Article written 8/30/11 by Adam R. Daniels, iamyourtargetdemographic.wordpress.com
This is a heated debate and I’m hardly the first to ask the question. I’ve had this idea for about a year but it’s taken me time to do my research. Last August, Kanye and Eminem premiered videos on the same day and prompted the question, “Which is better?” I’ll cover those two videos later.
Marshall Mathers III / Eminem. When he appeared on the scene with his first album The Slim Shady LP, he immediately gained notice. His first three albums (including The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show) all won the Grammy for Best Rap Album, making him the first artist to win that award for three consecutive albums. He’s been the center of many controversies and many fueds with other big names in the business. After some time in rehab for dependency on sleep medication, he came back to the scene with two more commercially successful albums.
Kanye West. Starting as a producer and working his way into performing, Kanye first broke onto the mainstream scene with his hit “Gold Digger,” featuring Jamie Foxx. Kanye’s five solo albums have since all gone platinum and he has a total of 14 Grammys (compared to Eminem’s 13 Grammys). Kanye has been the center of controversies as well, including the Taylor Swift incident, George Bush “hating black people,” and how he would be a character if the Bible included events from today.
Let’s start with something quantifiable. Who has sold the most albums?
Eminem: 36 million albums sold in the United States (approximately 66 million albums sold worldwide). Plus another 16 million or so (in the US) for the Lose Yourself soundtrack and his greatest hits album, “Curtain Call.”
Kanye: 10 million albums sold in the United States (no data for worldwide).
Top Chart Positions
Looking at individual singles that were released, which artist has had more #1 songs on the charts?
Eminem: Four #1 chart songs (Lose Yourself, Crack a Bottle, Not Afraid, Love the Way You Lie). Seven additional songs in the top 10.
Kanye: Two #1 chart songs (Gold Digger, Stronger). Four additional songs in the top 10.
Music Video Views
Sometimes a video can be more expressive than the song by itself, so let’s look at the view count on YouTube. For songs prior to Vevo, they should have essentially started at the same time when Vevo launched, meaning it should be a fair indicator.
Eminem: Highest view-count: Love the Way You Lie at 375 million views. Other notables include Not Afraid at 269 million, No Love at 71 million, Beautiful at 100 million, When I’m Gone at 84 million, and Like Toy Soldiers at 60 million. Interestingly enough, there is even a lyrics video for Love the Way You Lie with 55 million views.
Kanye: Highest view count: Stronger at 57 million views. Other notables include Heartless at 55 million, Gold Digger at 55 million, and All of the Lights at 51 million.
View count for Love the Way You Lie: 375 million.
View count for Power: 24 million… womp womp. Almost 1/15th of the way there.
Who won the most awards and recognition from international sources?
Eminem: 203 wins, including 17 Billboard, 13 Grammys, 7 People’s Choice, and even 1 Academy Award for “Lose Yourself.”
Kanye: 47 wins, including 7 BET awards, 14 Grammys, and 1 Teen Choice award.
“Kanye is a better producer!” is seen all across the web. But is he? Let’s look at some of their production highlights.
Eminem: Credits include Jay-Z’s Black Album and The Blueprint, as well as LPs by Nas, Xzibit, 50 Cent, DMX, Redman, The Game, Akon, T.I., and recently B.o.B.
Kanye: Credits include Jay-Z’s Black Album, The Blueprint 1/2/3, and Kingdom Come. Other credits include LPs by Beyonce, Talib Kweli, Ludacris, Alicia Keys, Mos Def, John Legend, Common, Chris Brown, Kid Cudi, and Drake. Okay, it looks like Kanye has a pretty solid producing history. I guess he can have at least one small victory.
It’s Because of Daft Punk
Stronger has been Kanye’s brightest star, both in terms of video views, single sales, and chart position. I’m going to make a claim that I doubt can be contended: Without sampling Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” this song would be commercially unviable. That hook is the only thing holding that song afloat. Kanye’s flow in that song isn’t anything to brag about and the lyrics are weak. “I know I got to be right now / cuz I can’t get much wronger / I’ve been waiting all night / that’s how long I’ve been on ya.” Okay, there are a lot of things wrong with that. “I can’t get much wronger”? Excuse me? “I know I got to be right now”? I have no idea what he’s even saying.
I would also make another claim that Gold Digger is also only popular because of the hook borrowed from Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman.”
There are of course intangibles. How can you score lyricism? I could reference lines that I think are clever or ridiculous (Kanye…) but you can’t quantify that. You also can’t put a number on how a man flows. But in my humble opinion, Eminem has clearly won this battle. In terms of commercial and critical success, fan base, video views… he has dominated every category as a performer. Kanye has some outstanding albums on his resume in terms of producing, but his songs have been met with marginal reception compared to that of Eminem.