(January 26, 2020). Only four other recording acts in history have had more No. 1 albums than Eminem – and only one is a rapper: Jay-Z.
That is the state of things after Slim Shady’s surprise new album, Music to Be Murdered By, debuted at No. 1 on the latest Billboard 200 chart (dated February 1, 2020), becoming Em’s tenth No. 1 overall (and his tenth consecutive…only his first album, The Slim Shady LP, failed to do the trick when it peaked at No. 2 in 1999).
Essentially, Eminem pulled a Beyoncé on January 17 when he surprise-released Murdered and now he’s only four behind her hubby Jay-Z’s fourteen No. 1s in the race among hip-hop artists. (Interestingly, Em name-drops both Carters on one of the new album’s dopest tracks, “Unaccommodating,” and separately Jay-Z later on the album).
Em also moves ahead of rappers Drake and Kanye West, who have each topped the album chart nine times. Those two are now tied for third among hip-hop artists.
Here’s the current leader board:
|Rappers||Number One albums|
The other three artists with more No. 1 albums than Eminem are non-rappers: the Beatles (with 19), and Barbra Streisand and Bruce Springsteen – both of whom have eleven. Elvis Presley is tied with Eminem at ten chart toppers. For those interested, Elvis’ last No. 1 album was a posthumous compilation in 2002, while Barbra and Bruce had No. 1s in 2016 and 2014, respectively.
|Artist||Number one albums|
Em’s Murdered also makes him the first artist to have No 1s in all three decades of the 21st century so far. He had five in the ‘00s, four in the ‘10s, and now one in the still-young ‘20s.
Eminem’s numbers on Murdered (279k equivalent units) are impressive for someone who’s been in the game for more than 20 years and is now 47 years old. Those numbers aren’t surprising, though, given his track record. But they also weren’t a given in the fickle world of hip-hop where fans can turn on a dime based on your last product and how well (or not) it was received.
What’s not good for other rappers is that Em is showing no signs of slowing down.
He’s had three albums top the chart in just the past 25 months – all after his 45th birthday – with Revival and Kamikaze, both in 2018, preceding the current one.
Jay’s 4:44 is the only other No. 1 album by a rapper who was over 45 years old when he dropped it.
Hip-Hop history: See the list of every hip-hop album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
To further put Eminem’s last three No. 1 albums in perspective, no other rapper has had that many chart-topping albums since January 2018. In fact, only BTS, the K-pop phenoms, have had as many No. 1 albums as Eminem in that timeframe.
This is significant in the hip-hop part of the race because, as Jay-Z’s closest competitor for chart supremacy, Eminem now stands to catch and surpass Hova in the next few years if the current pace of chart toppers holds up. Jay-Z hasn’t had a No. 1 album since 2017’s 4:44. And that’s his only one since 2013, when Magna Carta…Holy Grail became his thirteenth No. 1. Translation: one No. 1 album for Mr. Carter in the past six-and-a-half years.
There’s nothing to suggest that his next album won’t return him to the top. But Jay is 50 years old, and it just feels like his output is only going to keep slowing down from here.
When you think about it, what else does a middle-aged man who’s rapped about everything from gang-banging and trapping in his 20s, to becoming hip-hop’s richest “business, man,” in his 30s and 40s, to his life as hubby to the game’s baddest B and father of three, have to say in his 50s?
Eminem, on the other hand, has released what is probably his dopest album in years with Murdered (although the cancel culture – the #eminemisCANCELLED hashtag is still trending – has been ramped up in the wake of the album’s controversial lyrics, including a reference to the Manchester, England tragedy that followed an Ariana Grande concert in 2017).
It’s hard to imagine anything on Revival or Kamikaze that tops the last 35 seconds of the song “Godzilla” alone. Conceptually, Murdered is easily his most cohesive album of the past ten years (since 2010’s Relapse), with the songs mostly playing off the title’s morbid theme.
The disses, the current-event relevancy, the clever wordplay, the superstar collaborations (not that he needs them), the hooks (especially on “Stepdad,” “Yah Yah” and “Little Engine”), and his unnaturally rapid, lung-sapping lyrical flow (no oxygen was apparently needed in the room during the recording of “Godzilla”) are fully intact on Murdered. If Em keeps dropping material this lit, he could easily have at least four more No. 1 albums under his belt this decade.
And that would be all he needs to put him at the top, that is, if Jay-Z hasn’t raised the bar by then.
I think most hip-hop fans would agree that the number of No. 1 albums doesn’t decide GOAT status, but it sure provides for some great bragging rights.
Regardless, one thing remains clear, as Em proclaims on “Godzilla,” he’s got no plans to retire.
And, because of that, the race for rap supremacy on the Billboard charts continues.
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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