Odd week in hip-hop: Drake ends No. 1 album streak; Nicki Minaj gets first No. 1 single…and timing is the reason for both.

(May 11, 2020).  They say when it comes to the charts and hitting No. 1, timing is everything.

That proves to be the case for two 11-year rap veterans on this week’s marquee Billboard lists: the Billboard 200 albums and Hot 100 singles charts.

Say what? Drake misses No. 1, Nicki gets one.

First, the albums and Drake:

Last week, the Canadian hip-hop superstar surprise-released the album Dark Lane Demo Tapes – a collection of stray tunes and assorted outtakes – with the hopes of sneaking in yet another No. 1 entry on the Billboard 200.   It would have netted him his tenth-consecutive chart-topper and placed him in a tie with Eminem for second-most among rappers (behind Jay-Z’s 14).

Drake’s No. 1 streak ends at nine. He’ll have to wait until his next release to begin a new one.

Instead, Drizzy got sucker-punched by a country superstar – Kenny Chesney – whose new studio effort Here and Now outsold the rapper by 10,000 album-equivalent units and landed at No. 1 instead.  Ironically, Chesney’s accomplishment ties him with Drake – along with Garth Brooks, Madonna, Kanye West and The Rolling Stones – with each having nine No. 1s on the album chart.

Drake, who announced the pending release of yet another “studio album” later this summer while fans were still trying to digest this one, was clearly the victim of bad timing – as Dark Lane had enough sales points to rank at No. 1 in most of the other weeks this year, including last week when the No. 1 album (38 Baby 2 by YoungBoy Never Broke Again) sold less than a third of Drake’s total.

In other words, had Dark Lane been issued just a week earlier, it would have been the 6-God’s tenth No. 1 album on last week’s list, all things being equal.

Chesney’s coup included a bit of marketing savvy, as his album received a boost from merchandise and concert ticket redemption tie-ins with each purchase.  He also benefited from anticipation spurred on by weeks of advance notice about Here and Now, whereas Drake’s album was announced only hours before it hit streaming services at midnight on May 1.  Drake’s Dark Lane also didn’t have any physical copies available and there were no concert ticket or merchandise bundles associated with its purchase.

If any of those factors had been different, this might be a different article altogether.  As it stands, we’ll likely have to wait for that new “studio album” this summer to see if Drake can move higher into that elite territory with his tenth No. 1.

As for the singles chart and Nicki Minaj…

It’s a different story altogether.  

After eleven years and 109 Hot 100 chart entries, the rap Barbie finally gets her first No. 1 single after joining female artist Doja Cat on a remix of the younger star’s pop smash “Say So,” a song that leaps 6-1 on the strength of the new remix’s large streaming numbers.

Nicki Minaj was added to the remix of Doja Cat’s hit “Say So.”

Nicki sets a record by becoming the first artist to have as many as 109 entries before getting her first No. 1.  She replaced Justin Bieber, who had his first No. 1 with his 47th entry almost five years ago.  

Until this week, Minaj was the solo artist with the most chart entries without ever having a No. 1.  Now that dubious distinction reverts back to Future, the rapper who has 99 Hot 100 entries without any of them reaching the top of the chart.

Before the streaming and “featured artist” era, where artists can rack up chart entries just by releasing a new album or attaching their names to someone else’s project, the record-holder was the late Godfather of Soul, James Brown, who had 92 Hot 100 entries (all physical single releases and no features) without reaching No. 1 (he did have seventeen No. 1s on the soul chart, however).

Back to Nicki, her rise to the top was obviously helped by her “feature” on Doja Cat’s single, a dubious vindication for the rapper who just last year declared she was retiring from recording after watching her last album Queen fall short of reaching No. 1 in 2018.  She’s since “clarified” those comments and has put out various one-off singles to very little success.  A new album is expected in 2020.

The current No. 1 single on Billboard’s Hot 100 is “Say So” – the first collabo by women to top the chart since 2014.

Incidentally, Doja and Nicki’s “Say So” becomes the first collaboration between female solo artists to reach No. 1 since 2014 (“Fancy” by Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX) and the sixth such collaboration overall – the biggest being 1998’s “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy & Monica (13 weeks at No. 1 that year).  The first to do it was Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer’s “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” in 1979.  

The other all-female collaborations to reach No. 1 have been “Lady Marmalade” by Christina Aguilera featuring Lil Kim, Mya & P!nk, and “S&M” by Rihanna featuring Britney Spears in 2001 and 2011, respectively. 

Ironically, Minaj’s collabo with Doja Cat had to beat out another joint female effort  – by another female rapper – to reach the top.  The song at No. 2 is Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” which jumps there from No. 4 after a full week of streaming was registered by its new remix featuring Beyoncé.

Nicki’s crowning may have been helped by timing as well, in this case that of the release of her competition.  The “Savage” remix with Beyoncé was released on April 29, two days before the tracking week for the current chart began (and two days before the “Say So” remix was released).  That means some of the newness – and the first-day anticipation – surrounding the Queen Bee remix of “Savage” had already subsided by the time the “Say So” remix hit the street on May 1.

For as close in points as these two songs were, those two days may have been the difference between “Say So” and “Savage” coming out ahead in this race, which tracked sales and streaming from May 1 – May 7.

Of course this is somewhat speculative, and it’s quite possible that even if both songs’ remixes had been released on the same day, Nicki and Doja Cat still would’ve come out on top.

Nicki Minaj

As it stands, Nicki gets her first No. 1 – as does Doja Cat – and Megan Thee Stallion has to wait for hers.  And Beyoncé is prevented from getting her seventh (as a solo artist).

And, oh yeah, timing is still everything when it comes to being No. 1.


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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