Last week, Billboard announced that Drake occupied all three of the top three spots of their Hot 100 with the songs from his new EP “Scary Hours 2”. This is the first time in history that an artist has ever debuted at all top three spots. Many critics of Drake believed that his run as the most popular rapper was coming to an end. But with this new record, it doesn’t seem like Drake is going anywhere anytime soon. Drake may have the longest run of absolute domination in hip-hop history.
Historic Hip Hop Runs
Drake isn’t the first artist to dominate hip-hop for an extended period, and he certainly won’t be the last. We saw in the early 2000s, Eminem had rap in an inescapable chokehold. Then after Eminem, fellow Shady Records labelmate, 50 Cent released arguably one of the best hip-hop albums of all time with “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”. The success of his debut pushed him to be able to become one of the biggest rappers in the world by the time his next album was released. One of the most undeniably astonishing runs was Lil Wayne’s. Lil Wayne is the greatest rapper to ever live. Period. His run of classic mixtapes, albums, features, and remixes are unmatched by any other rapper. Wayne could hop on someone else’s song and that song would not be the original artist’s song anymore. That is how powerful he was at a time.
The Beginning of Drake’s Run
Believe it or not, Drake wasn’t always at the level of success that he’s at now. When he first came on the scene, he was known for being Lil Wayne’s latest protégé. He saw huge success with his mixtape-turned-EP “So Far Gone” but he was still living in the shadow of his rap superstar mentor. Slowly but surely, Drake kept releasing quality efforts and obtained some huge radio hits such as, ‘Best I Ever Had’, ‘Over’, and ‘Find Your Love’. He got his first taste of major acclaim with his classic album contender, “Take Care”. He had monumental hits like ‘The Motto’ which spurned the obnoxious “YOLO” phase of youth culture, a Rihanna assisted ballad titled ‘Take Care’, and the excessively braggadocious lead single to the album, ‘Headlines’.
What makes Drake’s rise so impressive is he came during a time of rap renaissance. In the years following his debut, rap had a huge influx of new stars. During Drake’s rise, we had artists like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Mac Miller, Tyler The Creator (and by extension, Odd Future), and A$AP Rocky having similar success in their careers. This era has now been dubbed “the blog era” due to how rap blogs had such a huge impact on their careers and how fans consumed music at that time.
This was at the time when the hip-hop culture had other huge artists re-establishing themselves. Kanye West had been the hip-hop golden child for five years and had just released his magnum opus, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. Lil Wayne’s run as the hottest rapper in the game was beginning to cool down but he still had some solid efforts coming. But these established rap superstars began to feel pressure from the new generation of rappers coming out. Drake especially caused concerns. Kanye West has even said that he and Jay-Z only made their collab album, “Watch The Throne” as a response to Drake. They were asserting their dominance.
Whenever Drake is gearing up to release an album, there’s always some people that fool themselves into thinking that Drake’s relevancy is dwindling and he won’t be as big as he once was. As he has once said, “Cause people started talkin’ to me like I’m slowin’ down. Opinions over statistics, of course.” In this album cycle, Charlamagne Tha God was the doubter.
In December, Charlamagne was on his “Brilliant Idiots” podcast and he questioned whether or not Drake was still the leader of hip-hop. He says “Is radio such a prehistoric form of media that it hasn’t changed the temperature to what’s actually going on out here in these streets?” After Drake scored all three top spots on the Billboard Hot 100, Charlamagne retracted his previous statement. “I asked a question a few months ago and the question was simply, ‘Are we still in a Drake era?’ When you’re No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 on the charts, I think that answers your question. When it comes to streaming and radio, he’s still the guy”, he said of Drake’s historic feat.
What Does Drake’s Extended Run Mean for Hip-Hop?
We as fans of hip-hop always ask, “Who will be the next ____?” But there will never be another artist that will completely emulate the success of those before them. There will never be another Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Eminem, 50 Cent. And there certainly will never be another Drake. But there will be someone bigger than them eventually. The hip-hop genre will grow past these artists one day, but their success and impact will never be forgotten.