(June 23, 2020). Just six weeks ago, after eleven years and 109 Hot 100 chart entries, Nicki Minaj finally got 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 leapt 6-1 on the strength of a new remix featuring the rap Barbie.
Nicki set a record at the time 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 after a much smaller 47th entry almost five years earlier.
But Nicki’s feat came with an asterisk: she was a featured guest on the Doja Cat song, and Billboard promptly removed Minaj’s name from the song’s chart mentions the following week when her remix became the less-played, less-streamed version in favor of the original.
Fast forward to this week, where Minaj gets her first No. 1 as a lead artist – in a duet with fellow rapper and Billboard basher (more on that in a second) Tekashi 6ix9ine. The duo teamed up on “Trollz,” a song in which both rappers get equal lead billing and – as a result – their first such No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
As the title suggests, “Trollz” takes a swipe at both rappers’ haters – and they have many. Tekashi 6ix9ine counted among them Billboard itself when, a month ago, he claimed that the trade magazine intentionally blocked him from No. 1. He alleged that Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande paid for their No. 1 spot that week for their hit “Stuck With U,” while Tekashi’s “Gooba” – his first single since being released from jail – settled for a No. 3 entry after having several million of his streams excluded from the chart’s calculation by Billboard.
It’s the kind of alleged shenanigans that Minaj herself claimed nearly two years ago when her last studio album, Queen, settled for a No. 2 début (and peak) behind Travis Scott’s classic Astroworld, an album that had debuted at No. 1 the week before and remained at the top during Minaj’s entry week (Astroworld is still on the charts today, while Queen lasted about eight weeks). At the time, Minaj accused Scott and his camp of Week 2 chart manipulation by way of social media gimmicks designed to increase his album’s sales.
It wasn’t long afterwards that Minaj, who hadn’t had a No. 1 album since 2012 and had never had a No. 1 single at the time, announced she was retiring from recording (a claim she later walked back). Meanwhile, her biggest rival at the time Cardi B was working on her third No. 1 single in just over a year (as featured on Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” after her first two “Bodak Yellow” and “I Like It”), after having had a huge No. 1 debut album that year.
Now it’s 2020 and Minaj’s 109th and 110th singles chart entries both accomplished something that her first 108 singles never did by reaching the top of the Hot 100. And Minaj did so by doubling down on her allegiance to 6ix9ine, the rap persona non grata whose career seemed as if it would be doomed forever by allegations of his snitching on former fellow gang members to avoid lengthy jail time for aggravated assault charges last year (a topic Nicki handles on “Trollz”). Now it seems that Minaj’s risk has been her reward and it’s paid off with both artists’ first No. 1 as leads.
There is some irony in all of this. After all that whining by both Minaj and Tekashi about Billboard’s dubious methods, “Trollz” got to the top by holding off the two biggest babies on the planet: DaBaby whose “ROCKSTAR” falls to No. 2, and Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture,” which enters at No. 3. Both babies’ songs benefitted from tie-ins to the current #BlackLivesMatter movement, making “Trollz” No. 1 success even more impressive.
Just goes to show that when it comes down to it, Billboard really is just about the numbers, and you either have them or you don’t.
And this week, after some long hard-fought battles by both Tekashi and Nicki, they finally had the right numbers at the right time!
DJRob is an African-American freelance blogger from Chicago 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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