Rap-album release dates are like hurricane forecasts subject to change every few minutes. But for the time being at least, Kanye West and 50 Cent have decided to release their respective third albums on the same date, Sept. 11. The commercial magnitude of this coincidence is significant; for one day, those who still shop in record stores will have two reasons to do so--which is two more than they've had on any other day so far this year. West, who is not wholly unfamiliar with the concept of hype, concedes that he'd "rather be No. 2 on that day than No. 1 on a day that no one cares about." Fitty, who scares bullets, says, "I will be No. 1."
From snippets heard so far, West's Graduation is a typically omnivorous piece of hip-hop sprawl, with soul singing, synth-pop drums, a duet with Coldplay's Chris Martin, a sample from electro Frenchies Daft Punk and rhymes "Let's get lost tonight/ You could be my black Kate Moss tonight" that keep things loose. 50 Cent's Curtis has drop-bys from Justin Timberlake and Mary J. Blige but mines production from Dr. Dre and Eminem to swing between menace (Fully Loaded Clip) and sex (Peep Show) when not combining the two (My Gun Go Off). So will it be Kanye's catholic tastes or 50's gangsta mien that triumphs on rap's Super Tuesday? Either way, it's the first quiniela in an age that's a guaranteed win for the record business.