When tallying the views racked up by our contenders' official music videos, we were reminded of an ironclad YouTube rule: Pop rules.
Of the 10 videos we tracked that were viewed more than 100 million times, nine were Top Five hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including Jennifer Lopez's "On the Floor" featuring Pitbull, Katy Perry's "E.T." featuring Kanye West, and Jay-Z's team-up with Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind." (As for that 10th video, "Price Tag" by Jessie J featuring B.o.B., it topped the pop chart in Britain.)
Only one of these nine-figure-viewers is a video from a rapper by himself – one who's neither supporting a singer nor being supported by one. That would be Eminem, who goes it alone on his 2010 hit "Not Afraid," the video of which has been watched 257 million times. Perhaps it is appropriate, then, that Eminem leads our YouTube tally – again, as with his albums lead, by a massive margin. The 1.3 billion total video views collected by Mr. Mathers are double those of perpetual runner-up Lil Wayne. Almost half of those views come from just two clips: the aforementioned "Not Afraid," and (of course) "Love the Way You Lie." That Rihanna-supported clip has been watched 360 million times, the most of any lead performance by any of our rappers.
That is not the most-watched video any of our contenders appears in, however. Crushing Em and Ri is the video for "Baby" by Justin Bieber featuring Ludacris, which has been viewed an astounding 589 million times, the most of any video in YouTube history. (That view count was as of two weeks ago, when we collected our numbers; as of this writing it's cruising toward 600 million.) As with our R&B/Hip-Hop and Rap Songs tallies, we give one-third credit for supporting performances on YouTube, which helps explain Luda's placement in the top four of this survey.
Laugh at Chris Bridges and his squeaky-clean Bieber verse all you want, but most rappers probably envy him. The mere fact that Ludacris is in a King of Hip-Hop survey in 2011, and does respectably on most of our tallies, is a testament to an unflashy but consistently productive career. More than a decade after he presciently titled his debut album Back for the First Time, Luda keeps coming back, acting in acclaimed movies, consistently releasing chart-topping albums (during our survey period, not a particularly big one for him, he shifted just under a million discs) and dropping verses for a range of R&B stars. Just since 2009, he's appeared in the R&B Top 10 three times on his own – including the Number 2 hit "My Chick Bad" with fellow contender Nicki Minaj – and three more times backing up singers Ciara, Chris Brown and LeToya. As for our YouTube tally, back out that Bieber blockbuster and all his other featured credits, and Luda would still have 192 million views, a total big enough to to put him just outside the top 10 by itself. Whether on the big or small screens, people like watching this guy.
In keeping with the YouTube pop theme, the rappers in our survey who lean toward the Top 40 side of the dial do better on this tally than any other, particularly Latin club-rapper Pitbull and pop-rap teamer-upper B.o.B., who place fifth and sixth, respectively. Pitbull's appearance in J. Lo's "On the Floor" gives him a big boost, as that clip has been viewed more than 300 million times; but his own summer 2011 Hot 100 chart-topper "Give Me Everything" has been watched nearly 75 million times, as well. As for B.o.B., his team-up with Paramore's Hayley Williams on "Airplanes" has been seen 136 million times, followed by his pairing with Bruno Mars on the soul ballad "Nothin' on You," with 80 million viewings – and, as the credited lead performer on both tracks, B.o.B gets full points for those hefty totals.
While we're focused on the visual, let's turn our attention to the live stage, where our perpetual runner-up takes a commanding lead.
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