(May 3, 2022). During the 2020s until this week, nine rappers achieved their very first No. 1 albums. The MCs (and their ages) at the time they first crowned the Billboard 200 chart: Lil Baby (25), Gunna (26), Pop Smoke (20), Playboi Carti (24), Rod Wave (21), Moneybagg Yo (29), Lil Durk (28), Polo G (22), and The Kid Laroi (17).
Their average age at the time they first topped the industry’s most important list was just under 24 years.
This week, veteran rapper and self-proclaimed drug lord Pusha T, who has been charting ever since his days with his older brother in the rap duo Clipse (kids today won’t remember 2002’s “Grindin’”), adds his name to the list of hip-hop artists who’ve topped the Billboard 200. His It’s Almost Dry debuts at No. 1 (on the newest chart dated May 7) with a scant 55,000 album equivalent units consumed.
That’s not a great sum, but it’s enough to make this the third week in a row that a rap album has topped the list with 55k or fewer units in what is currently a very weak market.
But more importantly, it’s enough to make Pusha T, born Terrance LeVarr Thornton on May 13, 1977, the second-oldest rapper to achieve his first No. 1 album! The record holder is still Christian rapper TobyMac, who was 47 when his first and only No. 1, Eye On It, topped the chart in September 2012.
In a hip-hop world dominated by rappers with names like Lil Baby, Da Baby, YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Young Thug, it’s easy to forget that rapping is not just a young man’s (or baby’s) game anymore.
At one week shy of his 45th birthday, Pusha easily knocks DJ Khaled from second-place among oldest hip-hip artists to get a first No. 1. Khaled, who is more a hype man than a rapper, but still considered a hip-hop artist, was 40 when Major Key topped the list in August 2016.
If you exclude Christian Rap artists (the genre, not artists based on their faith), then Pusha T is the oldest traditional rapper to achieve his first No. 1. If you exclude hype men, then the oldest rapper to get a first No. 1 before Pusha was Common, who was 35 years and five months old when his aptly titled Finding Forever topped the chart in August 2007.
The record holder before Common was Busta Rhymes, who was 34 years and six weeks old before he ever achieved a No. 1 album (with The Big Bang in July 2006).
Other rappers have achieved their first No. 1 album in their thirties, including (surprisingly) LL Cool J, Juvenile, Birdman and Mannie Fresh (of Big Tymers), Rick Ross, Future, Fabolous, and Lecrae. But none of those artists were as old as Busta, Common, Khaled, TobyMac and now Pusha T.
Putting his first-time status aside, and with the former Clipse rapper just days away from his 45th birthday, Pusha will secure his spot, for now, as the fourth-oldest rapper overall (at 44 years, eleven months and 24 days) to get a No. 1 album—first time or otherwise.
In addition to TobyMac, Jay-Z was 47 years and seven months when his last album 4:44 topped the list in 2017. But he had 13 No. 1s before that, and he was in his 20s when he first topped the chart in 1998. Eminem was 47 years and three months when his Music To Be Murdered By topped the chart in January 2020. Like Jay-Z, Eminem was in his late 20s when he earned his first No. 1 in 2000. Eminem has ten No. 1 albums to his credit (tied for second behind Jay’s 14 toppers).
The closest Pusha has come to getting a No. 1 album before now was the highly acclaimed (and Grammy-nominated) Daytona, which debuted and peaked at No. 3 in 2018. That album, buoyed by an epic beef with Billboard chart phenom Drake, was the one that seemingly propelled Pusha to a new echelon in hip-hop (despite his advancing age and the fact that he’d been in the rap game for nearly two decades).
Considering music has always seemed like Pusha T’s side hustle (at least based on his drug peddler rap persona), it’s not that surprising that his album releases have been so sparse, or that he hasn’t had greater sales and chart success.
But he finally gets his victory lap (and a No. 1 position to go with all of the smack-talking he’s no doubt mastered over the years).
Congrats to Pusha T, whose name is finally removed from this list of superstar rappers who’ve never had a No. 1 album.
DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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