Measuring Hip Hop’s Prominence

I’m a big fan of hip hop and recently I’ve been thinking about it’s place in pop culture. Below is my stab at trying to understsand and visualize the history of rap’s prominence in the United States.

I counted the number of weeks per year that a hip hop song was the #1 song in the United States according to the Billboard Hot 100 list. I think being the #1 song in the country indicates near universal prominence of a song and defines that song’s genre to the larger society. This is only one measure of success and it should be noted that many rap songs and artists have become staples of modern culture without achieving the #1 position (more on this below).

Click for Notes On Methodology

I used the Billboard Hot 100 lists from 1990 through 2015 as 1990 is the first year a hip hop song reached #1 and 2015 is the last complete year of data. I use the terms “hip hop” and “rap” interchangeably in this analysis. A hip hop/rap song is defined as a song whose lead artist is universally recognized as a rapper, not a singer, and whose verses are primarily composed of rapping. A Song of the Year is defined as the best performing single of the calendar year based on Billboard data. A Song of the Summer is defined as a song that was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for more weeks of the summer months (June, July, August) than any other song that year.

See the full list of #1s, Songs of the Summer, and Songs of the Year at the end of this post, as well as the top 10 rap #1s by number of weeks and the top 10 hip hop artists by numbers of weeks at #1.

See the Billboard archives here.

A total of 60 hip hop songs from 36 artists have been #1, achieving 279 weeks on top. That’s means a rap song has been the #1 tune in the country 20.5% of the time for the past 26 years. These include 5 songs of the year and 6 songs of the summer.

Jump to a playlist of every hip hop #1 below.

Wiggity, Wiggity Wack: The Early 90s

1990 is the first year a hip hop song reached #1. Unfortunately, that song was “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. The next few entries were some of hip hop’s most gimmicky. “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, “Jump” by Kris Kross, and “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot are the only other rap songs to top the charts until 1995. (MC Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This” also made the top 10, but never reached #1.)

Baaaaad Boy

1997 was Biggie’s year. Well, kind of. He had 5 weeks at #1 with “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems”. Unfortunately, that was not until after he was killed in March of that year. His producer and friend, Puff Daddy (as he was known then) went on to land 17 weeks in the top spot, including 11 weeks with the Biggie tribute “I’ll Be Missing You”. In fact, songs from Diddy’s Bad Boy Records were the only hip hop tunes to reach the #1 spot in 1997. For 42% of the year a Bad Boy song was the most popular song in the country.

Ooh, I Think They Like Me: 2002 – 2010

By this measure, hip hop has arguably never been more prominent in pop culture than it was from 2002 to 2010. The 2000s saw hip hop lose the gimmicks and violence of the 90s and cash in some monster hits like “In Da Club” by 50 Cent and “Hey Ya” by Outkast. Eminem even had his first #1 (5 years after his debut) with “Lose Yourself”.

Individual hip hop hits also began having more time at #1. 2008 and 2009 saw the highest single year numbers for weeks at #1 with 28 and 38 and those years only featured 4 and 5 #1s each. The number of weeks the average #1 rap song stays on top has ebbed and flowed since 1990, but is generally on an upward trend.

Watch The Throne

The Black Eyed Peas have the longest and second longest reigning hip hop #1s with “I Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow”. Billboard also recognizes “I Gotta Feeling” as the 6th best performing song of all time (1958 – 2015).

The Black Eyed Peas are also the longest reigning hip hop act with 28 weeks total at the top spot across only 3 songs with no features. It took Eminem 5 songs with 4 features (2 from Rihanna) to earn the second spot at 25 weeks.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

A handful of rap icons who made their names in the 90s finally captured the #1 song in the country in the 2000s. These artists include Snoop Dogg (“Drop It Like It’s Hot”, 11 years after his debut), Jay Z (“Empire State of Mind”, 14 years after his debut), and Outkast (“Ms Jackson”, 7 years after their debut).

Forgot About Dre

Like I indicated in the beginning of this post, being #1 doesn’t necessarily make or break a rapper. For example, Biggie and Jay Z have each earned 5 weeks in the #1 position, while Soulja Boy has enjoyed 7. In fact, some of hip hop’s greatest icons and influencers have never had a Hot 100 #1 single (as the lead artist) like Nas, Wu Tang Clan, LL Cool J, NWA, Public Enemy, or Dr Dre (though he’s produced several #1s, including non-rap singles).

Additional Insights

  • Both of Wiz Khalifa’s #1s have been buoyed by huge cultural events. 2011’s “Black And Yellow” was the unofficial theme for the Pittsburgh Steeler’s, who were competing in that year’s Super Bowl (Wiz is from Pittsburgh). 2015’s “See You Again” was a tribute to Paul Walker after the Furious 7 star was killed in a car accident.

  • Kanye West has produced 4 hip hop #1s – the most #1s any 1 producer has earned. The Neptunes have produced 3 and Dr. Dre has only been a producer on 2 hip hop #1s.

  • 58% of rap #1s have a featured artist. There are no stand-out featured artists, but Dr. Dre, Pharrell, and P. Diddy (all noted artist/producers) have all been featured artists on 2 #1s each. Jamie Foxx has also been featured twice.

  • 21% of hip hop #1s list the lead artist as a producer. Kanye West and Will.I.Am have each produced 2 of their own #1s. Vanilla Ice, Sir-Mix-a-Lot, Soulja Boy, P. Diddy, T-Pain, Ludacris, Outkast, and Eminem have all also self-produced #1s.

  • Iggy Azalea is the only solo female hip hop artist to have a #1. Missy Elliot came close, with 10 weeks at #2 with “Work It” in 2002 and 2003.

  • Top 10 Songs

    1. “I Got A Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas: 14 weeks
    2. “Boom Boom Pow” by The Black Eyed Peas: 12 weeks
    3. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa: 12 weeks
    4. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem: 12 weeks
    5. “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy ft. Faith Evans and 112: 11 weeks
    6. “Low” by Flo Rida ft. T-Pain: 10 weeks
    7. “Gold Digger” by Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx: 10 weeks
    8. “Dilemma” by Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland: 10 weeks
    9. “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent ft. Olivia: 9 weeks
    10. “In Da Club” by 50 Cent: 9 weeks
  • Top 10 Artists

    1. The Black Eyed Peas: 28 weeks
    2. Eminem: 25 weeks
    3. Nelly: 23 weeks
    4. 50 Cent: 22 weeks
    5. Flo Rida: 18 weeks
    6. Puff Daddy/P. Diddy: 17 weeks
    7. T.I.: 13 weeks
    8. Wiz Khalifa: 13 weeks
    9. Kanye West: 11 weeks
    10. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: 11 weeks
  • Songs of the Year

    • “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio ft. L.V.: 1995
    • “In Da Club” by 50 Cent: 2003
    • “Low” by Flo Rida ft. T-Pain: 2008
    • “Boom Boom Pow” by The Black Eyed Peas: 2009
    • “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz: 2013
  • Songs of the Summer

    • “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot: 1992
    • “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony: 1996
    • “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy ft. Faith Evans and 112: 1997
    • “Hot In Herre” by Nelly: 2002
    • “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas: 2009
    • “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX: 2014
  • Complete List of Songs


    • “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice


    • “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch


    • “Jump” by Kris Kross
    • “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot *Song of the Summer*


    • No #1s


    • No #1s


    • “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio ft. L.V.*Song of the Year*


    • “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony *Song of the Summer*
    • “How Do U Want It”/”California Love” by 2Pac ft. Jodeci/ ft. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman


    • “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” by Puff Daddy ft. Mase
    • “Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G.
    • “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy ft. Faith Evans and 112 *Song of the Summer*
    • “Mo Money Mo Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G. ft. Puff Daddy and Mase


    • “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” by Will Smith


    • “Wild Wild West” by Will Smith ft. Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee


    • No #1s


    • “Ms Jackson” by Outkast


    • “Always On Time” by Ja Rule ft. Ashanti
    • “Hot In Herre” by Nelly *Song of the Summer*
    • “Dilemma” by Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland
    • “Lose Yourself” by Eminem


    • “Lose Yourself” by Eminem
    • “In Da Club” by 50 Cent *Song of the Year
    • “21 Questions” by 50 Cent ft. Nate Dogg
    • “Shake Ya Tailfeather” by Nelly, P. Diddy and Murphy Lee
    • “Stand Up” by Ludacris ft. Shawnna
    • “Hey Ya!” by Outkast


    • “Hey Ya!” by Outkast
    • “The Way You Move” by Outkast ft. Sleepy Brown
    • “Slow Jamz” by Twista ft. Kanye West and Jamie Foxx
    • “Slow Motion” by Juvenile ft. Soulja Slim
    • “Lean Back” by Terror Squad
    • “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell


    • “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent f. Olivia
    • “Gold Digger” by Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx


    • “Laffy Taffy” by D4L
    • “Grillz” by Nelly ft. Paul Wall and Ali & Gipp
    • “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire ft. Krayzie Bone
    • “Money Maker” by Ludacris ft. Pharrell


    • “This Is Why I’m Hot” by Mims
    • “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” by T-Pain ft. Yung Joc
    • “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” by Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em
    • “Stronger” by Kanye West


    • “Low” by Flo Rida ft. T-Pain *Song of the Year
    • “Lollipop” by Lil Wayne ft. Static Major
    • “Whatever You Like” by T.I.
    • “Live Your Life” by T.I. ft. Rihanna


    • “Crack A Bottle” by Eminem, Dr. Dre and 50 Cent
    • “Right Round” by Flo Rida
    • “Boom Boom Pow” by The Black Eyed Peas *Song of the Year*
    • “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas *Song of the Summer*
    • “Empire State Of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys


    • “Imma Be” by The Black Eyed Peas
    • “Nothin’ On You” by B.o.B. ft. Bruno Mars
    • “Not Afraid” by Eminem
    • “Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem ft. Rihanna


    • “Black And Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa
    • “Give Me Everything” by Pitbull ft. Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer


    • “Whistle” by Flo Rida


    • “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz *Song of the Year*
    • “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton
    • “The Monster” by Eminem ft. Rihanna


    • “The Monster” by Eminem ft. Rihanna
    • “Timber” by Pitbull ft. Kesha
    • “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX *Song of the Summer*


    • “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa


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