Kanye West’s 2016 album The Life of Pablo was unique in more ways than one. In addition to massive singles like “Ultralight Beam” and “Pt. 2” that turned up-and-coming rappers Chance the Rapper and Desiigner into mainstream stars, The Life of Pablo was the first of West’s seven solo albums to be streaming-only; there were no physical CDs or vinyl records available, although some bootlegs popped up on Record Store Day last year. But in classic Kanye fashion, he has now turned this quirk into a landmark achievement — last week, The Life of Pablo became the first streaming-only album to be certified platinum from the Recording Industry Association of America.
Early last year, the RIAA updated its album award methodology to reflect streaming’s modern prevalence. According to the new metric, 1,500 on-demand audio or video song streams (which would encompass streaming services like Spotify as well as sites like YouTube) equate one old-school album sale. That means that to achieve the one million equivalent units needed to go platinum, West’s Life of Pablo tracks needed to be streamed many more times. Pablo also became the first streaming-only album to top Billboard‘s albums chart.
The Life of Pablo was received well upon its release in February 2016; in a B+ review, EW’s Ray Rahman called it “an ambitious album that finds the rapper struggling to compact his many identities into one weird, uncomfortable, glorious whole.” West later toured in support of the album, though he eventually canceled the last stretch of dates after a rough couple of months in which the rapper’s wife Kim Kardashian West was robbed and held at gunpoint in Paris and West himself received heavy criticism after telling a California crowd “I would have voted for Trump” and meeting with the then-President-elect.