- 10 million+ records sold
Her pre-2006 output is actually legendary, and I have no idea why Nicki Minaj believes she is the Queen of rap. Worldwide, Missy sold nearly 50 million records between 1997 and 2006. She had 18 singles chart in the top 10 of the Billboard 100, cosigns from Jay Z, Timbaland, Eminem, Christina Aguilera, Wyclef Jean, Ghostface Killah, and even Fallout Boy.
Missy went through some health problems, made public in 2013, which may explain her slow output. Remy Ma and Nicki Minaj are currently fighting over the "Queen of Rap" title, and no-one at all is mentioning Missy... It;s not as bad as others on this list, simply because Missy hasn't actually flopped yet. She's just M.I.A.
She released "I'm Better" in 2017, which charted 71, but more importantly, was raved about by critics, not just the song, but the video too.
Chance of comeback
She could. She has already proven her ability to draw in critical approval with her last two videos. The market probably isn't set up for her to go platinum in 2017, but she can likely count on her loyal fanbase to pick up anything she drops.
4. Limp Bizkit
- Total Album Sales: US: 20.5 million
- Last Album: Gold Cobra (2011). Sales: 250k (US). Chart position: 16 on US Billboard 200, 30 on UK Album Charts
- Last Single: "Ready To Go" Ft. Lil Wayne (2013), didn't chart.
- Social Media Popularity: Instagram: 171k. Twitter: 45.6k. Fred Durst Twitter: 1.47M. Youtube: 594k
- Current Status: Touring heavily, no concrete news on a new album, but it is being recorded.
They rose so high in the rap-rock genre that Eminem and Dr. Dre appeared in one of their videos. Durst boasts cosigns from Method Man and Snoop Dogg, among many others. They sold huge amounts of records, and if you believe the music press, they almost single-handedly killed music at Woodstock in 1999. DJ Premier has been speaking recently, notably on Drink Champs, about his collaboration. He told N.O.R.E. that the collaboration was incredibly lucrative. Limp Bizkit were once at the pinnacle.
Wes Borland, regarded as one of the best guitarists in the world, left, and Fred Durst decided he should produce their 2003 album Results May Vary on his own. Apt title. It fell on deaf ears, and although it went platinum in the US, it was the beginning of the end as far as commercial success for the band. When Borland returned for The Unquestionable Truth (Part 1), in 2005, it seemed the band had accepted their run in the spotlight was over, as they focused more on their hardcore fans. A hiatus followed, before 2011's Gold Cobra bricked in the US, selling 27k first week. A weird deal with Cash Money ensued, as they became the whipping boys of modern music. It became very cool to hate them.
Their most recent tour saw them playing arenas in the UK, 20,000+ people per night. In fact, 2016 was spent traipsing around Europe playing massive festival shows. They are currently recording their next studio album,
Chance of comeback
It's very unlikely they'll ever ascend to the height of their fame again. They're still playing shows, they're still recording music. If they can reposition themselves as a genuine metal act, and regain some of the respect they garnered in the genre with The Unquestionable Truth, they may gain a second wind. There's little doubt they fell off, but that's more due to the changing tastes of music lovers than anything they did to themselves.
- Total Album Sales: 22 million (US)
- Last Album: M.O. (2013) Sales: 23,000 US. Chart: 14
- Last Single: "Die A Happy Man" (2016) Chart: 83 US Billboard 100
- Social Media Popularity: Instagram: 1.9m. Twitter: 4.19m. Youtube: 1.6M
- Current Status: He has two seasons of his TV show Nellyville under his belt, but it is unclear if a third season is going to be released. There's a possibility of a new album, but nothing concrete.
Nelly rarely gets the credit he deserves in the pop-rap world. He was the first rapper from St. Louis to achieve true mainstream success and paved the way for both Chingy and J-Kwon to get what they could out of the market in the mid-2000s. His debut record went diamond, his second record 6 times platinum, and in 2004 he simultaneously released 2 albums, Sweat and Suit, charting 2nd and 1st (respectively) on the Billboard 200, and selling over 4 million copies in the US. They were so good, he even released the exact same CDs as a double album in 2005, and managed to go Gold. He has 10 top 10 singles as a lead artist, including 4 number 1's. 2003's beverage "Pimp Juice" paved the way for 50 Cent's Vitamin Water, and his shoe deal proved his popularity. He even pulled off wearing a band-aid on his face.
His 2008 album Brass Knuckles tanked, selling just 223,000 records. The record industry had yet to implode, remember. Lil Wayne moved 1 million copies of Tha Carter III first week, and Kanye went Gold in a week with 808s. Nelly's next album, 2010's 5.0, did suffer from the crash in physical sales, and by the time 2013's poorly received M.O. went cardboard (15k first week despite features from Future, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell, 2 Chainz, Trey Songz, T.I., Fab, Wiz, Florida Georgia Line, and Nelly Furtado), Nelly's relevance was nearly a decade in the rearview. His fall was not particularly sudden or violent, but it's been total.
As with everyone, he's "working on a new album". He starred in his own TV show Nellyville for 2 seasons, but as of 2016 it hasn't been renewed.
His 2015 single "The Fix" with Jeremih went platinum in the US, despite only reaching number 62. He's clearly got a lot of trust capital in the market. He may be 42, but he still looks young, and I assume he's still got the genetics that allowed him to craft one of the most impressive bodies in rap or R&B. There's nothing to say Nelly can't stage a late career comeback. You're always one hit away. Unless you're Ja Rule.
2. 50 Cent
- Total Album Sales: 29m Worldwide, 17m US
- Last Album: Animal Ambition (2014) Sales: 124k US, Chart Position: 4 on US Billboard 200
- Last Single: "No Romeo No Juliet" Feat. Chris Brown (2016), didn't chart.
- Social Media Popularity: Instagram: 13.7m, Twitter: 9m. Youtube: 1.1m
- Current Status: Planning a Greatest Hits CD for March 31, 2017. Heavily involved in the TV show Power, album Street King Immortal still being teased, a constant in the media through bankruptcy reports and his social media trolling.
50 Cent has been the most successful of anyone on this list by diversifying and capitalising on his brand. Propelled by the Shady/Aftermath juggernaut led by Eminem and Dr. Dre respectively, Fif went Diamond (10 million US sales) on his 2003 debut record Get Rich or Die Tryin', and went on to sell 5 million copies of his next album The Massacre. It's difficult to ever top that, and the fact that he hasn't actually released anything of note since 2009, yet is still sought out for interviews and is still interesting enough to remain in the news whenever he posts on Instagram, is a testament to the ubquity he achieved in his earlier work. In 2013 even Jay Z hinted that one of the reasons he "retired" in 2003 was the impact and momentum that 50 had. He helped ened Ja Rule's career, and he boasted he could sell blank CDs and still go platinum, not an outrageous boast.
Gangster rap died in 2007, when 50 promised he'd retire from hip hop if his third studio album, Curtis, didn't outsell backpack rapper Kanye Wests third studio album, Graduation, in their respective first weeks. Graduation sold 957k, while Curtis did 691k. Fifty didn't retire, but the wind was no longer in his sails. Whilst "I Get Money" and "Ayo Technology" both charted well in 2007, he'd only once more reach the top 30 on the US Billboard 100, with the Eminem and Adam Levine assisted "My Life" in 2012. His 2009 album Before I Self Destruct was tame, selling 500k total in the US, and signalling the end of the 50 Cent juggernaut.
He is constantly in the news via his social media trolling, and his monetary problems, which were recently solved. He's still teasing the release of Street King Immortal, but more importantly, he's releasing a greatest hits CD in March 2017.
Unlikely Trap rules at the moment and 50 Cent is no trap rapper. He may have sung on some of his more successful singles, but he's no Drake. He's a dinosaur in the rap game, and his focus on the diversification of his brand shows he's very aware of that. He's claimed in interviews he's merely one hit away. You actually have to make the hit though, eventually!
1. Ja Rule
- Total Album Sales: Worldwide: 16m. US: 11m
- Last Album: Pain Is Love 2. Sales: 3,200. Chart: 197 US Billboard 200
- Last Single: "Real Life Fantasy" didn't chart.
- Social Media Popularity: Instagram: 429,000. Twitter: 203,000. Youtbue: 325k
- Current Status: Partakes in legacy tours, notably to Australia with Ashanti. He has said multiple times he is planning a new album, but we aren't any closer to finding out when, why, and how.
Ja Rule blew up, there's no ifs and buts. He blew up crazy before 50 Cent, and his first 4 albums set the world on fire. He hit number 1 on the Billboard 100 with "Always on Time" with Ashanti, and number 2 with "Mesmerize", another of their collaborations. During this period, rappers started to heavily feature R&B singers or just out and out pop stars on their hooks, a trend that can be traced to Ja. He even had a role in The Fast and The Furious, which he misguidedly gave up, according to director John Singleton, because he "got too big for himself. He turned it down. He turned down half a million dollars... I guess Murder Inc. was throwing out hits... He was acting like he was too big to be in the sequel. He wouldn't return calls".
Many people mistakenly believe his downfall was solely the work of 50 Cent, but Fif, while a dangerous battle rapper, didn't work alone in taking Murder Inc down. Eminem helped with some scathing diss tracks, but the fact that Murder Inc was under federal investigation, eventually proved to be terminal. Ja released Blood In My Eye in 2003, an entire album of disses, but it was clear the battle would play out on the charts, as 50 Cent went from strength to strength with his first 2 studio albums. When Ja went back in the booth to try and match 50's success, he did so without the funds he previously had at his disposal, thanks to the investigation. R.U.L.E.'s chart position of 7, and 660k copies sold, could never hope to compete with 50 Cent's diamond selling records, and Ja slipped off the map. It got significantly worse for him, when he went to prison in 2011 for two years for tax avoidance. His career was terminally injured, and he hasn't since managed to haul himself back into the conversation, despite penning and releasing a book.
He is prepping a new album, and we assume he's working on getting another season of his reality TV show Follow The Rules up and running. He went viral when this footage was rediscovered, but apart from appearing on Uncommon Sense with Charlamagne, he hasn't been sighted much.
Chance of a Comeback
Zero. Nilch. Nada. His social media following is tiny, and his type of music is not cool anymore. He took drugs but didn't heavily rap about them. Nowadays, rappers don't take drugs but rap exclusively about them.
Who did I miss?
MC Hammer: Hammer was a gimmick. Everyone on the list could rap circles around him, and his wounds were self-inflicted.
LL Cool J: Still heavily involved in TV. Only released one poor album in the last 2 decades, 2013's Authentic. I believe he's slipping off into oblivion as a rapper, willingly.
Busta Rhymes: Featured on the new Tribe album. Another artist whose age has caught up with him, and has slowed down his output, but he hasn't fallen off.
Snoop Dogg: Snoop has been dropping critically acclaimed albums for the last few years, and remains a legendary feature artist if you can book him.
Lil Wayne: Hype for Carter V has lasted for 2 and a half years! Plus all his guest spots are fire!
Andre 3000: Took a voluntary break, but every time he comes back he dazzles and delights.
Big Boi: His last 2 studio albums were critically acclaimed.
Lauryn Hill: Self-inflicted.
DMX: Check his discography, he's still quite successful. His wounds are also self-inflicted.
Everyone Else: Not relevant or big enough in the first place to be able to fall off.