"Bodak Yellow" & the Era of the No. 1 Rap Song

Is rap the new pop?

Music 
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Cardi B made history last week. The rapper’s single “Bodak Yellow” landed at the No. 1 spot of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart — the first time a female rapper earned a solo No. 1 record since Lauryn Hill’s 1998 hit “Doo Wop (That Thing).” The Bronx native is the fifth female rapper to top the Hot 100 and is the only solo female artist to make these numbers since Meghan Trainor hit No. 1 “All About That Bass” back in 2014. Sitting under “Bodak Yellow” is Post Malone and 21 Savage’s new single “rockstar” which took the No. 2 spot this week, beating Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.” This week, Cardi continues to sit atop the Hot 100 charts.

Cardi’s accomplishment follows a recent “revival” of the No. 1 rap song, a phenomenon that hasn’t fully resurfaced since the 2000s. Before Desiigner’s “Panda” grabbed the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100, rap and hip-hop music bubbled beneath the top spot for years. Records by Macklemore, Wiz Khalifa, Eminem, JAY-Z, Flo Rida, and B.o.B and others occasionally sat atop the charts but the most of these songs had non-rap attributes that made them popular such as pop vocals or EDM/dance pop instrumentation or arrangement. One would have to go back to 2008 or earlier to find No. 1 rap songs that didn’t have these aforementioned pop attributes.

After “Panda,” the popularity of rap music in pop culture has seen a greater increase. 2017 has already seen five rap songs sit atop of the charts, with many others hitting top five positions like Post Malone & 21 Savage’s “rockstar” (No. 2); Logic, Alessia Cara & Khalid’s “1-800-273-8255” (No. 3); French Montana & Swae Lee’s “Unforgettable” (No. 3); Kyle and Lil Yachty’siSpy” (No. 4); Future’s “Mask Off” (No. 5); and Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” (No. 5).

In contrast, many popular rap songs in previous years weren’t able to hit the top five: examples include Drake’s “Started From The Bottom” (No. 6), Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot N*gga” (No. 6); Eminem’s “Rap God” (No. 7); A$AP Rocky, Drake & Kendrick Lamar’s “F*cking Problems” (No. 8); iLoveMakonnen & Drake’s “Tuesday” (No. 12); Drake & Future’s “Jumpman” (No. 12); Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle” (No. 16), Rae Sremmurd “No Type” (No. 16); Travis Scott’s “Antidote” (No. 16).

In addition to “Bodak Yellow,” we look at all the other recent rap tracks that hit the No. 1 spot on Billboard below. Do you think this year of the No. 1 rap song is just a trend or do you think it’s here to stay?

Desiigner – Panda

Released: December 15, 2015
Duration of No. 1 reign: 2 weeks (May 7 to May 20, 2016)
Certification: 5x Platinum

Although Desiigner’s breakout single “Panda” was released on December 15, 2015, it wasn’t until March 12 the year after that it debuted at number 96 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It continued climbing and reached top five in its seventh week and finally No. 1 on its ninth week, ending the nine-week reign of Rihanna and Drake’s “Work.” Not only did Desiigner end a record-breaking 41-week streak of non-Americans topping the Hot 100, it was the first rap song to hit the top of the charts since Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” featuring Charli XCX, which reigned the summer of 2014. “Panda” stayed at number one for two weeks and was ultimately replaced by Drake and Wizkid’s “One Dance” on May 21, 2016.

Rae Sremmurd Featuring Gucci Mane – Black Beatles

Released: September 13, 2016
Duration of reign: 7 weeks (November 26, 2016 to January 6, 2017; January 14-January 20)
Certification: 4x Platinum

Thanks to the viral “Mannequin Challenge,” “Black Beatles” became both Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane’s first No. 1 single and the most successful track of their careers thus far. The song ended the 12-week reign of The Chainsmokers and Halsey’s “Closer.” The most successful song on this list, it sat atop of the charts for seven weeks, although not consecutively. It lost the No. 1 spot to “Starboy” by The Weeknd and Daft Punk on the week of January 7 but regained the top spot the week after. “Black Beatles” spent a total of 14 weeks on the top 10 spots. It was ultimately beat by Migos’s “Bad and Boujee” on the week of January 21.

Migos Featuring Lil Uzi Vert – Bad & Boujee

Released: October 28, 2016
Duration of reign: 3 weeks (January 21 to January 27, 2017; February 4-February 17)
Certification: 4x Platinum

“Bad and Boujee” is the song responsible for changing the course of the Migos’s lives. As the lead single of their debut album Culture, the track was quietly released on October 28 and only started getting more widespread notice after it became a viral Internet trend in December. Not too long after “Bad and Boujee” memes caught fire, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is the first and only chart-topping single for both Migos and Lil Uzi Vert. The track was dethroned by Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” a week after, but went back to its No. 1 position the following week and stayed there for a total of three weeks before “Shape of You” took its place again.

Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.

Released: October 28, 2016
Duration of reign: 1 week (May 6, 2017)
Certification: Unknown

“HUMBLE.” became Kendrick Lamar’s highest charting single after debuting at No. 2 on the Hot 100, dethroning “Swimming Pools (Drank)” which had only peaked at number 17. The song became his first No. 1 as a solo artist and his second No. 1 overall after Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” It was also the highest debut for a hip-hop song since “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem featuring Rihanna in 2010. While the song only stayed No. 1 on the week of May 6, it spent a total of 15 weeks in the top ten of Billboard Hot 100. “HUMBLE.” ended the 12-month nonconsecutive reign of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” but was overtaken by Bruno Mars’s “That’s What I Like.”

DJ Khaled Featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne – I’m the One

Released: April 28, 2017
Duration of reign: 1 week (May 20, 2017)
Certification: 4x Platinum

While “I’m the One” is probably not considered a rap song from a purist’s perspective, it does feature verses from Quavo, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne. The track is DJ Khaled’s first No. 1 single, as well as for Chance the Rapper and Quavo as a solo performer. It also was the first rap song since Eminem’s “Not Afraid” to land on get No. 1 on the first week of its Hot 100 debut. It was Bieber’s fourth song to hit the top of the charts following three songs off his latest album Purpose. Lil Wayne topped the charts for the third time, but his first since 2009.

Cardi B – Bodak Yellow

Released: June 16, 2017
Duration of reign: 2 week (as of October 3)
Certification: Platinum (as of October 3)

Like Desiigner, not much was known about Cardi B until the success of her breakout record “Bodak Yellow.” The track originally debuted at number 85 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart during the week of July 22, 2017, a little over a month after its release. During its fifth week on the chart, the record jumped to No. 14, making it Cardi B’s first top 20 entry. It then jumped to number two, behind Taylor Swift’s song “Look What You Made Me Do” before climbing to the top of the charts this week. “Bodak Yellow” is the first solo female rap single to reach number one on the Hot 100 in nearly 20 years, since Lauryn Hill’s 1998 single “Doo Wop (That Thing).” The track is named “Bodak Yellow” because it borrows from Kodak Black’s flow on his breakout track “No Flockin.” It’s been recently revealed that the track has hit platinum certification according to the RIAA.

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