BILLBOARD'S R&B/HIP-HOP AND RAP SONGS CHARTS
If you were one of our more conspiracy-minded commenters, you might complain that we picked the 2009 start date for our survey so Drake would win. We didn't, but it's true that nobody benefits more from our survey period than Aubrey Graham, the Canadian teen-soap star who took America's charts by storm starting in 2009 after transforming into a single-named rapper.
For an art form that once prized street credibility, preferably from one of a handful of American cities, hip-hop has embraced the clean-cut Drake remarkably quickly. His role on Degrassi: The Next Generation had barely ended when he began contributing tracks to mixtapes by mentor Lil Wayne's Young Money crew. Thanks perhaps to Weezy's Good Hip-Hopping seal of approval, a slew of major rap figures lined up to record with Drake: of the 19 other acts in our survey, almost half – from Jay-Z to Eminem to T.I. to Diddy – have released tracks fronted or backed by him.
Thanks in large part to all of those appearances, Drake leads, by a comfortable margin, our tally of Billboard's two urban-radio-oriented charts. They are the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, which, under various names (e.g., Hot Soul Singles, Hot Black Singles), has existed for half a century; and Hot Rap Songs, which dates to the end of the 1980s, back when Flavor Flav was still known as a rapper.
Drake has visited the penthouse of these two charts more than anyone else during the last three years. You might think that his tendency to sing rather than rap on many of his hits would make him more popular on the R&B chart, but he is actually bigger on Rap Songs: Drake reached Number One four times as a lead artist there, with "Best I Ever Had," "Forever," "Over" and "Fancy"; and five more times as a guest on tracks by Timbaland, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and DJ Khaled. On the R&B chart, "Best" went to Number One, and Drake backed up five other records that rang the bell, including jams by Trey Songz and Jamie Foxx.
While we're discussing guest recordings, a technical note: Across all of the King of Hip-Hop tallies, we award partial credit to rappers' featured performances. It would be unfair not to – guest verses have been a staple of rap hits since the music's inception, and nowadays tracks without backup are the exception, not the rule. When assigning points for the R&B/Hip-Hop and Rap charts, we gave full credit to a lead performance and one-third credit for a featured performance; the number of guests on rap tracks generally ranges between one and four, and so dividing the points by three seemed like a reasonable average. On both surveys, we awarded points based on each song's peak position and its total weeks charted.
We're showing the tallies for the R&B/Hip-Hop and Rap tallies side-by-side, since the results have a lot in common, including an identical top two (Drake and Lil Wayne). But there are some major differences as you get further down.
For example, you wouldn't expect gruff Southern rapper Gucci Mane to do so much better on the R&B list, where he places third, than on the Rap tally, where he misses the top 10 entirely. The secret of Gucci's R&B radio success: volume – like Drake, he gets around as a guest star. Gucci has backed up romantic crooners including Omarion, Mario and Jagged Edge, and 17 such appearances have made
Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart, dwarfing his 10 lead appearances. But most of those guest appearances don't help him much on Billboard's Rap Songs, which is a smaller chart (25 positions) and leaves out a lot of records that make the lower rungs of the 100-position R&B/Hip-Hop list. To make Rap Songs, your hit really has to be booming from cars everywhere – this chart tends to reward big lead performances over guest spots.
Gucci's not alone on the skewed lead-to-featured ratio: half of our contenders made more appearances on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart as featured performers than as leads. For some, the ratio is almost even – Nicki Minaj started her career largely as a supporting rapper but is catching up on the lead side, with nine charting singles under her own name versus 10 as a featured performer. (This explains her better performance on the Rap Songs tally, where her big hits as a lead, like "Moment 4 Life" and "Super Bass," help her place third overall.) At the other extreme, promiscuous guest star Lil Wayne has scored only eight lead R&B chart performances since 2009, versus 29 supporting performances during the same span. (One imagines Weezy driving from studio to studio like Michael McDonald, ready to drop 32 bars for friends.)
Let's turn from the radio to another arena where hit songs rule the day, and featured performances make a difference: YouTube.
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