#1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, week of 11/19/16
What it is: The latest album from Atlanta trap rapper Jeezy, f.k.a. Young Jeezy.
Last Tuesday, Americans found themselves facing a harsh and unexpected reality: The ascent of Jeezy’s Trap or Die 3 to the position of #1 album in the country.
For many, this development is impossible to comprehend. How could so many of our fellow citizens have cast their support for a record so dull–so bereft of any ideas beyond the stuttering, synth-y beats and slurred, boastful punchlines of its chosen genre? How could anyone mistake Trap or Die 3 for #1 album material when it announced its unfitness so openly via its parade of generic song titles (“It Is What It Is,” “Bout That,” “U Kno It,” “Like That,” etc.)?
One explanation for this outcome involves the mechanics of the process. The way that Billboard‘s ranking system accounts for streaming and other unconventional forms of listening can allow an album to reach #1 without actually selling more copies than its competitors. We must also note that Trap or Die 3‘s most formidable challenger, Kenny Chesney’s Cosmic Hallelujah, simply didn’t inspire sufficient enthusiasm among the nation’s anti-Trap music consumers. Instead of uniting, they split the opposition by defecting to fringe contenders like Meek Mill’s DC4 or Avenged Sevenfold’s The Stage – or, to a more significant extent, they simply stayed home and didn’t buy any albums at all. Many probably assumed that Jeezy, who has struggled to convert his trap superstardom into mainstream name recognition, was not a threat that needed to be taken seriously. And now, the Trapocalypse has happened, and we are all living in Trap’s America. A Trapocracy.
It remains to be seen how long Trap or Die 3 will maintain its position, and what the long-term effects of its victory will be. But one thing is clear: We must understand how and why this happened. I said when I started this blog that it is too easy for Americans – even those who live in supposedly cosmopolitan cultural centers like New York, as I do – to end up in cultural bubbles and become blind to the larger societal phenomena going on around them. The results of last week’s album sales have only validated this concern. I missed a bunch of posts over the last few weeks due to various personal and political distractions, but I am going to try to get back to posting more regularly, because I see that what I am doing on this blog is now more important than ever.
Which is to say that it still isn’t important at all, but I guess I might as well keep doing it.
(To be clear, Trap or Die 3 isn’t actually as bad as Trump. But at least Trump isn’t boring.)