The Backlash to Jay-Z's Samsung Deal Is Overblown

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On Sunday night, a commercial during Game 3 of the NBA finals between the Miami Heat and the victorious San Antonio Spurs announced Jay-Z has a new album coming out July 4, called Magna Carta Holy Grail, and that Samsung was prominently involved somehow. In rap, where selling out is both embraced and hated in equal measure, this put the Internet on edge.  

The details of the deal were leaked shortly after the commercial — that features Jay hanging out in the studio with producers Rick Rubin, Pharrell Williams, Swizz Beats and Timbaland — per The Wall Street Journal's Hannah Karp: Samsung bought 1 million copies of the album for $5 a piece that will be available for Samsung Galaxy owners to download 72 hours ahead of its regular release. So, in essence, Jay-Z (and his record company) already pocketed $5 million before his album was even released. Jay-Z's normally adoring public were, well, kind of grossed out by this marriage of art with corporate America: 

But all of that seems a little overblown when you consider this isn't the first time Jay has released an album in conjunction with a cell phone. Back in the heady days of 2003, when Jay was releasing The Black Album and openly saying it would be his last, Jay made a deal with Nokia to pre-load the album on Jay-Z-branded versions of the Nokia 3300 phone. They called it "The Black Phone." He had his own cell phone. No one complained that loudly then. The Black Album went on to be one of Jay's most successful and critically acclaimed records. Jay-Z is a pioneer of bridging the hip-hop cell phone divide and we have to accept that. 

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Plus, there's a bigger debate at play: if Samsung bought 1 million copies of the album already, does that mean it's already platinum? There's no indication SoundScan will count the Samsung deal in their bean counters, but the prospect that Jay could already have a platinum record without releasing a single shows the true brilliance of Jay's business acumen. That and he's already made $5 million and the album hasn't been released or leaked yet. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.