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Quality vs. Quantity: 5 Mic Sales?

The sun will still shine...

The Deputy! over at XXL chastised the loud minority (big on praise, short on album support) of Clipse advocates that didn’t cop Til the Casket Drops its first week out. It got me thinking about my longstanding theory that album sales and classic albums are not mutually exclusive. Read: Your album is so great, no one bought it, or Your sales are spectacular, you’re still a horrible rapper.

So how have “classic albums”—a loaded term on its best day—faired in the sales race? For the sake of saving my time, for this list I used all the albums that received the former gold standard for rap long player excellence, a 5 mic rating in The Source Magazine. Also worth noting is that The Source had a “do-over” moment when they gave some albums 5 mic honors they didn’t originally receive (i.e. The Score originally received only 4 mics).

I then looked up each album on the database provided by the RIAA (those cats that certify record sales and hate mixtapes) to see what is its latest sales award (Gold, Platinum, Platinum+, etc) which is then listed next to the title in parentheses.

Keep in mind that if a label really wants to they can cook the books to keep the sales down (as convenient a reason to tell an artist they haven’t recouped as any). Considering how many people had the vinyl, tape, and CD, there is just no way De La Soul’s 3 Feet High & Rising debut hadn’t moved a milli’s worth of albums before finally being certified Platinum in 2000, 11 years after its initial release.

It’s tough to get a handle on the sales of albums like Boogie Down Productions’ Criminal Minded and Main Source’s Breaking Atoms since their original labels are defunct (B-Boy Records and Wild Pitch, respectively), and were operating under code 4,080 when they were up and running.

After looking over the list below, consider that Vanilla Ice’s To the Extreme is 6x Platinum and MC Hammer’s Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Em is 10x Platinum (aka Diamond).


•Eminem being absent from this list, besides guest verses, didn’t stop him from being the best selling artist of the decade.

•Being a Hip-Hop martyr scores you plenty of record sales (Notorious BIG & Pac)

•A gang of you probably never even listened to Grip It! On That Other Level, same goes for Stunts, Blunts, and Hip Hop.

•I still feel a ways LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out isn’t on here.

•Considering Nas’ sales, it was cheaper to keep her. But he’s still Top 5 Dead or Alive.

•OutKast has more than one classic album and UGK gets no respect.

2001 by Dr. Dre (6x Platinum)

All Eyez On Me by 2Pac (9x Platinum)

AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted by Ice Cube (Platinum)

Aquemini by Outkast (2x Platinum)

The Blueprint by Jay-Z (2x Platinum)

Breaking Atoms by Main Source

By All Means Necessary by Boogie Down Productions (Gold)

The Chronic by Dr. Dre (3x Platinum)

Criminal Minded by Boogie Down Productions

Critical Beatdown by Ultramagnetic MCs

De La Soul Is Dead by De La Soul (Gold)

Death Certificate by Ice Cube (Platinum)

The Diary by Scarface (Platinum)

Doggystyle by Snoop Doggy Dogg (4x Platinum)

Edutainment by Boogie Down Productions (Gold)

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by Wu-Tang Clan (Platinum)

The Fix by Scarface

The Great Adventures of Slick Rick by Slick Rick (Platinum)

Grip It! On That Other Level by Geto Boys

Illmatic by Nas (Platinum)

The Infamous by Mobb Deep (Gold)

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy (Platinum)

Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em by Eric B. & Rakim (Gold)

Licensed to Ill by The Beastie Boys (8x Platinum)

Life After Death by The Notorious B.I.G. (10x Platinum)

Long Live the Kane by Big Daddy Kane (Gold)

The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest (Platinum)

Me Against the World by 2Pac (2x Platinum)

The Naked Truth by Lil’ Kim

No One Can Do It Better by The D.O.C. (Platinum)

One for All by Brand Nubian

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… by Raekwon (Gold)

Paid in Full by Eric B. & Rakim (Platinum)

People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm by A Tribe Called Quest (Gold)

Radio by LL Cool J (Platinum)

Raising Hell by Run-D.M.C. (3x Platinum)

Ready to Die by The Notorious B.I.G. (4x Platinum)

Reasonable Doubt by Jay-Z (Platinum)

Run-D.M.C. by Run-D.M.C. (Gold)

The Score by The Fugees (6x Platinum)

Stillmatic by Nas (Platinum)

Straight Out the Jungle by The Jungle Brothers

Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. (2x Platinum)

Strictly Business by EPMD (Gold)

December 16, 2009 - Posted by | Aqua's Clips, Hip-Hop, Music, News | , , , ,


  1. Minus Lil Kim, I still own and purchased every one of these, many on multiple formats. The Source had a lot to do with that (for me).

    I hope people still care about reviews altogether.

    And for the record, my only review in the Source (Hell Razah) got three and a half mics, and sold about a copy for every mic, and an MP3 download for the half.

    Comment by paine | December 16, 2009

  2. This was quite the interesting read Aqua…

    As a kid I missed a majority of these albums coming out in their heyday.

    It has been a slow grind, but I am one of those guys who may push a single sale in their direction…unless you count the ones I bought offhand.

    I wonder what this list would look like post 2000…however that barks up the dangerous tree of the term modern classic. No standard like the source exists anymore.

    Comment by HonorableAT | December 16, 2009

  3. @AT Yeah, the list is looking kind of dated. Don’t think there is any need for the term “modern” classic. It’s like an asterisk in a baseball. But in the case of music, a classic is a classic, imo.

    @Paine seems like people don’t rely on reviews since the music is so readily accessible. the whole, “Ooh, i got to hear the music in its entirety months before” mystique is gone.

    Comment by aqua | December 16, 2009

  4. Hmmm… that made me really think

    Comment by Sidik Fofana | December 17, 2009

  5. It’s amazing and sad that Brand Nubian’s ‘One for All’ still hasn’t even gone gold yet. And ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…’ and ‘The Infamous’ are still only certified gold after all these years?

    Comment by Vincent | December 17, 2009

  6. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Aqua174: Quality vs. Quantity: 5 Mic Sales? :

    Trackback by uberVU - social comments | December 17, 2009

  7. the naked truth by lil kim is mad slept on.

    Comment by bfears | December 18, 2009

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