First let me start off by congratulating The Roots on the coveted platinum status for their classic Things Fall Apart album. That is not my issue. My issue is with the severe disconnect with what the "platinum" accolade actually means. Does it mean that now, a dozen years later, that The Roots can finally say they are one of the best hip-hop groups (and really, it took 12 years for this to happen?!)? Most of the time when the "who is the greatest" debate comes up, I see people turn to album sales. I've been in these arguments first hand (uall know who you are). As well as seeing this argument come up on every single time on hip-hop threads throughout the internet.
A classic example was the whole Nas/Jay-Z beef. I was a freshman in college when this drama was at its pinnacle. EVERYONE chose a side. All the radio stations and blogs where blowing up with people voicing their opinions. I sided with The God Son so I would hear this argument all the time: But who sold more albums though?! Of course there was no gray area, Hov sold more in 5 years than Nas did in 10. Lyrically I felt Nas was a better emcee (and still do) even though Jay had more commercial success. But then there was Ether. Yes, Jay-Z's Takeover addressed Nas, but he really only went in on one verse. And of course his "freestyle" Super Ugly track was a big meh. But Mr.Carter is a grown ass man. No one told him to pen such a mediocre retort. So head to head, mano y mano, commercial success means nada. All you get is one mic. But even now people don't feel this battle is settled. This debate continues and probably will continue to do so. It all depends on who you ask. There might not be a wrong answer (but I think you wrong if you pick not-Nas) but I feel emcees need to be pinned lyrics to lyrics. Not "hottest track" or "most radio plays". And definitely not an "MTV/BET list".
Back to The Roots. They are unquestionably the greatest hip-hop band. Some would even put Black Thought in their top 10 emcees list (TwonJonson!). But commercial success was never the goal. In the Hip-Hop on Trial debate ?uestlove said that The Roots are viewed as the "standard..of what's correct about hip-hop". They are not commercial or mainstream. And they choose not to be. While Nas has had platinum albums, he is never going to be grouped in with the success list of the Lil Waynes, Eminems or Jay-Zs. Like Nas, The Roots fall back on what they feel is a successful career. Staying true to the core values of hip-hop: the emcee and the dj. If album sales were the only thing that mattered then our "greatest of all time" list would need the addition of: MC Hammer, Will Smith (not Fresh Prince Will, but Big Willie Style Will), Nelly, Puff Daddy (even if it was Diddy, still wouldn't matter) and of course Vanilla Ice.