In the continuing aftermath of the June 18 shooting death of rapper/singer XXXTentacion (real name: Jahseh Onfroy), there’s yet another dubious milestone that the late 20-year-old achieved this week.
His biggest single “Sad!,” which appears on his album ? (question mark) and which had previously peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in March, leaps from 52 to No. 1 on this week’s chart – making XXXTentacion the eighth and latest solo artist to top the chart posthumously.
By doing so, he extends hip-hop’s record run to 22 consecutive weeks at No. 1 (spread among five different songs) and delays Cardi B’s “I Like It” from contributing to the streak as she settles for No. 2 (at least for now).
But XXXTentacion’s accomplishment also denotes a sad statistic for hip-hop music. Of the eight artists who’ve topped the Hot 100 after their deaths, the last four were rappers: XXX is joined by Static Major (2008), Soulja Slim (2004) and the Notorious B.I.G. (1997). Of those four, three met their deaths by gunfire (Static Major being the exception – his was from sudden internal bleeding).
Static Major and Soulja Slim made this list by being featured on No. 1 songs by other artists (Static was featured on Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” and Soulja was included on Juvenile’s “Slow Motion”).
If you exclude featured acts, the list is narrowed to six posthumous No. 1 Hot 100 artists, and it would make XXX the first artist to do it since the Notorious B.I.G. had two posthumous No. 1s off of his ironically titled Life After Death album (which was so named before his untimely death in March 1997). In May that year, he reached No. 1 with “Hypnotize” and followed that in August/September with “Mo Money Mo Problems,” making Biggie still the only artist to have two No. 1 Hot 100 hits after his death.
Before Biggie (real name: Christopher Wallace), the last time an artist topped the Hot 100 posthumously was in December 1980 when John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” (another ironic title) reached the top just weeks after his murder. Lennon had joined late artists Jim Croce, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding who topped the charts with “Time In A Bottle” (1974), “Me and Bobby McGee” (1971) and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” (1968), with each artist having passed only months before their No. 1 hits.
Of the six lead artists on this list, only Lennon and Croce had also reached No. 1 before their deaths – Lennon once as a solo artist in 1974 and 20 times as a part of the Beatles between 1964 and 1970; and Croce just months before the October 1973 plane crash that took his life (with “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” that August).
So XXXTentacion joins Biggie, Janis and Otis as the only four artists to have their first No. 1 Hot 100 singles after their deaths.
XXXTentacion was also the youngest among these six lead artists at the time of their deaths. At 20, he now takes that dubious distinction from The Notorious B.I.G. who was 24 when he was shot and killed in 1997. Otis was 26 when he died in a 1967 plane crash, Joplin was 27 in 1971 when she suffered from a drug overdose, Croce was 30 in 1973 and Lennon was 40 in 1980.
Of the six artists, XXX, Croce and Biggie were clearly rising stars who’d yet to reach the pinnacles of their short careers, and while Janis and Otis had built large followings, their stories became even more iconic after their deaths. The most successful of them all, Lennon, was on the verge of a solo comeback in 1980 after taking a five-year hiatus from recording to raise his son Sean with wife Yoko.
Not just about singles.
Of these six artists, it wasn’t just their singles that made them part of history.
Lennon, Joplin, Croce and Biggie all had No. 1 albums after their deaths. XXXTentacion had a No. 1 album just three months before his passing (his ? rose to No. 3 this week in the wake of his passing after hitting No. 1 back in March). He joined Lennon as the only two acts in this article to have had a No. 1 album before their deaths.
Of these six, only Otis Redding did not reach No. 1 on the album chart either before or after his death; his The Dock Of The Bay album reached No. 4 and was in the top ten simultaneously with History of Otis Redding for one week in April 1968.
Many other solo artists (e.g., Tupac Shakur) have had No. 1 albums after their deaths. But only these six have done it with singles. (Tupac’s No. 1 two-sided hit “How Do You Want It”/“California Love” predated his death by two months in 1996.)
As XXXTentacion’s song title appropriately suggests, this is all sad trivia, but the rapper/singer does join a very short list of legendary artists in their respective fields, one that history cannot erase.