Just over a quarter century ago, Tupac’s “Me Against The World” became the first album to debut atop the charts while the artist was in prison. And while there’s been no shortage of artists proving that the notoriety of jail time is worth its weight in chart numbers, Tekashi 6ix9ine, who was released early from prison in April and basically hasn’t stopped talking, rapping or trolling since, it’s not going to be enough to loft his new album, “Tattle Tales,” to the No. 1 spot above Big Sean’s “Detroit 2.”
Once projected to easily surpass 100,000 project units — a formula that combines album sales with equivalent value of song sales and streams — and possibly as many as 150,000, “TattleTales” is headed for the top 10, but experts say it has no shot at reaching the summit. One industry analyst thinks it will open at No. 6 with around 45,000 — 50,000, while another forecaster offers a slightly rosier estimate of 55,000-65,000, which would put it at No. 3.
One confounding issue might be a recent change in album bundles implemented by Billboard and its data source, Nielsen Music MRC, with some of 6ix9ine’s direct-to-consumer units not shipping in the proper window of time to be eligible for first-week numbers. Depending on how data service Alpha Data counts the various D2C offerings, “TattleTales” could have a slightly higher sum on the next Rolling Stone chart than it does on Billboard’s, but either way, Big Sean looks like the next chart king.
Through the first four days of the current chart period, Alpha shows Big Sean’s “Detroit 2” collecting almost 65,000 project units, with 14,000 week-to-date units placing 6ix9ine at No. 9.
For Big Sean, this start helps him continue a roll that began when his freshman album “Finally Famous” was certified platinum in 2011. None of his four sets has registered less than gold; his most recent, “I Decided,” went platinum in 2017.
Big Sean and 6ix9ine have a couple things in common. Both are platinum-certified rappers — 6ix9ine’s first album “Dummy Boy,” released in 2018, went platinum the following year, while eight of his singles have reached platinum or multi-platinum status. And also, both artists have been arrested — and that’s one area where 6ix9ine tops Big Sean by an exponential degree.
Big Sean (real name: Sean Anderson) accepted a plea deal for a lesser charge when he was booked on a sexual-assault allegation in 2011. In 2019, 6ix9ine (real name: Daniel Hernandez) accepted a two-year sentence when he pled guilty to nine federal felonies including racketeering conspiracy, firearms charges, narcotics trafficking, and violent crimes in aid of racketeering. 6ix9ine had just received an early release from that sentence in May — due to coronavirus concerns — when the first single from “TattleTales” launched in a swirl of controversy. While some chart observers thought his “Gooba” had been boosted by manufactured YouTube plays, he publicly accused Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber of benefitting from artificially juiced sales for their duet single, “Stuck With You,” and in the process leveled a battery of unproven allegations about Billboard’s chart process.
When the dust settled, “Stuck” beat “Gooba” in a one, two finish on both Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Songs and Billboard’s Hot 100. Rolling Stone showed 244,500 project unites for Grande/Bieber that week (sales plus the equivalent value of streams), and 181,900 for “Gooba.”
And, if you’re still keeping score — as each artist’s fans surely are — 6ix9ine’s track was certified gold in May and platinum in June, while “Stuck With You” hasn’t picked up either of those trophies. However, certifications aren’t issued without official paperwork being filed, and the Grande/Bieber camp may not have done that yet. Alpha Data’s year-to-date Song Project report shows 1.1 million units for “Stuck,” 878,000 for “Gooba.” (It should also be noted that Alpha Data, Rolling Stone, the Recording Industry Assn. of America and Billboard all use different methods to calculate a song’s standing, with the last-mentioned adding radio play to the mix of sales and streams.)
6ix9ine’s second song from the new album, “Trollz,” which featured Nicki Minaj, also started fast: It began at No. 3 on Rolling Stone’s chart, but with a bigger sum, 203,400, compared to “Gooba,” while radio play helped the “Trollz” start at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. However, subsequent 6ix9ine singles have made much less noise, with Alpha Data rating “Yaya” at 37,700 during its first week in July, and “Punani” garnering 17,400 when it started out on Aug. 2.
6ix9ine’s label, 10K Projects, was previously distributed by Universal Music, the same conglomerate that markets Big Sean, Grande and Bieber. That arrangement, through Capitol Music Group’s indie distributor Caroline, subsequently ended when the label shifted to Create Music.
Either way, the week is a big one for hip-hop, although that shouldn’t surprise anyone in 2020. On Rolling Stone’s most recent chart, six of the top 10 albums belonged to hip-hop artists, two of them deceased (Papa Smoke and Juice Wrld). And, on Alpha Data’s year-to-date Album Projects, seven of the 10 most consumed sets belong to rappers, with Lil Baby’s “My Turn” leading the charge on 1.5 million units.