Usually it’s big news in the music industry when the 2010’s biggest hip-hop artist, Drake, releases an album and then watches as all of its songs infiltrate the Billboard Hot 100, with the rapper recently occupying between one and two dozen of the chart’s slots as fans go on a song-clicking frenzy for weeks to hear his latest.
But an even more jaw-dropping chart occurrence happened this week involving the Canadian rapper who seemingly drops albums like Steph Curry drops three-pointers in a playoff game: for the first time since his début in 2009, Drake is absent from the Hot 100, the industry’s premier chart for measuring song popularity in the U.S.
That dates back to May 23, 2009, when his “Best I Ever Had” entered the chart at No. 92 on its way to a No. 2 peak. That began a record 431-week streak that would not end until the latest chart, dated August 26, 2017, when his most recent two occupants – “Passionfruit” and “Signs” – departed the list simultaneously.
For those keeping track, the only artists who’ve even had half of such a streak are rapper Lil Wayne (326 straight weeks) and Rihanna (216). And none of those streaks are active, by the way, which means it could be another few years – or even decades – before another artist is as durable as Drake has been in this chart-longevity category.
And make no mistake, Drake pretty much owned the charts during that eight-year, three-month streak, often setting and breaking his own records and surprisingly never experiencing any real burnout in the process.
For example, twice Drake established records for most songs occupying the Hot 100 simultaneously, first with 20 and then 24 such hits – the latter earlier this year upon the release of his More Life “playlist project” (really an album) when all 22 of its songs, plus two others on which he was featured, scaled the list.
He also became the solo male artist with the most consecutive frames in the top ten – 51 straight weeks – between October 2015 when “Hotline Bling” moved into the region, and September 2016 when “One Dance” moved out. Those two happen to be Drake’s biggest singles as a lead artist, with “Hotline Bling” narrowly missing the No. 1 spot in late 2015 and “One Dance” topping the list for ten weeks in the Summer of 2016.
If you’re looking for caveats to Drake’s success, there is a glaring one in the Number One department. “One Dance” remains Drake’s only chart topper as a lead artist, an amazing asterisk to this otherwise impressive performance. He did however reach No. 1 two other times as a featured artist – both on singles by Rihanna (“What’s My Name” in 2010 and “Work” in 2016).
However, since “One Dance” also featured other artists (Wizkid and Kyla), Drake has never truly had a solo No. 1 hit. They’ve all been collaborations with other artists, either with him or the others being listed as featured acts.
And speaking of being a featured artist, I must point out that this 431-week charting streak would never have happened were it not for the many times the rapper appeared in a guest role. A good number of the 157 Hot 100 song titles that bear his name do so after the word “featuring,” but those still count toward his streak because they did, in fact, credit his name.
Besides, old heads like me have come to terms with the fact that artists featuring other artists has been a thing for the entire 21st Century (so far). Drake is just one of the masters at it; he may as well reap the benefits.
But now the streak is over – and gone with it the prospect of Drake becoming the first artist to occupy a slot on the Hot 100 every week for an entire decade.
However, Drake fans should not stress over this. The Toronto native told a hometown crowd at the OVO Festival there earlier this month that a new album is in the works. “We’ll be bigger, we’ll be better,” he was quoted as saying.
Still, it is unlikely he’ll be “longer.” Even if he started a new Hot 100 streak on the very next chart dated September 2, 2017, Drizzy would have to be on the list every week until mid-December 2025 (!) to match his current 431-week record.
By that time, he’ll also be older – 39 to be exact. And rappers that age just don’t chart with the regularity of their younger years.
But then no one predicted after hearing “Best I Ever Had” in 2009 that Drake would be rewriting chart history like he has done so many times since.
And as he’s shown us so often when it comes to the Billboard charts, with Drake anything is possible.
Let the new streak begin?