Not only is Eminem’s new album Kamikaze an important rebound record for one of hip-hop’s most venerable artists, it is also a landmark one for the year 2018 in general.
It was already a given that the Detroit rapper’s surprise release (and second new project in just over eight months) was a statement record in a year where he was roundly criticized for the last album, Revival. Although that album reached No. 1, it didn’t sell many units nor did it have any longevity. Its lackluster reception caused many to wonder aloud whether Eminem, who is 45, was moving into legacy artist status, with essentially no hit singles or viral videos from the project, and the only buzz-worthy moment being his vitriolic diatribe against the president – something you don’t have to be a clever rap lyricist to come up with good fodder for these days.
Fast forward to the new album, which was being watched by Eminem’s stans and his detractors alike – as well as many industry people – to see if one of the most successful rappers of the millennium could come back – as blasphemous as that might sound for an artist who’s never had an album peak lower than No. 2 on the chart.
Without any pre-release singles and with a surprise street date, Em was certainly taking a different marketing approach to Kamikaze. First, he took away any opportunity for the negative hype usually associated with advance singles, especially when those singles are viewed as flops.
Then, upon its release, the buzz around Kamikaze was boosted by the somewhat surprising rap beef Em reignited with 28-year-old rapper Machine Gun Kelly on the track “Not Alike,” where the elder rapper reached back six years to a 2012 tweet to find inspiration for his MGK diss.
Now the results are in, and the first-week numbers on Kamikaze were higher than anticipated at 434,000 units (252,000 of those traditional album sales), far surpassing Revival’s first-week numbers in December. Those numbers are enough to give Eminem his ninth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, which moves him into sole possession of second place behind Jay-Z (with 14) and one ahead of both Drake and Kanye West, both of whom got their eighth this year (as did Em with Revival in January).
But Kamikaze has also proven to be a statement record for a different reason. By hitting No. 1, it becomes the year’s twelfth hip-hop album to top the Billboard 200, making 2018 one of the two years with more No. 1 rap/hip-hop albums on the mainstream chart than any other.
Hip-hop’s last No. 1, Travis Scott’s Astroworld, topped the chart in August and placed this year in a two-way tie with 2015 as the years with the second most, at eleven each, behind 2017. (Note: 2015’s inclusion was asterisked by the fact that one of its eleven was the first soundtrack to the TV series Empire, which included mostly hip-hop tracks and is thus included.)
Now, with Kamikaze’s crowning, 2018 has a share of the lead with three and a half months still left in the year. Given the rate at which new hip-hop albums are topping the charts, there will likely be more to give 2018 the undisputed lead before we flip the calendar to ‘19.
The year 2018 was already shaping up to be hip-hop’s best year yet – commercially speaking. Midyear sales reports had hip-hop/R&B (of which hip-hop makes up the major part) garnering a 31 percent share of all music consumed through June 30. That’s even higher than 2017, when the genre first took over rock music as the nation’s most consumed music form in sales, downloads and streaming combined.
That success has naturally translated to unprecedented chart numbers. On the Billboard Hot 100, which tracks singles popularity, hip-hop has dominated the top spot for 32 consecutive weeks. No other genre – not rock, not soul, not disco, not country, not punk – has ever had a Hot 100 chart domination that long.
Rap or hip-hop also accounted for more than 55 percent of the songs that reached the top ten on the Hot 100 from January through June.
Also, just last month, the entire top eight albums were by hip-hop acts – also a first. The only other two albums in the top ten (at Nos. 9 and 10) that week were soundtracks (Mamma Mia II and The Greatest Showman).
So far, hip-hop accounts for eight of this year’s ten No. 1 singles and 12 out of 27 of the albums that have topped the charts.
Here’s a recap of the twelve albums by hip-hop artists that have topped this year’s Billboard 200 charts, in chronological order (with multiple weeks indicated in parentheses). Eminem, ironically, has the first and the latest:
- Revival – Eminem
- Culture II – Migos
- Black Panther: The Album (2 weeks)
- Bobby Tarantino – Logic
- ? (question mark) – XXXTentacion
- Invasion of Privacy – Cardi B
- KOD – J. Cole
- Beerbongs and Bentleys – Post Malone (3 weeks)
- ye – Kanye West
- Scorpion – Drake (5 weeks)
- Astroworld – Travis Scott (2 weeks)
- Kamikaze – Eminem