(April 17, 2020). Earlier this week, it was announced that the ubiquitous Canadian rapper Drake got his first No. 1 single of the new decade (and his seventh overall) on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his new made-for-TokTok viral hit “Toosie Slide,” you know the one where Drizzy hired social media influencers to come up with the latest internet dance challenge that turned his song into a viral sensation before it was even released.
Okay, truth be told, having seven No. 1 singles on Billboard’s premier, all-genre, song popularity list is no small feat and Drake deserves credit. He is among only a handful of artists who’ve achieved that many Hot 100 chart-toppers during this century (only Rihanna, Katy Perry, Usher and Bruno Mars immediately come to mind as the others with seven-plus No. 1s since January 2000). Beyoncé is included if you combine her six solo No. 1s with her three from Destiny’s Child.
Drake’s membership in that club is no doubt a reflection of his immense popularity, his ability to create undeniable hooks, as well as his strong business game.
Heck, even the “Toosie” music video is a stroke of commercial genius, with the rapper basically strolling through his blingy mansion while observing social-distancing measures (and giving fans a glimpse into the personal space where he’s presumably been self-isolating during the coronavirus scare).
The 6-God established or broke so many records with this latest accomplishment that I’d be writing for days if I were to cover them all in this article. Instead, you can check some of those out here.
But it’s what “Toosie Slide” accomplishes on another Billboard chart, not the Hot 100, that is creating more of a stir (and some blowback) within the music industry, particularly with R&B purists and music historians.
You see, the song also topped this week’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs list – the composite chart Billboard uses to reflect which R&B and/or Hip-Hop songs are being consumed the most here in America. By claiming the top position on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, “Toosie” became the 6-God’s twentieth(!) No. 1 on that chart – a milestone that places him in the company of just two other artists who’ve had that many in the chart’s long history: Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder.
So Drake is now tied for the most No. 1s on the R&B/Hip-Hop songs list with the late Queen of Soul Aretha and indisputable musical genius Stevie. It’s a record that’s been intact for more than three decades and seemed insurmountable before Drake started spraying hits all over the place eleven years ago.
In fact, Drake wasn’t even born when Aretha Franklin set the record in the summer of 1985 with her 20th and final R&B chart No. 1, “Freeway of Love.” And the rapper was still in diapers at 15 months old when Stevie Wonder tied Lady Soul with his 20th – the inspirational “You Will Know” – in March 1988.
Safe bet to get to 21 and break the record…
Drake, who is now 33, took only eleven years of charting to rack up his 20 No. 1s, beginning with 2009’s “Best I Ever Had.” By contrast, both Aretha and Stevie took considerably longer to tally theirs. Aretha’s first soul No. 1 – “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” – happened in 1967, eighteen years before “Freeway” topped the list.
Stevie took even longer, going 24-plus years between his first in August 1963 – “Fingertips, Pt. 1” – and “You Will Know” in ‘88.
Fourteen of Drake’s 20 R&B/Hip-Hop Number Ones have occurred in the past five years.
The fact that Drake’s hot streak doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon makes him a safe bet to break the three-way tie on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs list in the near future. It was only last month that he had a near-miss with the 8-week-running No. 2 smash “Life Is Good” (with Future). Were it not for Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” boxing him out, Drake would be looking at 21 with “Toosie” already.
In fact, Drake would have been waaaaay ahead of the pack if any of his 13 other No. 2-peaking hits had moved up just one more position during their chart runs. He also would have padded his total if he’d been given official label credit on Travis Scott’s 2018 No. 1 smash, “Sicko Mode,” a song to which Drake contributed heavily but received no label mention (which was ironic because its arguably one of his dopest performances of the past five years!).
Now, for the asterisks…
Despite all of that, there are a few caveats to Drizzy’s milestone achievement that warrant mentioning (and are worthy of a side-eye from Aretha and Stevie fans).
First, only eleven of Drake’s 20 No. 1 R&B/H-H hits had him in a lead-artist role. The other nine had him listed as a “featured” artist. And of the eleven in which he was the lead, five included assists from credited guest artists. In other words, he’s only had six true solo No. 1s, with the other 14 being collaborations with other people.
By contrast, Aretha was the lead artist on all twenty of her No. 1s – with no assists from anyone (note: her 1987 No. 1 pop hit with George Michael – “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” – only reached No. 5 on the R&B list and isn’t included in her tally).
Stevie was the lead artist on 19 of his 20 No. 1s, with the lone exception being his assist on Dionne & Friends’ benefit single “That’s What Friends Are For” – a No. 1 R&B/H-H hit in 1986. (Note: “We Are the World,” the song by USA for Africa which didn’t credit individual artists by name on the label, isn’t included in Stevie’s 20.)
So, technically speaking – and to the dubious delight of old-school music fans everywhere, Drake still has a long way to go to match the solo or lead No. 1 successes of Aretha or Stevie on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart.
But because Billboard gives artists full credit for these types of accomplishments no matter what their featured or lead status is – as long as they’re credited by the label – Drake will forever have his place in history, among two of the greatest legends to ever walk into a recording studio.
But could the end be near for Drake?
Franklin was 43 when she last topped the list, Wonder was just 37. Both were seemingly still at the top of their games when they got their last No. 1s, but as fate would have it, neither legend would return to the top again (although Aretha later added No. 2 hits with “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” and “Jimmy Lee” in ‘85 and ‘87, respectively).
No one could have guessed at the time that those would be the last chart-toppers for Aretha and Stevie. And it would be foolish to bet now that Drake’s “Toosie Slide,” a song most people will have forgotten about by August, will be his last No. 1.
But the signs are already there that, given what it took to manufacture his latest milestone, even Drake must feel that reaching number one won’t be so automatic in the future. Just rewind the clock one month to “Life Is Good” and the blockout he took from newcomer Roddy Ricch’s “The Box.” That might be evidence that the veteran rapper is losing some of his luster.
We’ll have better indicators later in the year if he has to pull out all the stops again on his next single to get a No. 1 début. In the meantime, just put your right foot up, left foot slide, then left foot up, right foot slide…ahh, never mind.
Chart history and background: The Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart is today’s version of what was once Billboard’s soul singles chart in the 1960s, ‘70s, and into the ‘80s. Since 1982, after hip-hop became more prevalent and other black music styles evolved, the chart has had several name changes to reflect the times. Billboard settled on the chart’s current name in 2005, which has been its longest-running title to-date.
In other words, for historical and milestone comparison purposes, the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart is a continuation of those older charts and is the current metric against which previous soul chart statistics and accomplishments are referenced.
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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