Number 1 on Billboard: A Gift and a Curse

Number 1 on Billboard: A Gift and a Curse

With Cardi B’s record Bodak Yellow reaching #1 on the Billboard charts, I started to see a trend in recent hip-hop acts: the “overnight success”. This refers to artists whose come-up just seemingly happened out of nowhere. But, this is typically used just by the casual fan who’s unfamiliar with the artist’s rise to stardom. Some artists grind slowly and steadily to gain a sustainable fanbase, while others blow up to number 1 on Billboard. And while hitting number 1 on Billboard can be a massive gift, it can also be a curse. Here’s why.

Cardi B
Cardi B performing via Billboard

An artist that hits #1 must follow-up

The slow brewing artists who develop their fanbases organically through touring, album releases, and interviews have lesser expectations from the public. But, with the lesser expectations, they’re given more chances.

On the other hand, when an artist blows up with a number 1 hit single early in their career, the bar is set extremely high. This leaves the artist no room to make mistakes, which in-turn dials up the pressure.

2 artists in recent memory that went through this are Fetty Wap and Desiigner, remember them? Fetty Wap had 3 of his 4 singles off his debut album peak in the top 10 of the Billboard charts. Desiigner had Panda hit #1.

Notice the difference against artists like J. Cole, Big Sean, and Wale.

But, with that level of success comes the pressure of the follow-up, which is something only the greatest artists can handle. Unfortunately, in Fetty’s follow-up, Zoovier, he didn’t meet expectations, accruing a “meh” rating on Hot New Hip-hop.

It’s a strenuous process to promote the smash hit and enjoy its success, while still being in the studio. But, the greats are the greats because they were able to overcome that.


Fetty Wap
Fetty Wap performing via Billboard


The disconnect between fans of the hit vs. fans of the artist

Desiigner released his hit Panda, and people immediately noticed the similarity between his cadence and Atlanta rapper Future’s sound. A lot of people took a liking to the record, but a lot of people also couldn’t accept the similarities.

While the record was doing well, it took Kanye West to feature it on his album (TLOP) to push the song to number 1 on Billboard charts, and then Desiigner became known as the Panda rapper.

Sooner or later, fans start to ask for what’s next, and if an artist can’t deliver, then it’s on to the next one.

In the months between the release of Panda and Kanye’s album Desiigner would perform Panda on multiple stages multiple times instead of putting on a full show. Of course, his high energy and charisma made some performances enjoyable, but after a while, people started to demand more than he could offer.

Notice the difference against artists like J. Cole, Big Sean, and Wale. All of them had bodies of work that turned their listeners into fans of them, and not just of their hits. See the difference?


Desiigner at SXSW via Billboard

The success is temporary 

“Talent beats hard work when talent doesn’t work hard.”

While hitting number 1 on Billboard is truly an amazing feat, it’s unfortunately, also temporary. Sooner or later, fans start to ask for what’s next, and if an artist can’t deliver, then it’s on to the next one. If you didn’t know, the music industry is very much a “what have you done for me lately” type of thing.

Wrapping up

So as you see, while hitting number 1 on Billboard is definitely a huge accomplishment (salute to Cardi), there are some negatives that come with it. Obviously, an artist that’s hugely in the spotlight right now is Cardi B, with the success of Bodak Yellow. Will she follow-up? Will fans of the song remain as fans of her? Will she continue to work as hard as she did to get there?

We’ll see.

What do you think? Is hitting #1 on Billboard more of a gift or a curse?

Let us know on Twitter @culturemag_, and if you haven’t read about up and coming LA artists, Treez.