With some projections suggesting that Kanye West's Graduation could notch as many as 900,000 CDs sold in its first week when Nielsen SoundScan numbers are released tonight — leaving 50 Cent’s Curtis in the dust with a still-respectable figure of more than 600,000 — no one is happier than West’s boss, Def Jam CEO Shawn ”Jay-Z” Carter. Jay called EW.com today to do a little pre-emptive gloating, talk about his favorite Graduation cuts, and reveal the real story behind his own unlikely collaboration with onetime rival 50 Cent.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Kanye’s having a pretty amazing week in sales.
JAY-Z: The Best Damn Week. What’s the name of that show?
Best Week Ever?
[Laughs] Yeah, yeah! I mixed the two up, [Fox Sports Net’s] The Best Damn Sports Show [Period] and [VH1’s] Best Week Ever.
How does it make you feel to see Kanye performing so well with this album?
It makes me proud as someone who’s watched his growth from the beginning, when he came in as a hungry producer, to now he’s a rock star. I’m happy for him on that level. And I’m excited for creativity as well, because I think that’s a win for that as well. You know, people mimic success. And in order to mimic that success, you have to put in a lot of work. You have to really care about the music. I was just listening to the first song [on Graduation], called ''Good Morning.'' [West sampled] an a capella of my song in the end, ”The Ruler’s Back” off of The Blueprint album. And I was with him last night, he was bragging about having the a capella. He’s like, [decent Kanye impression] ”Yo, that’s how I spun it, ‘cause I had the a capella.” I’m like, wow. The things he cares about! That’s not a big thing, but in his mind, ”I had the a capella, so I was able to put that sample in there without any drums.”
Looking at the size of these numbers, would you say they’ve exceeded your expectations? Are you surprised at all?
Every time. Every single album. I mean, I never thought he would do 440 [thousand copies of 2004’s The College Dropout] his first week. I never thought he would do 860 [thousand copies of 2005’s Late Registration in its first week]. Every single time.
People talk a lot about rap sales declining, but this is obviously a huge week for the genre. Do you think this a good sign for hip-hop overall?
Yeah. This is certainly a one-off. This is not going to happen every day. But with the right music, the right amount of attention, you can really do some serious damage out there.
Even though Kanye beat him, 50 Cent is selling pretty well himself this week. How do you feel about that over at Def Jam? Is it a more-the-merrier situation?
Yeah, we’re fantastic about that. We think 50 is a great competitor. We think he’s needed in the marketplace. So we’re happy for him.
Do you think the rivalry between Kanye and 50, having both their albums dropping on the same day, helped Kanye’s sales?
Yeah! But I think it worked both ways. I think it brought attention to both projects. I think you [would] lower both numbers if they’re not on the same day.
NEXT PAGE: Jay-Z on Kanye’s perfectionism, his favorite Graduation songs, and contributing a verse to a 50 Cent remix