As Kanye West well knows by now, controversy sells.
The polarizing rapper’s new album, “Ye,” is No. 1 in the country, weeks after his comments on slavery and public support of President Donald Trump led to a backlash and calls to boycott the performer.
“Ye” is West’s eighth consecutive album to open atop the Billboard 200 chart – a feat that ties him with Eminem and the Beatles for the longest streak of No. 1s – and all seven tracks of the record have debuted on Billboard’s Top 40 chart.
The album earned 208,000 equivalent album units in the week ending June 7 (85,000 of the tally was traditional album sales), according to Nielsen Music; that’s the fifth-largest opening week for an album this year.
“Ye” is West’s first record since 2016, a year that ended in tumult amid a canceled tour and hospitalization for a psychiatric emergency. In the weeks leading up to its release, many wondered if the rapper’s career would be derailed by the intense scrutiny he brought on himself when he returned to Twitter and fired off a string of provocative dispatches.
There was the declaration of Trump as his “brother,” the picture of him wearing a Make America Great Again hat (the president signed it), gushing over black conservative pundit Candace Owens and an erratic appearance on “TMZ Live” – where West rattled off about slavery to a stunned TMZ staff.
West’s actions infuriated and confused fans, peers and critics considering he came to fame with work that offered thoughtful observations on family, sexuality, religion, education, prejudice and wealth and that he famously admonished then-President George W. Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
In the days after West’s TMZ appearance, a Detroit radio station banished his music from its airwaves and fans took to social media to denounce the rapper, and for a moment it appeared the new album was off to a cold start.
West surprise released a pair of singles – “Lift Yourself” and “Ye vs. the People,” which tackled his Trump endorsement- amid the online backlash to tease the project. Both singles were maligned by critics, failed to entice listeners and ultimately didn’t make it onto the album, which the rapper retooled before he debuted it at a surreal party in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole valley.
The current version of “Ye” – and we say current because the rapper has a penchant for updating albums in real time and has already altered one track after release – saw West open up about suicide, mental illness, drug use and disappointing his spouse, Kim Kardashian West.
“I’m proud of him,” Kardashian West told The Times recently. “I know that he’s been through a lot and, you know, he feels his best when he’s creating.”
“Ye” is the second release in a string of projects he worked on in Wyoming, including Pusha T’s “Daytona,” which opened at No. 3 last week, and “Kids See Ghost,” a joint album with friend Kid Cudi that arrived on Friday. (Like the ranch party in Wyoming, that latter album was introduced unconventionally with the pair debuting the project in a ghost town in Santa Clarita an hour after the album was done.)
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