Last week we ranked 50 Cent’s first week album sales, the week before, we looked at Nas’ first week album sales, from best to worst. This week we’re going to look at Kanye West – an artist who has unarguably found the perfect balance between mainstream appeal, commercial success and his own artistic vision.

From The College Dropout to Yeezus, we rank Kanye’s first week album sales from best to worst. Just a note: I didn’t include any collaboration albums, so no Watch The Throne or Cruel Summer.

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1. Graduation

Released: September 11, 2007

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

First Week Album Sales: 957,000

Graduation was the moment when everything just clicked in place for Kanye West. He finally had a true street anthem with “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, he scored a massive crossover hit with “Stronger” as well as a sales battle going on with 50 Cent who was set to drop Curtis on the same day.

There was no stopping Kanye. Graduation moved a whopping 957,000 units in its first week (437,000 copies sold in its first day), nearly 250,000 more than Curtis. The album topped charts around the world while “Stronger,” “Good Life” and “Flashing Lights” was dominating radio airwaves.

The fact that Graduation managed to outsell Curtis considerably didn’t just mean Kanye was the new king of hip-hop; it signalled a massive shift in the rap game by opening the doors for more diverse hip-hop acts to take the stage.

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2. Late Registration

Released: August 30, 2005

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

First Week Album Sales: 860,000

If The College Dropout established Kanye as a new and refreshing voice in hip-hop, his second album confirmed him as a powerful commercial force.

Off the strength of the chart topping “Gold Digger,” which broke the record for the most digital downloads in a week, Late Registration sold over 800,000 copies in its first week, almost double the figure of his debut.

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3. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Released: November 22, 2010

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

First Week Album Sales: 496,000

In 2010, Kanye was lost. Done with rap he said. He was on a  sabbatical and had his eye on fashion, even interning at Fendi for 6-months. Hip-hop fans were dismayed – fuck that fashion, we need you back.

But then word got around that Kanye was in Hawaii working on some music. That he was in Hawaii working with the likes of the RZA, Pete Rock, Pusha T, Jay-Z, Kid Cudi and more. Then he started G.O.O.D. Fridays, giving away bangers like “Power (Remix)”, “Monster”, “Good Friday,” “Christian Dior Denim Flow,” “Looking for Trouble” and plenty more. The buzz was incredible.

When My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy dropped in November that year, it became Kanye’s most acclaimed project to date, critics declaring it the best album of the year while hip-hop heads celebrated his return to rap. It also performed pretty well commercially, moving nearly 500,000 copies in its first week while the four singles – “Power,” “Runaway,” “Monster” and “All of the Lights” all found moderate success on the charts.

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4. 808s & Heartbreak

Released: November 24, 2008

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

First Week Album Sales: 450,145

While it still stands as one of the most polarising records in Kanye’s catalogue, 808s & Heartbreak still had massive hits. Remember “Love Lockdown”, “Heartless” and “Amazing”? Those singles were killing it on the radio. So even with all the backlash from hip-hop heads and mixed reactions from fans, 808s & Heartbreak moved 450,145 units in its first week.

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5. The College Dropout

Released: February 10, 2004

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

First Week Album Sales: 441,000

If a hip-hop album managed to sell 441,000 units in its first week, it would have been an overwhelming success. Just to put this figure in context – the highest selling hip-hop album this year was Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 which moved over 700,000 units in its first week.

But we have to remember 2004 was a different landscape. The Aftermath / Shady / G-Unit was running this rap shit, putting up ridiculous numbers so 441,000 wasn’t that incredible. However, those figures proved that hip-hop wanted someone like Kanye and were willing to pay for it.

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6. Yeezus

Released: June 18, 2013

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

First Week Album Sales: 327,000

No surprises here – Kanye’s latest album is his weakest commercially performing to date. With no traditional marketing campaign behind it or radio-friendly singles preceding it, Kanye forced fans to either listen to the whole album or forget about it.

Still, the album managed to sell 327,000 units in the same week J. Cole and Mac Miller dropped their albums, which for an album like Yeezus is very impressive.

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Written by Hao Nguyen
Stop The Breaks is an independent music marketing company focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists. Our goal is to help motivate, inspire and educate independent artists grinding around the world. We provide branding, content marketing, social media, SEO and music promotion services.