JAY-Z released his 13th studio album, 4:44, less that a week ago, but it has already achieved a coveted industry distinction. The Brooklyn rapper’s latest project notched platinum status in mere days, making it his 13th solo studio effort to earn the designation. Jay has more platinum albums than any other hip-hop artist — in fact, no others have more than 10 — and that’s not even counting the platinum honors he has received for collaborative LPs with Kanye West, Linkin Park, and R. Kelly.
“Props to Jay, he’s done it again!” RIAA chairman and CEO Cary Sherman said in a statement. “Another platinum album adds to an already iconic career.”
Jay’s accomplishment means 4:44 tallied downright gaudy numbers. In early 2016, the RIAA changed its metric for gold and platinum honors to acknowledge streaming. Under the new system, the RIAA counts 1,500 song streams off an album as one album sale. The awards are then calculated based on a combination of streaming and old-fashioned physical album sales.
Because Jay released 4:44 as a streaming exclusive, that means he reached platinum status — in less than a week — without physical album sales. To propel the record to the equivalent of 1 million album sales, listeners would have had to stream 4:44‘s 10 tracks a total of at least 1.5 billion times. Even more impressive? Jay essentially handicapped himself within the streaming sector, limiting 4:44 to his own TIDAL service and keeping it off competitors like Spotify and Apple Music. Plus, he included a stipulation that, initially, those who subscribed to TIDAL after midnight on Friday morning couldn’t access 4:44 if they weren’t Sprint subscribers. (The album is now available to all TIDAL subscribers.)
JAY-Z and TIDAL have made headlines for their relationship with the RIAA in the past. In February 2016, TIDAL and co-sponsor Samsung gave away 1 million copies of Rihanna’s brand-new ANTI, helping the album secure platinum status in less than 24 hours. The RIAA recognized the giveaway in its calculation, but Billboard disqualified those numbers, on the grounds that it doesn’t recognize gratis promotions.
When Jay released his previous album, Magna Carta… Holy Grail, in 2013, he similarly tested the basis by which the RIAA designates albums platinum. The record predated TIDAL by almost two years, but the rapper teamed with Samsung, which distributed copies for free to its customers while giving Jay and his entertainment company Roc Nation $5 per copy. The arrangement led to near-instantaneous qualification for platinum status.