Hip-hop, along with all other genres of music experience something called the ‘One Hit Wonder’. In short, this is an artist or group that makes one massively popular song and then proceeds to musically fall off the face of the earth. It isn’t an uncommon phenomenon and has been going on for years. The difference between one hit wonders in hip-hop compared to one hit wonders in any other genre is that they are often deemed “the best new rapper” without a second’s hesitation. In hip-hop, we love to throw around titles, labels and predictions like crazy. If someone has a hot song and a viral video that goes along with it, we automatically start pilling on accolades and predictions about how likely it is that they will become “the greatest of all time”. Need an example? Do the names Vanilla Ice, Shop Boys, Cali Swag District, Afroman or Chamillionaire ring a bell? If not, that’s probably because their one hit song is on that first generation iPod that you lost a decade ago. So before you go giving out “greatest rapper of the year” titles, here is a little guide on how to spot a one hit wonder in hip-hop.
First, that one hit song needs to be outrageously catchy. In most one hit wonder cases, the song that propels them to the top of everyone’s playlist has an infectious hook with an easy to follow beat. This makes it easy to sing along to and with a clean edit, the song can take over the radio. If you find yourself repeating the hook over and over again in places other than your shower, odds are, the song will be a hit. However, no all catchy songs are one hit wonders. Every veteran rapper from Jay-Z to Raekwon has an arsenal of catchy songs but they are done in a tasteful and timely manner. Take a look at 2007’s smash hit “Party Like A Rockstar” by the Shop Boys. The song was literally built around the catchy chorus. The most simplistic hook is repeated over and over again until you have no choice but to put it on your iPod in order to satisfy the repetition.
Another way to spot a one hit wonder in hip-hop is if the hit song has some type of catch phrase, dance or viral video attached to it. Songs can become instantly hot if there is some type of gimmick to it. Whether that be a new type of dance, a funny video, or any hashtag-able phrase that gets plastered all over social media. This is a clear sign of a one hit wonder because not only is it kind of corny, the gimmick becomes a short lived fad. The fad eventually fades out, and the people associate the fad with the artist; ipso facto, the artist fades as well. Just take a look at this summer’s smash hit “Hot N***a” by Bobby Shmurda. The song itself was mediocre at best BUT it was the dance that launched his career into the stratosphere. I’m not saying all dances are corny or are fads because hip-hop should embrace the element of dancing/breaking. That being said, always be skeptical when GIFs and Vines of this new rapper’s dance are clogging up your timeline overnight.
Another way to catch a one hit wonder in hip-hop is if a record label gives them a deal within weeks of the hit song dropping. These days, rappers get record deals much quicker than earlier years due to things like the Internet, social media and the fast paced society we live in. However, always be weary of the rapper who gets singed off of one song; especially if that song fits the criteria above. Of course there are exceptions to this rule but for the most part, rappers who get deals of a smash hit singles lose that same deal in less than a year. This is all thanks to the hype machine. Label executives may have a more experienced view on up and comers but they are still human which means they still buy into the hype of a hit rap record. They invest tons of money and resources into rappers who practically got lucky with a song and the result is crippling for both parties. Look at Trinidad Jame$. He got hot with song “All Gold Everything” and immediately got signed by Def Jam only to get dropped from the label 20 months later. That’s got one hit wonder written all over it.
Finally, a sure fire way to tell if a rapper will be a one hit wonder is if their follow project, or in some cases their debut project, is a complete flop. The real definition of a one hit wonder is an artist that has only one hit, therefore anything they follow it up with is trash. If whatever they drop after that one smash hit single isn’t even relatively as popular or good then it would be safe to assume they will fade into that notorious “where are they now?” category. Whether it’s a strong follow up single or quality debut album/mixtape, rappers must realize the importance of consistency. One duo that got it right is southern dup Rae Sremmurd. Their breakout single “No Flex Zone” was catchy, had a dance, a viral video and a hashtag worthy phrase. Almost everyone, myself included, read all the signs and pushed them into the one hit wonder pile until they dropped a follow up smash hit “No Type”. They went on to have a pretty good debut album and avoided the dreaded one hit wonder title. Their 15 minutes just got extended to a half hour. Let’s see what they do next.
Let us know on Twitter who you guys think will be hip-hop’s next one hit wonder!