Hits are hard to come by in Hip Hop. It may seem to the casual listener that making a smash hit is merely a matter of jumping in the booth and rapping a repetitive chorus over a bouncy beat — but it’s not that simple. Competition is fierce among even the biggest names with the sheer number of tracks that drop each day, and making a song that millions of people want to play over and over again is no small feat.
Some rappers thrive on hit singles more than others, but looking at the Hot 100 over the last year yields a wide crop of MCs who have positioned themselves as mainstream hitmakers. And once an artist is classified as a star, it can be devastating to their brand when they fail to keep reaching those same heights.
As we dive into the final quarter of 2017, the silence from a handful of rappers is deafening. Whether their recent musical output has been non-existent or just poorly received, these five rappers are in need of a hit as soon as possible. If they don’t regain that chart-topping momentum, their careers could soon be on the decline.
There’s no denying Nicki’s colossal run in 2014 with damn near every song off The Pinkprint being a sizable smash, but she hasn’t dropped new music with the same magnitude since then and fans are starting to get anxious. Nicki is culturally massive with a bulletproof track record, and is held to a different standard of “hit” than almost all of her peers.
“No Frauds” performed fairly well over the summer and would be a career rebirth if it had come from someone less prominent. For Nicki though, the track acted more as a Young Money reunion and a tepid response to Remy Ma’s “SHETHER” than a shiny new hit single.
The same applies to this past month’s Yo Gotti feature, “Rake It Up.” The song is Yo Gotti’s highest charting single to date and Nicki definitely helped it get to where it is, but it just isn’t enough to bring her back to where she once was. There has been talk of an album (and hints at a big impending single) but we’re still waiting on something to dominate playlists as much as her name has been dominating headlines.
The A$AP Mob frontman has been quiet on the solo music front despite some impressive sartorial moves and putting out new music with his Mob cohorts less than two months ago. Cozy Tapes Vol. 2 was mildly entertaining as a crew cut but didn’t raise Rocky’s individual stock in the slightest, which leaves him a full two years removed from any solo success.
His last album, At. Long. Last. A$AP, was good from front to back but didn’t have any standout tracks that came close to his previous two offerings. Rocky’s explosion on the scene in 2011 might have been a gift and a curse in that his single strength was off the Richter scale, setting expectations beyond sustainable execution. “Fuckin’ Problems” was the perfect followup hit to those original ASAPROCKYUPTOWN YouTube uploads, but a hit with three featured guests can only last you so long.
Here we sit in the closing months of 2017 and Rocky finds himself hitless and more noted for being in Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia” music video and on Lana Del Rey’s album than for his own musical endeavors. But his next album could change things, which in August was said to be coming “for sure” in 2017.
Where has Young M.A gone since dropping the earth-shattering “OOOUUU?” Well, she dropped a lukewarm EP that had no hits other than the aforementioned single. But other than that, M.A has been M.I.A.
The dominance “OOOUUU” brought was enough to sustain her for the last year but subsequent records, although lyrically more impressive, didn’t catch on the way yelling “headphannnnnie” did. Since releasing that EP back in May, she has been relatively quiet, dropping a few visuals here and there with no apparent plans for a new release in any capacity.
If M.A doesn’t come with a substantial followup hit in the next few months, she could be ooouuuttttaaa here.
Desiigner lucked out in the biggest way when Kanye picked his song “Panda” to be a “sample” on The Life of Pablo. Ye’s “Pt. 2” was essentially “Panda” with a half added verse and some extra ad-libs. The song shot to the top of the charts, went 5x platinum and ultimately landed the 20-year-old Brooklynite a deal with G.O.O.D. Music. His rise to stardom happened overnight, but it could slip away just as easily.
Desiigner coasted on “Panda” and its Kanye co-sign for almost two years, which is the definition of milking it. His notoriety, brand and tangible stock have plummeted almost as fast as it rose back in February 2016. His sound and youthful exuberance lead one to believe that he has another hit in him, but the proof is truly in the pudding. His mixtape bricked, he hasn’t done many noteworthy collaborations and “Tiimmy Turner” didn’t catch on as aggressively as needed. With very few specifics around his upcoming album and mixtape, a string of so-so singles and a troubling silence from the G.O.O.D. Music camp, Desiigner might be on his way out before he can even legally toast his success.
Few artists are more desperate for a hit than Iggy Azalea. After dominating the Billboard charts in 2014 with her single “Fancy,” the Australian rapper has fallen down the rabbit-hole of irrelevance with no sign of a lifeline. If not for some attention grabbing visuals and tabloid-friendly relationships with NBA player Nick “Swaggy P” Young, French Montana and now (allegedly) the NFL’s Odell Beckham Jr., Azalea may have been completely removed from the limelight she once enjoyed.
Azalea has reached a difficult crossroads where her label has seemingly lost all faith in her career prospects. And with music that’s much maligned by Hip Hop fans, it’s difficult to picture her ever having a renaissance as an indie artist. The only way she can bounce back now is if she strikes gold once again, creating another track on the level of “Fancy.” If she doesn’t, it’s only a matter of time until she’s officially written off like so many one-hit wonders.