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Hip-Hop Out-Charted Pop By 227 Weeks in 2017

It may come as no surprise, but hip-hop was the most popular genre of music in 2017, by an impressive margin. It was reported earlier in th...

By The Numbers:Nicki Minaj is the Most Successful Female Rapper Of All Time

Stats can now be found via HipHopNumbers on Twitter

In June 2017, Nicki Minaj claimed in an Instagram post she was the most awarded female rapper in history. That same day she tweeted to her fans asking them to fact-check her claims, and thus far no-one has been able to confirm or deny her place atop female rap. This article will answer that question from a statistical standpoint, as well as revealing who is the most successful female rapper in the following categories:

  • Album sales
  • Single sales
  • Album charts
  • Single charts
  • Critical review
  • Awards and nominations
All of these categories are great measures of success. There are many intangible ways that success can be achieved, but these areas have publicly available numbers that can be gathered and analysed. The rapper who wins the most categories at the end of the article gets crowned the most successful female rapper of all time.

The analysis concerns rappers' solo careers (or, in the case of Salt-n-Pepa, their work within the group), and singles released in which they are the lead or main artist. Lauryn Hill's work with The Fugees isn't included, nor is Foxy Brown's work with The Firm, or Nicki's with Young Money. It's also limited to the United States.

The dataset included 75 female rappers or female rap groups. If you'd like access to the dataset, or need more clarification or information, please message me, I am all too happy to accomodate. 

Album Sales: Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill dominates this section. The bulk of her sales came from her classic debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It has sold an incredible 8 million copies in the US alone. Her live album MTV Unplugged 2.0 contributes another million. 

Nicki slips to fourth, outsold by Salt-n-Pepa and Missy Elliott. This category goes to Lauryn.

Removing the element of "more albums, more sales", this graph listing sales per-album gives a more accurate snapshot of success. Once again, Lauryn wins dramatically.

Singles Sales: Nicki Minaj 

Nicki is well ahead of Iggy. At 31 million single sales, she's more than double her nearest competitor. Lauryn Hill, who won the total album sales, has only moved 1.5 million singles, although it must be remembered she flourished well before the era of streaming. In the late 90s you had to drive to the store and buy a physical copy.

Total sales divided by number of singles released, to control for artists who get a lot of sales by releasing a lot of music. While on average Iggy's singles are more commercially successful, Nicki's longevity must be taken into account. Nicki has released 29 singles, while Iggy has only released 11. Nicki's first 11 singles sold, on average, 1.6 million each, about 400,000 more than Iggy. 

Album Chart Position: Nicki Minaj

This is the average chart position per-album for an artist's entire career. Nicki has a slightly better track record than Lauryn Hill, even though she's released 1 album more. These stats show that every time Nicki Minaj releases an album it charts at 1.3 on the Billboard 200, a stellar record. 

Single Chart Position: Nicki Minaj

Nicki's average chart position on the Billboard Hot 100 is a staggering 42, 10 places above her nearest rivals Da Brat, Eve, and Lil' Kim. This means that over her career she almost always charts in the top 40. Her closest competitor is actually Missy Elliott.

Missy has the most Hot 100 top 10s with 5. Nicki has 4.

Nicki has the most total Hot 100 charting solo songs with 24, while Missy has 18.

82.8% of all singles Nicki has released where she is the lead artist have charted in the Hot 100. Missy is at 72%, Eve at 69.2%, and Lauryn Hill comes 7th with 50%.

Awards: Nicki Minaj

Nicki is the most awarded solo female rapper in the history of the genre. From 277 total nominations, she has picked up 191 wins. Second is Missy with 186 nominations and 125 wins, then it slips all the way back to Iggy in third with 99 nominations and just 52 wins (although she only has one album in her discography). Amazingly, Salt-n-Pepa won just 4 awards from 12 nominations.

Nicki has still won the most awards per album and per single, although Iggy is a relatively close second.

It must be remembered that a lot of awards and categories weren't around during the 80s and 90s. The BET awards weren't established until 2001, which is after Lauryn Hill, Eve, Da Brat and Salt-n-Pepa were in their prime.

Nicki has also won a lot of weird, miscellaneous awards. "Best Celebrity Fragrance", an MP3 Music Award, "Favorite Animated GIF" at the MTV O Music Awards, and a Nickelodeon Kids' Choice award.

The big 4 in hip-hop are the Grammys, BET, American Music Awards, and Billboard Music Awards. Here is how they stack up when only analysing these four categories. And remember, BET only began handing out awards in 2001, so Lauryn Hill, Eve and Salt-n-Pepa missed out on these.

Nicki wins again with 28, but she hasn't won a Grammy. Missy comes second with 25, but she's only been nominated 62 times, compared to Nicki's 105. Lauryn Hill comes third with 13 wins from just two albums, and her nomination-win ratio is significantly better than Nicki's.

Critical Acclaim: Missy Elliott

Nicki, the overall winner, falls to 7th in this comparison. On average, her albums have recieved a 6.6/10 from critics, whereas Missy's, over the course of her six albums, average a muscular 8/10. Lauryn Hill's classic debut album holds an 8.7/10 average, but her MTV Unplugged 2.0 release, which is counted in every other chart in this article, has an average score of 5.7/10.

The Overall Winner: Nicki Minaj

Nicki's claims to be the most awarded female emcee of all time are entirely correct. She has also sold the most singles, and has the best average chart position for both albums and singles. A staggering 82% of all singles Nicki has released have made it onto the Billboard Hot 100.

Second Place: Missy Elliott

Missy is the quiet achiever of the analysis. She's had more top 10 hits than Nicki, has a better nomination-to-win ratio for major awards (40% vs 26%), she blitzed the critical analysis section, she has the second most total awards, and came third in total albums sold. She doesn't get the credit she deserves for an illustrious and trailblazing career.

Third Place: Lauryn Hill

Few will argue that Lauryn Hill is the most complete emcee on this list. Her work with The Fugees will go down in history as some of the most adept lyrical and technical work, regardless of gender. Her first album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, is considered a classic record, and arguably she has the only classic album in this analysis, although in time Missy might have one or two on the same level. Her nomination-to-win ratio in awards was 44%, and she has an incredible 8 Grammy's from just two records, doubling Missy's haul. Not only do the numbers give cred to her standing in the game, she is regularly spoken of in the "Top 5" and "Top 10" conversations, one of the only female rappers who can boast this reputation.

By The Numbers: Too Old? The Lifespan of the Modern Batsman

Australia seems to flip back and forth between "age doesn't matter" (Chris Rogers) and "youth at all costs" (Mitch Marsh) selection policies. Ed Cowan is 35 and can't even secure a place in the NSW Sheffield Shield side, despite being the top scorer of the entire competition the previous year. Steve Smith, the Australian and NSW skipper, said he preferred Daniel Hughes, because: "I think he's a player potentially for the future".

Is 35 too old? How many years could a 35-year-old conceivably have ahead of them at international level? Is there any statistical proof that age alone can predict future form?

The following analysis includes all international male recognised batsmen who have played 4 or more matches (Test, ODI, T20) aged 35 or above from 1990 onwards (their entire career is, however, included in the analysis, not just their post-1990 career). The analysis compares these batsmen to their younger self, not to every single cricketer who has played in the last 27 years. There are many qualitative factors that determine the length of a career or the longevity of a cricketer. This article is going to prove that age by itself (if form remains constant, as it has with Cowan and numerous cricketers on this list) is not a reason to drop somebody. The policy of picking players for the future is admirable, but as this study reveals, the lifespan of the modern batsman is significantly longer than the current Australian selectors seem to think.

So, let's look exclusively at the numbers. This is the mean batting average for every cricketer in the analysis, broken down by format and age group (35+ vs 34 and under).

Immediately, it's clear age is barely a factor for batsmen in their mid-30s. The difference between the two averages in all three formats is almost small enough to be entirely dismissed. Not considering a batsman for international selection at age 35, provided their form remains strong (and Cowan's is very strong), has no statistical backing.

At what age does performance become an issue? 

This graph is a bit astonishing. It isn't until age 40 that test batting averages per age drops below 40 (Note: these are ALL test bastmen who played 4+ matches post-35 from 1990 onwards). Naturally, all the players in the dataset have proven themselves masters of longevity, or they wouldn't still be playing test cricket at age 40, but that line is proof that an international career is by no means over at age 35. If Cowan were to be picked for the Ashes, this graph shows it's possible he'd still be in his prime at age 37, right around the time Australia tours England for the 2019 Ashes.

What about One Day Cricket? 

Australia began to separate the test and one day teams after the World Cup final loss to Sri Lanka in 1996. An initial thought might be one day cricketer is more catered to a younger cricketer, but the statistics say different. In the dataset there are 57 eligible batsmen in test cricket, and 58 in one day cricket, so there doesn't appear to be a focus on youth in international selection policy. Australia doesn't quite match up here: 13 of our test cricketers post-1990 went on to play more than 4 games after they turned 35, but only 8 played one-day cricket post-35.

This graph shows the drop in average due to age doesn't occur until 39. Statistically, a batsman can be just as good at age 38 as they are between 18 and 34.

T20 Internationals

Batsmen in the dataset actually have a higher strike rate from age 35 onwards than they did under the age of 35, and their averages are almost identical. This isn't totally surprising, considering the wealth of older cricketers who have made T20 their format of choice, and travel the world performing in domestic competitions like the IPL and BBL. Selection policies have again chopped and changed between picking older cricketers and giving younger players experience. Australia's 2016 Twenty20 World Cup squad was heavy on youth, with no player aged over 35, but in 2012 David Hussey (35), Michael Hussey (37) and Brad Hogg (41) were included due to outstanding domestic form.

Sheffield Shield

In March 2017 Darren Berry wrote that the Sheffield Shield had  ".. become a development tool for higher honours as opposed to a once-revered hard-fought contest by each state's best 11 players". Brett Geeves wrote an impassioned article in November 2016 with a similar theme:
The damage is done and it will only continue while the domestic competition – both first XI and second – are diluted with underachieving kids who aren’t entering the highest levels of the game equipped with the experiences of complete domination through the once-challenging stepping stone to the earnt representation of state and country
Geeves' article pinpoints 2009 as the year when Sheffield Shield policy seemed to shift from promoting competition to promoting youth, beginning with a rebranding of the second XI competition into the "Futures League". Initial rules dictated teams only field three players over the age of 23, although this was relaxed in the 2011/2012 season to six players allowed over the age of 23.

Was this change in focus reflected in the statistics?

Performance has dropped off notably since the introduction of the Futures League and the shift towards using the Sheffield Shield as a breeding ground for the next generation of test cricketers rather than a fiercely competitive tournament in its own right. Analysing the top 5 run scorers from each year of the competition since 05/06, there was a huge dip of over 3000 runs between 05/06 - 08/09 and 09/10 - 12/13, as well as a drop in average of almost 5.50 runs. The average age of the top 5 run scorers also drops a whole 2.5 years. Despite a rebound in performance from 2013/2014 - 2016/2017, the aggregate was still more than 2000 runs behind the period 2005/2006 - 2008/2009.

These are the ages of all of the top 5 (each season) run scorers. Age 25-29 is the most prolific over the past 12 years, while 35+ has been the least.

This pie chart shows the same information but limited to 05/06 - 08/09, the period immediately before the second XI rebranding, and the season that Brett Geeves observed the Sheffield Shield was "... diluted with underachieving kids". 30-34 and 35+ are both more prolific, with 25-29 staying the same. 

What are these stats saying? The fact that 10% of the top Shield run scorers in the last 12 years have been over the age of 35 is again proof that, as long as form remains constant, mid-30s is not the end of a cricketer's career. Ricky Ponting retired from international cricket in 2012 and returned to Sheffield Shield to top the run scorers list with 911 runs at 75.91, all at age 38.

The idea that this change in focus has been detrimental to the Australian test team is reflected in the data. Australia dominated test cricket right up until the 08/09 India series, after which performances became much less consistent. Australia lost The Ashes at home in 2010/2011, the first time they'd lost a home Ashes in 24 years. In August 2017 they were one loss away from slipping to 6th in the world, a mark they haven't dipped to since 1988.

This period of erratic performance coincided with the drop off in Sheffield Shield performance outlined in the table above. It's also aligned with a huge amount of unrest in team selection, with the number of debutants more than doubling from 2009 to 2017, when compared to the period 2000-2008.


Players like Ed Cowan need to be nurtured, not cast aside. An international batsman's "expiry" age is 40 years old according to the statistics. A lot of cricketers lose form well before they hit 40, and they are dropped, just like every other cricketer in the world. If you're not performing, you won't get picked regularly, regardless of your age. Age shouldn't even factor into the debate though. Older players get significantly less leeway with their form, and can find it almost impossible to make it back into the side if they are dropped (Cameron White, a prime example). Yet if a batsman is 35, statistically speaking he could still be performing well for another 5 years.

There are more benefits to experience and older cricketers than simply proven longevity. Test batsmen can't be manufactured, they are born and bred in competitive spirit and hard-edged battles. Having vastly experienced players in the Sheffield Shield provides invaluable opportunities for young cricketers to learn and test themselves against the best. Think of players like Jamie Siddons, David Hussey, Jamie Cox, Michael Bevan, Martin Love, Michael Di Venuto, Stuart Law, Jimmy Maher. Now consider the current crop of Sheffield Shield batsmen. Ed Cowan was just dropped,  as was Michael Klinger. The journeymen, the cricketers who played Australia in the summer and County cricket in the winter, who have tens of thousands of first-class runs under their belt, are becoming fewer and fewer. George Bailey, Callum Ferguson and Cameron White are really the only super-experienced veterans still getting selected. And Australian international performance is starting to wane because of it.

If you're interested in the dataset, or have further questions about it, please message me! I'd love to chat about it. If you have any suggestions for future videos let me know. Please subscribe to my mailing list too, I will be doing many of these.

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