By The Numbers
On “Reminder” Jay famously observed, “Men lie, women lie, number’s don’t.” So it’s only right we hold Jay to his word and compare the measurable stats behind each album. Since TBP was his sixth album, recorded at the peak of his commercial clout, and RD came out when he was a relative newcomer, TBP had an undeniable advantage from the jump. But still, TBP was released in the midst of an event that was much deeper than rap.
RD had four singles, “Dead Presidents,” “Ain’t No Nigga,” “Can’t Knock The Hustle,” and “Feelin’ It.” None of the songs became Top 40 hits; the highest charting single was “Ain’t No” which peaked at No. 50. “Dead Presidents” didn’t chart at all, and the other two singles didn’t rise higher than No. 70.
Despite being critically acclaimed, the album debuted at No. 23 on the Billboard 200, making it the lowest charting debut for any of his studio albums. RD went gold in its first year which may be impressive by today’s standards, but was no big deal in 1996—especially with acts like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Biggie proving how commercially viable hip-hop could be. The album struggled to pass the 500,000 mark and it wasn’t certified platinum until 2002, after TBP had been released.
TBP, on the other hand, debuted at No. 1, selling 426,000 copies in its first seven days. Outdoing a lesser rapper’s entire album sales during your first week is no small feat, but it’s all the more impressive considering the fact that Jigga dropped the album on 9/11. On that horrific day, the minds of all Americans were filled with fear, panic, and disbelief. It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking to themselves, “Hey, let’s go buy a rap album!” And yet, nearly half a million people did. TBP went on to sell over 2.6 million copies.
On the singles side, Jay’s first two singles, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Girls, Girls, Girls,” were both Top 20 hits. Like “Dead Presidents,” “Song Cry” didn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100 but “Jigga That Nigga” did manage to climb to No. 66.
Although we consider this entire piece a scientific breakdown, nothing is quite as concrete as number. And when you look at the numbers, TBP clearly reigns supreme over RD. Both albums were handicapped in different ways, but facts are facts—and you can’t escape the wrath of the math.