Kenny Chesney vs. hip-hop -- The country singer tells EW why he's taking on 50 Cent and Kanye West with a September 11 release date

By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated August 17, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

50 Cent and Kanye West have been exchanging words over whose new CD — Curtis or Graduation (respectively) — will own the week of Sept. 11. But there’s another artist itchin’ for a showdown: country star Kenny Chesney. His album, Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates, also goes on sale that day. ”It’s funny how, with every record that comes out, we’re aware of the urban [competition], and none of those acts acknowledge that I exist,” he says in an e-mail to EW. ”Until I have that No. 1 debut.”

What gives? Chesney suspects that his fans get ignored ”because they’re not an image the media find sexy…. What does bug me is discounting the people who’ve bought my records year in and year out.” He has a point: Each of Chesney’s last four studio CDs has bowed atop the Billboard chart — with 2005’s The Road and the Radio even trouncing 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ original film soundtrack by 152,000 units in its opening week. However, the two rappers are still formidable competitors. The same year Road bowed with 469K units, West’s Late Registration debuted with 860K in sales and 50 Cent’s The Massacre with a whopping 1.14 million. So what do the vociferous MCs make of this challenge from the unexpected dark horse? Camps for both Fiddy and West declined to comment.