of positive momentum be staring at such a low first week total (even by 2016 standards)?
It can likely be attributed to these four key reasons:
No monster single
YG’s lead single, “Twist My Fingaz,” was released last July, but it failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, and was largely forgotten when the calendar flipped to 2016. And despite landing Drake for the album’s third single, “Why You Always Hatin?,” the song has performed nowhere near as well as “Who Do You Love?,” the Drake-assisted platinum single from YG’s debut.
“Still Brazy” is a complete album... do people still like those?
Press play and let it ride. With Still Brazy, YG has done what few artists can or are willing to do in 2016; deliver a cohesive, full album experience that doesn’t rely on singles but rather tells a story and takes the listener on a journey. The problem with full, cohesive album experiences is that they require the listener’s undivided attention and with new music hitting the net every hour on the hour, it’s a challenging ask of hip-hop fans in 2016 to devote a large chunk of their listening time to one project. Of course, Kendrick Lamar created a cohesive listening experience on his GRAMMY-award winning “To Pimp A Butterfly” album, so we know there is a market for this approach when done well. Speaking of Kendrick Lamar…
Maybe there isn’t room for more than one hip-hop star from Compton?
As YG so proudly proclaims on “Twist My Fingaz,” he’s “the only one who made it out the west without Dre.” Kendrick Lamar, YG’s Compton neighbor, rose to fame with a co-sign and contract from Dr. Dre and in turn not only became one of music’s biggest international superstars, but also a hero in his hometown of Compton, even being gifted a key to the city earlier this year.
YG and Kendrick couldn’t be more different, though. YG is a throwback L.A. gangster rapper; out in the open with his gang affiliations, a victim of several shootings, an artist who paints the mainstream’s view of Compton on wax (i.e. violent). Kendrick on the other hand, while routinely touching on the gang life and violence in Compton, approaches his music from a solution-oriented point of view and is above board in that he personally avoided gang life while being raised in the same city. In turn, Kendrick’s more easily digestible (see: tastemaker friendly) Compton-influenced material catapulted him to the forefront of the city and cemented his status as King Kendrick of Compton.
Look at this way: Kendrick Lamar is giving you the view of Compton from the front stoop of the house while YG is having you ride shotgun on a musical drive by - the majority of mainstream listeners are just more comfortable with the view from the stoop.
The album’s promotion has been unimaginative
The promotional push for Still Brazy has been a pretty standard affair, one that didn’t capitalize on the incredible reviews the project received prior to and immediately following it’s release. Similar to how movie studios will jump on films that received massive critical praise (i.e. “The Room”) and incorporate that commentary into their marketing and advertising about the project, Def Jam should have immediately anchored on to the chatter about Still Brazy being hailed as one of the best gangster rap albums since the 90s, or at least capitalized on and embraced the attention YG received from the Secret Service due to controversial single “FDT,” like how Priority Records leveraged “Fuck the Police” to drive mainstream interest toward N.W.A.
Or maybe we can chalk it up to the album’s title change at the 25th hour or the broader listening public not knowing what “Brazy” means? Ultimately, only time will tell. As we've learned in 2016, low first week numbers aren't a death sentence for an album.
By @brokencool, native Torontonian
Photo Credit: Instagram