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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...


If you've landed on Ben's Big Blog from your corner of the universe, thank you :) If you came via HipHopNumbers, you are in the right place! All of my statistical analyses on this website can be found here.

I Have Moved To for the Foreseeable Future

I have my own little statistical corner at

This is where I will now remain until Carter (the site's owner) kicks me off. Hopefully the 35th of Nevuary.

Here is why I made the move to CentralSauce, and why, if you're a hip-hop fan at any level, you should hop over and have a click around. The content and the creators producing it are absolutely top-drawer

 CentralSauce favours deep, well-researched, immersive content over superficial or clickbait work that leaves you as quick as you read it. The content I create can take months to research and describe, and there's no other outlet with the capacity to publish and highlight such deep dives. My content is in-depth and takes a lot of hard work, and this is exactly what CentralSauce is.

Here is some of the work I've had published recently on the website

Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Drake or Kanye West: Who Was the Most Self-Obsessed Lyricist in 2018?

There's plenty more in my creator archive.

Finally, follow the twitter!

Feel free to get in touch with me about anything you want. To yell at me, to cry with me, to offer me paid employment!

Tracking Jay-Z's Transition From Player to Family Man Via His 320 Lyrical Beyoncé Lyrical References

Jay-Z has mentioned or explicitly referenced Beyoncé 320 times in song during the course of his rap career, a figure accumulated via 69 tracks between 1998 and 2018. The nature of these mentions has evolved alongside Jay-Z the artist and Shawn Carter the man, beginning with sly double meanings and subliminal easter eggs, transitioning into aspirational statements and observations, and maturing to address issues of family, sex, and infidelity, three topics he scoffed at before Beyoncé entered his life.

Since they're about to head back out On The Run together, it's a great time to visualise and explain how and why the way Jay speaks about Beyoncé on wax has changed. This article only includes explicit, obvious references. Tracks like "Excuse Me Miss" and his verse on "Frontin'" could be attributed to Beyoncé, but there is too much ambiguity to be certain.

How Often Jay Mentions Bey During His Career

Here is a breakdown of the nature of Jay-Z's 320 lyrical Beyoncé references.


  • Observational: These are all-purpose, simple references or mentions. On 2009's "Venus Vs. Mars" there are 14 observational references, simple bars like "She used to have a man" and "Shorty played the piano".
  • Speaking Directly to Beyoncé: "03' Bonnie & Clyde" is a great example, with ad-libs like "Talk to 'em B" and bars like "I ain't perfect, nobody walking this earth's surface is / But girlfriend, work with the kid". 
  • Punchline / Double Meaning: Early examples include "I'm Destiny's Child, my fate's been sealed", and "Get your independent ass out of here".
  • Aspirational: References and mentions that centre on their relationship, or just Beyoncé, as the pinnacle of human existence. "Upgrade U" has 9, including "Cause that rock on ya finger's like a tumor".
  • Aesthetic: Lyrics that centre on Beyoncé's physical appearance. On 2011's "That's My Bitch": "Call Larry Gagosian, you belong in museums".
  • Sexual: 2013's "Drunk In Love": "Your breastes my breakfast / We goin' in"
  • Family: When Jay's references switched from girlfriend to future wife to wife. The "Family" section and graph has more information.

How The Nature of Jay-Z's Beyoncé References Have Changed Over Time

The content arc Jay's career has taken since his debut in 1996 is unlike any other discography in rap music. He began as a conscious gangster rapper, then spent the rest of the 2000s embracing violence, hyper-consumerism, and cold-hearted dealings with women. Bars like "I fuck the most hoes out of New York State" (2000), "Hot boy Jigga man scorch your bitch" (1999), and this inexplicable line on 2001's The Blueprint centrepiece "Heart Of The City (Ain't No Love)", "Get a couple of chicks, get 'em to try to do E / hopefully they'll menage before I reach my garage" are just a drop in the ocean of Jay's cold and callous treatment of women pre-2002. 

While there were hidden gems in his early work that betrayed this cartoonishly masculine character ("Soon You'll Understand", "You Must Love Me"), the overwhelming bulk of his music was emotionally barren. 2001's "Song Cry" signalled a change in his lyrical content that became permanent on 2002's The Blueprint 2, with "03' Bonnie & Clyde", "Excuse Me Miss", and his guest spot on Pharrell's "Frontin'".

This change in content is reflected in the way he began to modify how he spoke about his future wife Beyoncé, and it's no stretch to say she was pivotal in Jay's mid-career maturation.

Both graphs deliver the same information, just in slightly different ways. If these are confusing, I've broken down every category individually below, with simple graphs. 


1998-2002: 0
2003-2008: 4
2009-2013: 24
2014-2018: 4

If there is one statistic taken away from this article, let it be that Jay very rarely spoke of Beyoncé in a sexual way until after they were married. The only times prior were on "Deja Vu", their collaboration in which Jay raps "Now I bag B", and Beyoncé confirms by ad-libbing "Boy you hurting that", on 2007's "Party Life" when Jay riffs "I'm on her bra strap, she's on my dick", and "She's my little quaterback, ya dig / Cause I'm all that in the sack", and a solitary reference on "Oh Girl (Remix)", "Until that day you said close your eyes, let me ride you".

Once they wed in 2008, it was open season, and both traded sexual bars on a number of tracks, most notably 2013's "Drunk In Love", which features 15 sexual references from Jay alone. He also slipped 5 into 2017's "MaNyFacedGod", 5 into their 2013 collaboration "Part II (On The Run)", and 3 into Justin Timberlake's "Murder".

Being sexually explicit about your wife on wax may not appear to be the most respectful angle, but with the exception of 4 references in 2007, Jay waited until they were married 5 years before he began using sex with Beyoncé as more than a passing mention or one-off bar.


1998-2002: 0
2003-2008: 4
2009-2013: 28
2014-2018: 21

In 2003, at the end of what was meant to be his final recorded track, "My 1st Song", Jay shouts out a bunch of people during the outro. Just after he says "My whole family, my nephew, cousin Angie, whassup? Ti-Ti" he also throws in 4 "Bey"'s, before immediately shouting out his mother. Trawl through every Jay-Z song prior to 2002, there has never been a mention of a girlfriend being part of his family, in fact, he spits the opposite ("Now what I look like giving a chick half my trap / Like she wrote half my raps / Yeah, I'm having that").

The next family references came in "New Day" in 2011, and family was the most common way Jay referred to Beyoncé after their marriage. It was a major theme on 2017's 4:44, with 20 separate attributions. For a rapper who once spat "Don't get mad at me, I don't love 'em I fuck 'em / I don't chase 'em I duck 'em / I replace 'em with another one", the growth required to then spit "We're supposed to laugh 'til our heart stops / And then meet in a space where the dark stop / And let love light the way" is exponential.

Punchlines / Double Meanings

1998-2002: 8
2003-2008: 6
2009-2013: 8
2014-2018: 2

Jay assigned himself the title of "Monster of the Double Entendre", and Beyoncé offered a great opportunity for these punchline-based bars. As their relationship progressed, punchlines turned into double meanings, and Jay (proportionally) used fewer and fewer. Classic mid-career examples include "I need Angelina Joleezy comfort / So I ain't gon' make a move unless I got a Plan B" from 2006's "Trouble", "Ridin' so slow but BK is from Texas" on "Empire State of Mind" (2009) and the 6 he delivered on "Venus Vs. Mars" (a Jay/Bey collab) from 2009.


1998-2002: 10
2003-2008: 20
2009-2013: 20
2014-2018: 16

While the percentage figure has gone down over time (the amount of aspirational references as a percentage of total references in a time period), the raw numbers have stayed relatively consistent. All the pre-2003 references came from "03' Bonnie & Clyde", a track heaped with bars speaking into existence the dominance the couple would exert in the 15 years to come. Since, Jay has scattered references throughout his discography and guest spots, as the lyrics turned from superficial boasting ("Me and my beautiful bitch, in the back of the bach", "And B she gotta ride G3", "30's the new 20, I'm so hot still / Better broad, better automobile") to inspirational statements ("The rest for B, whatever she wants to do / She might start an institute / She might put poor kids through school", "We gon' make a billi first / I told my wife the spiritual shit really work"). Another example of the changing disposition.


1998-2002: 1
2003-2008: 1
2009-2013: 18
2014-2018: 4

"That's My Bitch", during which he compared Beyoncé to the Mona Lisa and rapped that she belongs in mueseums, delivers 1/3 of the total aesthetic references. For some reason, Jay never pursued the "Beyoncé is hot" thread, outside of "Got the hottest chick in the game wearing my chain" in "Public Service Announcement" in 2003. When he does, it can be slightly awkward, as on 2002's "All Around The World": "Pool look like a hundred Beyoncé's / A couple fiancees", or clumsy, as on 2008's "Jockin' Jay-Z": "No that's not Pilates, her body is thick".

Speaking Directly to Beyoncé

1998-2002: 7
2003-2008: 23
2009-2013: 7
2014-2018: 16

A lot of Jay's earlier "speaking to Bey" references came via ad-libs, as on "03' Bonnie and Clyde" and "Upgrade U". Of the 53 references in this category, 23 came from Jay/Bey collaborations, meaning 30 came outside of those. Similar to the "observational" category, "4:44" and "MaNyFacedGod" delivered, with 14 between them. Most of the other instances have been Jay acting as Beyoncé's hype-man (a role she rarely reversed), like "B put these fuckboys on notice" ("Top Off"), "Talk to 'em B", "Break it down for 'em B" ("03 Bonnie & Clyde").

Observational References

1998-2002: 7
2003-2008: 11
2009-2013: 22
2014-2018: 28

Observations are simple references, usually used to provide context or simply describe a situation or fact. They're mostly harmless, and quite objective. All of Jay's early observations came from "03' Bonnie & Clyde". As they accumulated shared experiences and knowledge of each other, and began to share a life together, the number of observational references in Jay's music increased. Tracks like "4:44" and "MaNyFaCedGod" tackled deep-rooted relationship issues with a lot of observation and reflection. "I seen the innocence leave your eyes", "Not meant to cry and die alone in these mansions / Or sleep with our back turned", "Look at all we been through since August".

This category benefits from a small number of tracks that feature a lot of observations. "4:44" (16), "Venus Vs. Mars" (14), and "MaNyFacedGod" (12).

Just for fun and purposes of expanding the knowledge base, here are Jay's earliest references to Beyoncé

Jay's references to Beyoncé began in just the second year of his mainstream career, on 1998's "Lobster and Scrimp" by Timbaland. During the back and forth between Jay and Timbo in the third verse, Jay raps: "Said 'No No No,' then, 'Yeah Yeah Yeah" like she Destiny's Child", which referred to the track "No No No" released by Destiny's Child in February 1998. Much of Jay's earliest references were in search of a punchline or a double meaning. His next three references came in 2001, all in search of creating an interesting and veiled double meaning.

His bars on 2001's "People Talkin'" may be the deepest hidden gem in his discography: "If I'm readin' these chapters right / Please what have you, I breeze through Matthews". Jay's relationship with Bey's father Mathew Knowles has never been explicitly stated, but rumours have always existed that the two have never been close. 2001 was around the time Jay and Bey began spending time with one another, and Mathew was still Beyoncé's manager.

Stay tuned, there will be a similar article tracking Beyoncé's lyrical references to Jay, and a third article comparing how often the two mention each other in song.

A shout out goes to AintNoJigga. He was generous with his Jay-Z knowledge, and without him, this article wouldn't have been 100% accurate, which is the same as saying it wouldn't be worth writing. Please check him out, if you are a Jay-Z fan he will enrich your life!

Tumblr: AintNoJigga
Instagram: AintNoJigga
Twitter: AintNoJigga

By The Numbers: Soundtracks Have Increased 300% In the Chart Since Frozen

Did Frozen change everything? The movie soundtrack was officially released in North America November 25, 2013. Since, it's sold 4 million copies in North America, and over 10,000,000 worldwide. Those numbers are enough to place it 12th on the list of  the highest-selling movie soundtracks of all time, the highest placing of any soundtrack released post-2000.

Since Frozen hit the Billboard 200 in week 50 of 2013, movie soundtracks have dramatically increased their presence inside the top 5 and top 10, across a range of releases. And while box office numbers have slightly increased year-on-year this decade, it's unlikely to be the reason for the sudden spike in popularity of soundtracks.

Why have movie soundtracks experienced such success since 2014? The numbers offer some answers.

Chart Entrances And Chart Weeks: Soundtracks By Year (2010-2018)

The spike initiated by Frozen in 2014 was at first heavily skewed by Frozen itself. 40 out of the 51 weeks in the top 10, 32 of the the 36 weeks in the top 5, and 13 of the 15 weeks at number 1 were all Frozen. Once it left the charts towards the end of 2014, though, numbers didn't fall back to pre-2014 levels. On the bottom right of the graph is the percentage increase in these numbers pre-Frozen and post-Frozen. Anything over 200% is a significant gain, and the 950% increase in weeks at number 1 highlights the new staying power soundtracks have displayed. Even after removing Frozen's 13 weeks at number 1, the genre still experienced a 300% increase in number 1 weeks in the period 2014-2017. 

The percentage of Billboard 200 weeks attributed to movie soundtracks peaked in 2014, but remained steady in the years after. Are these numbers merely the result of a couple of outlier, huge-ticket releases like Frozen though?

Number of Soundtracks Albums in the Billboard 200 

The successful year soundtracks had in 2014 is almost entirely due to Frozen, but in the following years, a larger number of soundtracks were entering the top 10 and the top 5. 2015 and 2017 were big, and it wasn't just box office smashes like Furious 7 and 50 Shades of Grey contributing;  The Descendants and Descendants 2 also contributed.

The graphs also show the increased influence soundtracks have had on the Billboard 200 in the period 2014-2017. 6.3% of all the albums that hit the top 10 in 2017 were soundtracks. In 2015 soundtracks contirbued 7.7% of the number 1 albums, via Furious 7, Pitch Perfect 2, and The Decendants.

Top Soundtracks

Note: Hamilton and Empire included for comparison purposes

Can The Increase in Chart Performance Be Explained by Box Office Numbers?

Or, to put it another way, are the movie soundtracks in this list so popular because of the music, or because the movie performed well? 

The correlation coefficient measures the linear relationship between two sets of data. The lower the number, the weaker that relationship. All of these numbers suggest there is no strong linear relationship between how popular a soundtrack is and how popular the movie it came from is. Soundtracks are successful based on the music within them, rather than how many people saw the movie when it was released.

These figures are only based on the dataset, which only includes movie soundtracks that charted within the top 10 from 2010-2017.

By The Numbers: The Most Successful Hip-Hop Soundtracks of All Time

With the Black Panther soundtrack set to hit number 1 on the Billboard 200 this week, it's prudent to look back in time at the commercial performance of other hip-hop soundtracks. Black Panther is already an anomaly this decade; there have only been two other top 10 hip-hop soundtracks since 2010, and they're both from the Fast and Furious franchise (Furious 7 and  Fate of the Furious). Black Panther will be only the fifth hip-hop soundtrack to hit number 1 since 2000.  These statistics are even odder when viewed in the context of the Billboard chart history and US sales performance of the hip-hop soundtrack in previous decades.

It's unclear where Black Panther will ultimately end up on the all-time list of most successful hip-hop soundtracks, but hopefully it sparks a trend where albums similar to the Straight Outta Compton soundtrack and the music from Dope can find more mainstream exposure and success.

Best Selling Hip-Hop Soundtracks of All Time

The genre doesn't seem to propagate album sales, though there have been some high-selling examples throughout the years.

8 out of the top 10 were released in the 1990s. Eminem's 8 Mile came at the peak of his career, and he still didn't manage to out-sell Space Jam. Not only did that soundtrack feature some true heavy-hitters (Jay-Z, R. Kelly, Biz Markie, D'Angelo, Butsa, LL etc), the movie was highly popular, taking in $230 million at the box office.

Eminem's 8 Mile featured even more stars, and it earned Em an Academy Award for "Lose Yourself". It underperformed for Eminem though. 4.9 million sales was lightweight compared to the Diamond albums he'd release either side of it (The Eminem Show and The Marshall Mathers LP). This soundtrack did go on to sell 11 million copies worldwide.

Men In Black is the highest grossing film in this top 10. On a similar budget to the two above it, it posted $589 million at the box office.

Murder Was The Case by Snoop Dogg is the shortest film on this list, released by Snoop and Dre and in a similar vein to what Roc-A-Fella Records would do in 1998 with Streets Is Watching.

The top 10 list is a good mix of genuine movies (8 Mile, Men In Black, Friday) and rapper-related releases (Murder Was The Case, Tupac: Resurrection). It shows the star power that rappers held during this period, that their own movie soundtracks, which took in significantly less at the box office than top-tier releases like Men In Black, were still capable of selling and charting just as well as the soundtracks from movies with $50 million+ budgets. Hollywood picked up on this quickly, and rappers like Tupac, Snoop Dogg, DMX, Nas, Ice Cube, LL Cool J and Eminem all began to pick up starring roles.

Chart Performance of Hip-Hop Soundtracks By Decade

The 90s are so far ahead in this graph. In the 1980s hip-hop was beginning to experience almost unbound mainstream success. The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J and N.W.A. were beginning to sell heavily (License to Ill is certified Diamond) through a variety of sounds and themes. They helped build the platform, and artists such as Rakim and Big Daddy Kane convinced their audience that rappers had big enough personas to appear in movies.

This followed the same pattern that rock music tracked during the 60s and 70s. The Beatles began experimenting by starring in their own films, The Who created Tommy and were working on rock opera's, and Charlie is My Darling featuring The Rolling Stones was designed to test if there was an audience for rock stars to transition from music to film.

There were less hip-hop movie soundtracks in the 2000s, and signficiantly less in the 2010s, as with the 80s. During the 90s, 48 notable and successful soundtracks were released, compared with just 25 in the 2000s, and 2 in the 2010s. This doesn't necessarily mean there were less total releases in the 2000s, it means there were significantly fewer successful soundtracks.

Box Office Takings Vs. Commercial Performance

Included in this analysis are 57 of the most popular hip-hop soundtracks of all time. The analysis will measure whether there is a relationship between how successful a movie was and how successful a soundtrack is.

The first graphic looks at the chart peak. The figure of -0.21 indicates a weak relationship between box office takings and movie soundtrack chart peak, or, as box office takings increase, chart peak increases (the coefficient is negative since a higher chart peak means a lower number).

There is no correlation between movie soundtrack sales and box office takings. This means that the success of a hip-hop movie soundtrack is not dependent on the popularity of the movie it's soundtracking. Examples include The Show from 1995, which went platinum and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard 200, but the movie only took in 2,000,000 at the box office, a miniscule amount compared to the rest of the datat set. Tupac: Resurrection sold 1.66 million and made it to number 2, but the movie only took in 7.8 million.

What Does This Mean for Black Panther?

Reports by Billboard say the Black Panther soundtrack will land at number 1, and sell 150,000 copies in its first week. The movie releases tomorrow in the U.S., and it has a budget of $200 million. Based on the dataset and the analysis, the success of the movie will do little to impact the sales and chart performance of the soundtrack, but there are other factors at play.

Kendrick has been heavily involved with the project, and over the past 6 years he's spent 34 weeks in the Billboard 200 top 10, 29 in the top 5, and 7 at number one. He's become a Billboard veteran in a very short time, and projects with his name attached usually chart and sell well.

Regardless of how well it performs, it's an impressive and highly enjoyable body of work. Putting Kendrick, Sounwave and Top Dawg in a room together almost guarantees success, and this is Kendrick's most varied sonic project. His vast knowledge of what currently works in a hip-hop album combines with his even larger technical ability to create an album that feels current, hard-edged and lyrically accomplished all at once.

Note: A soundtrack is deemed hip-hop if the majority of the songs (usually 60% or over) are provided by rappers or feature rappers.

By The Numbers: How Often Does Kanye West Perform On His Own Beats?

When Kanye West began shopping beats to artists with major label backing, he was at times thought of as a cut price Just-Blaze, and stories have since circulated of Ye being laughed out of studios after playing tracks like "Jesus Walks" for potential labels and collaborators. This didn't appear to dampen his desire or belief, and Jay-Z told The Breakfast Club in 2013 that Kanye played some music for Jay well before "Through The Wire" (2002) and proclaimed "I am the saviour of Chicago", to which Jay replied "What you even talking about? You ain't even have a single".

Kanye knew his own potential well before anyone else. John Monopoly told MTV in 2005 that Kanye had been keeping a lot of his beats for his own solo project, even when in high demand as a producer post-Blueprint in 2001. It was 2011 when he rapped "And I'm rapping on the beats they supposed to buy / So I guess I'm getting high off my own supply", but as the numbers show, Kanye had no intention of being a producer who rapped. He was always a rapper who produces.

Kanye Performing On His Own Beats

Of the 448 officially released tracks that Kanye has produced, he's performed (either a hook or a verse) on 229 of them, which is just over half. 37%, or 166, he has performed as the lead artist, and surprisingly, just 14% of the tracks Ye has produced have him listed as a guest artist.

Pre and Post The College Dropout

Kanye's vision of his rap career was evidently not shared by his customers prior to 2004's The College Dropout. Before that record, Kanye produced 132 songs that were officially released. He performed on just 29, and only 12 the lead artist. Those 12 tracks almost all came from his mixtapes I'm Good and Get Well Soon. As a guest artist, 12.88% of the beats he sold ended up featuring on, but they weren't consistent features. He picked up a verse on "The Bounce" by Jay-Z, but when he performed twice on Jay's final record The Black Album, on "Encore" and "Lucifer", he was only credited for his vocals on "Encore", and his performance on 2001's "Never Change" from Jay's The Blueprint features an entirely uncredited performance. Even being a fully-fledged member of the Roc-A-Fella team didn't afford him a lot of in-house opportunities.

The hip-hop world seemed to catch on to how valuable Kanye was as a performer after his debut record. Of the 295 songs he's produced since the album that have been officially released, he's performed on over 60% of them, with 132 tracks (44.75%) as the lead artist. It feels like a let-down when a beat is produced by Ye but doesn't feature him rapping or providing a hook.

Kanye Performing On His Own Beats By Year

Kanye's output as a rapper slash producer has varied wildly over the years. His earliest forays into paid production came via Grav's 1996 album Down To Earth, a project that also featured production from Kanye's mentor No I.D. While it may appear that this placement didn't launch his mainstream career as a producer, based on his numbers in 1997 and 1998, rumours exist placing Kanye as a ghost-producer for Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, a legendary producer pivotal in Kanye's early career advancement. Whether these rumours are true or not, Kanye didn't stop working over this period, and it was through D-Dot that he picked up 6 credits on The Madd Rapper's 1999 album Tell Em Why U Madd. From there came Jay-Z's The Dynasty in 2000, and Ye was on.

Initially, these high-ranking beat placements didn't assist his push to be heard as a rapper. While music does exist from Kanye's group The Go-Getters from this pre-2000 period, the tracks weren't officially released, and only appeared on unofficial compilations and via a full album leak sometime around 2010. Kanye's guest spot on "What You Do To Me" by Infamous Syndicate in 1999 saw him spit one of his very first commercial verses. As the graphs above show, it didn't really open doors.

Kanye had to bang those doors down. In 2003 he began rapping as the lead artist on some of his beats. 34.38% of the songs he produced that year featured him as the lead artist, thanks to the mixtape I'm Good. It was the precursor to The College Dropout, and once that album scaled the heights it did, Ye could set his own price, and a feature verse or hook from Kanye became invaluable.

Non-Album Years Vs. Album Years (Post-2003)

Unsurprisingly, when Kanye releases an album his production output increases dramatically. It follows a pattern whereby Kanye seems to lock down for a project in the year prior, gathering beats and perfecting the record before releasing it. Certain years have been very barren for him. In 2017 he had just one major production credit, and in 2014, post-Yeezus, he had just 5. His output since he became heavily invested in the fashion industry has slowed dramatically, outside of years he actually releases a project.

Some of these numbers are mind-boggling. During non-album years (2006, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2017) Kanye releases, on average, 0.6 songs that he both produces and features as the lead artist on. Examples include "All Day" and "Only One" from 2015, and "Impossible" from 2006.

His hibernation during non-album years doesn't extend to guest spots. He actually performs more on songs he sells to other artists during non-album years than he does when he releases a project.

Yet he also sells more beats that he doesn't perform on himself during album years. This could be due to the large build up of production work he accumulates during the recording process for an album. Those beats have to go somewhere. There is a legendary scene in Jay-Z's Fade to Black, in which Jay is seen in the studio with producer Timbaland listening to beats. Timbo plays Jay a selection of beats, and Jay eventually chooses what will become "Dirt Off Your Shoulder", but in subsequent years other artists have released tracks over the instrumentals that Jay rejected, notably "The Potion" by Ludacris and "Come As You Are" by Brandy. Good beats don't just sit on the cutting room floor, but stories from Kanye's pre-College Dropout days might confirm Kanye only sells beats either to his own artists via the G.O.O.D. Music label, or beats that he doesn't see himself performing on in the future.

What Do These Figures Mean for 2018?

Kanye's pattern of production in album mode suggests he is locked down right now, working on multiple projects. CyHi The Prynce claimed in November 2017 Kanye was making " 10 beats a day", with full projects on the way from CyHi himself, Teyana Taylor, Pusha-T, and Kanye. Ye has had one production credit thus far in 2018, on Migos' Culture II, but his recent silence may indicate 2018 will be flooded with Kanye product.

Note: Only beats that were officially released are included in this analysis. Kanye's first two mixtapes were released by him, but leaks that aren't official are not included.

There is also an uncredited hook on "Guess Who's Back" by Scarface which isn't included in the above graphics. If you find any other uncredited Kanye performances please email me so I can add them to the list and re-work the graphics! 

By The Numbers: Which Producer/Rapper Collaboration Is The Most Successful of All Time? This Is The Top 10

Note: All figures current to the time of publishing (6/2/2018). Eminem's discography has since achieved multiple new RIAA certifications. 

It's tempting to bestow Metro Boomin with the honor of bringing back the traditional "Producer/Rapper" album, but the phenomenon of a rapper working solely or heavily with one producer has existed in mainstream rap music since Sylvia Robinson produced the entirety of The Sugarhill Gang's 1980 record Sugarhill Gang. Since, there have been iconic collaborations like Eric B & Rakim, The Bomb Squad and Public Enemy, Dr. Dre and N.W.A./Snoop Dogg/Eminem, Swizz Beatz and DMX, El-P and Killer Mike, and of course, Kanye West and Jay-Z.

There are too many to list, so instead, what have been the most commercially successful producer/rapper collaborations of all time? This analysis looks at the album and single sales of each collaboration, as well as their worldwide appeal via how many top 10s they achieved outside of North America. Albums in which a producer contributes 5 or more beats are attributed to the producer/rapper collaboration numbers.

Top Producer/Artist Collaborations of All Time

5 of the top 10 collaborations between producers and artists are artists producing their own beats, for themselves or their group. Rappers producing their own tracks isn't particularly common in mainstream hip-hop, in fact outside of J. Cole, Pharrell, Mac Miller and Tyler, The Creator, most of the top-selling mainstream artists that do produce their own beats are represented in this graph.

Eminem and Kanye West are two of the top-selling rappers of all time in North America, and they both produce a lot of their own music. Eminem has 166 production credits on his own work, and Kanye has 151. That they are so close is surprising; Eminem as solely a rapper has sold significantly more in North America (and worldwide) than Kanye, but Kanye is undoubtedly the better and more decorated producer.

The mix of albums and singles is interesting too. Eminem has two Diamond albums in The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show, records he produced the bulk of the songs for. His greatest hits Curtain Call also went 7x Platinum. His singles numbers include the Diamond selling "Not Afraid", along with "Lose Yourself" which is certified 5x Platinum.

Kanye's sales come mostly from the huge singles he's helmed. There are no Diamond certifications, but he has consistently gone platinum since "All Falls Down", back in 2004. In total, 25 of the tracks he has produced and is listed as the lead artist on have gone Platinum or better.

Eminem's rap career is responsible for 3 of the top 10 producer/artist collaborations on this list. The Bass Brothers, Mark and Jeff Bass from Detroit, were pivotal in Em's early career success with The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP. And Dr. Dre's influence was instrumental in giving Eminem the tools and the confidence to produce his own music.

Top Producer/Rapper Collaboration Excluding Rappers Producing Their Own Beats

The Bass Brothers and Eminem enjoyed unbridled success early in Eminem's career. They helped produce 1997's The Slim Shady EP, the tape that earned Em his record deal, and they, alongside Dr. Dre, created the sonic landscape that Eminem used to ascend mainstream heights that no rapper before or since has come close to. The Bass Brothers produced 11 of the 14 non-skit tracks on The Slim Shady LP (10 of those alongisde Eminem), and had 5 or more credits on The Marshall Mathers LP, Devils Night (D12) and The Eminem Show. They would produce for Eminem again, but not until 2009's Relapse with "Beautiful" and "Underground".

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' dominance from 2011-2015 resulted in 22.5 million single sales, with 1 Diamond certification. "Thrift Shop" became an anthem, and the chemistry between the two artists was hammered home when Macklemore split with his producer for 2017's Gemini, a record that sold just 51,000 copies first week, and is yet to have an RIAA certification. His solo singles have underperformed as well, with none of them making it past 49 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Drake's relationship with Toronto producer Noah "40" Shebib may be the most influential one on this list. Not only has their trademark introspective and slightly downtrodden vibe soundtracked a new school of mainstream production and propagated a generation of more emotion-focused rappers, they've given rise to Toronto as a genuine mainstream force. Just as Nelly opened up St. Louis rap to the entire North American market, Drake helped bring Toronto to the forefront, and created a platform for artists like The Weeknd, BADBADNOTGOOD, dvsn, Nav, and a thriving hip-hop underground.

The rest of the collaborations on this list are quite straightforward. Puff Daddy and The Notorious B.I.G. found the perfect mix of sleek style and gritty rhymes from 1994-1997, a sound that influenced a young Jay-Z and showed him the path to commercial success. Jay used that nous to link up with Kanye West for 2001's The Blueprint, an album that combined stylish, elegant soul-samples with street knowledge and the most opulent braggadocio to create a sound that was both influential and enduring, as well as commercially successful.

Organized Noize are genuine legends in hip-hop and R&B production, working heavily with Goodie Mob, TLC and Ludacris, but they found runaway success alongside Big Boi and Andre 3000 of Outkast. The first four albums from the Atlanta duo were given direction and sound by Organized Noize in the famous Dungeon, and their sound was defined by live instrumentation and a full, rich "band-like" wall of noise that helped Outkast celebrate Atlanta culture and put it on the hip-hop map.

The Jay E / Nelly numbers are helped by Nelly's Diamond-selling debut Country Grammar and his 6x Platinum second album Nellyville.

The list would be incomplete without Metro Boomin's work with Future. The two linked up to create what will likely become the trap bible in DS2, and it was Metro who snapped Future out of his Honest "popstar" phase with the gritty, aggressive, and downtrodden mixtape Monster in 2014. The two have crafted some huge singles as well, with "Where Ya At", "Jumpman", "Low Life" and "Mask Off" all going multi-platinum.

Most Worldwide Top 10s (Albums + Singles)

This list isn't exhaustive, but it gives a good idea of the worldwide impact of some specific collaborations. Eminem has sold hundreds of millions of singles and albums worldwide, so it's unsurprising he would top the list, and bring The Bass Brothers and Dr. Dre along as well. The Black Eyed Peas, since their Fergie-led reboot in 2003, exploded in popularity on the world stage, selling more than 8 million copies of Elephunk, Monkey Business and The E.N.D.

Missing from the list is The Beastie Boys, who achieved success at a time when rap was still very much limited to North America, and hadn't yet expanded globally.

The Numbers Behind Some Other Popular Producer/Rapper Collaborations

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it gives a good overview of some legendary link-ups:

Future Collaborations

When CyHi The Prince told the Grass Roots podcast that Kanye would be producing entire projects for CyHi, Pusha-T, Teyana Taylor AND Kid Cudi, not to mention Kanye's own next LP, rap fans started looking towards 2018 with hunger. Metro Boomin (who was the most commercially successful rap producer of 2017 by a huge margin) set the tone in 2017 with 4 separate projects on which he produced every (or nearly every) track, and it may usher in an era where producers begin to get equal billing with rappers when they work together for an entire project.

Possible/Likely/Definite Producer/Rapper Collabs for 2018:

  • Danny Brown has a one-producer project underway, although he is keeping quiet on which producer he is working with (likely)
  • MF DOOM is going to be working with Bishop Nehru again for Elevators: Act I and II (likely)
  • Rich Brian's February album Amen is "95% self-produced" (definite)
  • MonstaBeatz will be producing Curren$y's comeback record Back At Burnies (Likely)
  • Freddie Gibbs & Madlib will pick their Pinata collab back up with Bandana (likely)
  • PRhyme 2 is definitely coming (definite)
  • Run The Jewles (definite)
  • Kanye-produced projects from CyHi The Prince, Teyana Taylor, Pusha-T and Kid Cudi (possible)

Sales are based off available data, meaning RIAA certifications and numbers released by the various sales monitoring outlets.

One-off collabs like Wiz Khalifa and DJ Frank E weren't included in the analysis, but the only chart they would affect is the "worldwide top 10s" ranking. Single songs with multiple producers and huge overseas success would dominate the chart.

Any album a producer delivers 5 or more beats to is added to the album statistics for that collaboration. Such contribution represents a distinct influence on the sound and feel of the entire project.

The final graph isn't a definitive ranking, it's just meant as a guide to show how successful certain collaborations have been worldwide. 

Sales can fluctuate between eras, but it's the only way to measure commercial success. Manually counting how long every single collaborative song or album spent in the Billboard charts is impossible, and a lot of information doesn't exist prior to 2000. 

The Numbers Behind Murda Beatz and CuBeatz, The Producers Who Helped Soundtrack 2017

Murda Beatz

You've probably got "Murda on the beat so it's not nice" stuck in your head, a phrase associated with Drake dropping bars on 2017 track "No Long Talk", or the surprising chart hit "Portland" from More Life, the second most successful hip-hop record of last year. Murda Beatz's reach was much wider than this. In the last 12 months, he's established himself at the forefront of trap production through work with Migos, 2 Chainz and Travis Scott. He was one of the busiest producers of the year, picking up a production credit in 45 major songs, and notching up 3 million U.S. single sales.

Here are the percentage increases in commercial performance from Murda Beatz in 2017:

Murda Beatz became an essential name in rap production in a very short period of time, largely thanks to Migos. His earliest forays into mainstream production came from the trio, and Migos' stunning worldwide success has helped Murda Beatz to diversify his contatct list, adding Travis Scott, Drake, Gucci Mane, and plenty more. When his producer tag "Murder on the beat so it's not nice" was heard before on Drake's viral 2017 track "Portland", it shined a bright light onMurda Beatz's work, and all thanks to a flute!

His music isn't always identifiable or easily pigeon-holed, which can be preferable. Often, he allows the production to slide to the back while the artist paints the canvas with their personality. This was highly effective on Nicki Minaj's "No Frauds" and 2 Chainz's "4am". He's not a one-dimensional producer though, on Travis Scott's "Butterfly" he crafted a beat that could hold its own without any vocals, allowing Travis to skate on the beat as he saw fit, leaving gaps that never hurt the energy or vibe of the track.

His 2017 performance increase was enough to place Murda Beatz in the top 10 hip-hop producers of the year. 2018 is looking even bigger, with huge projects from Travis, Nicki, Drake, and of course, Migos. Will he top 2017? Could he even challenge Metro Boomin for the tag of Best Rap Producer?


Three years ago, CuBeatz were producing almost exclusively for artists outside the U.S., with a focus on German hip-hop. The duo landed in the States with "R.I.C.O." by Meek Mill and Drake in 2015, ironically a track that could have ended the careers of both those rappers via the beef that the song sparked. It wasn't really until 2016 and 2017 that CuBeatz became a commercial force. Thanks to fruitful collaborative relationships with Drake, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott and Migos, CuBeatz became part of the "best producer in rap" conversation. Their work on "Motorsport" and "Portland" put numbers up, but they also contributed multiple album tracks to Birds In The Trap, More Life, Without Warning, Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho, and multiple Gucci Mane records. They are also proud owners of two Kanye West credits, through Ye's features on "THat Part" by Schoolboy Q and "Ballin'" by Juicy J.

Here are the figures behind their inspiring two years of mainstream success:

And here is the improvement the duo has experienced from 2015 to the end of 2017:

9 million single sales in the past 2 years, and 81 major production credits suggest CuBeatz have transitioned emphatically from German hip-hop to the U.S. market, in which rap is now the most popular genre. Their work pre-2015 favoured hard-hitting, crisp drums, not dissimilar to the boom-bap explosion in New York in the 90s. Tracks for Loexesh, Kurdo and Animus were certified slappers, but in 2015, through G-Eazy's "Oh Well" and the intro to Joell Ortiz's project, they began to start filtering those drums and the rest of the instrumentals to create a slight feel of being underwater, a hint of the chopped and screwed phenomenon that Drake and 40 helped translate into mainstream success. Artists began coming to CuBeatz for a beat that sounded contemporary and new, but still hit hard and allowed them to spit bars. Nowhere is this more obvious than "No Shopping" by French Montana and Drake, a track that sounds like a standard trap beat until those drums drop harder than anything else on the radio. The beat change on Drake's "Summer Sixteen" also added a gritty edge to Drake's nasally rapping that lent cred and weight to his words.

There are multiple projects on the horizon from artists the duo has previously worked with. Travis Scott is "on a mission to be heard" in 2018, Kanye West is in the mountains crafting his next culture-shifting record, Drake promised he'd be back in 2018 to tell his story, Gucci Mane will doubtless be dropping several projects, and Nicki Minaj's highly anticipated 4th LP is almost certain to drop. CuBeatz might have broken through in 2017, but they might dominate 2018.

By The Numbers: A Breakdown Of Every Grammys "Album Of The Year" Category Since 1986

When the Album Of The Year award gets broadcast on Sunday's edition of The Grammys, two hip-hop albums and two R&B albums will be in line to win. There have been 3 other occasions in which 2 hip-hop albums have been nominated: 2003 (The Eminem Show, Nellyville), 2004 (Speakerboxx/The Love Below, Under Construction), and 2014 (good kid, m.A.A.d. city, The Heist). Only two hip-hop albums have ever won the award: Speakerboxx/The Love Below by Outkast, and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill.

If you're wondering why so many rappers have boycotted and called the award show out in the past, part of the answer is in the figures. 1986 was the year that hip-hop arrived on the mainstream radar, with Licensed To Ill by The Beastie Boys, which is certified Diamond for 10 million copies sold. In 1988, Public Enemy released It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, an album that sold 500,000 copies in its first month on sale, and was given a perfect score by at least 10 major review outlets. Its statistics rival any album released that year, yet it wasn't even nominated.

In fact, the first nomination a hip-hop album received wasn't until 1991, when MC Hammer's Please Hammer, Don't Hurt Em was nominated. Also eligible for that year was Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet, a record that has a score of 97/100 when the reviews of major outlets are tallied up. No nomination...

Nominations and Winners By Genre

Rock has dominated the winners list since 1986. Surprisingly, jazz and folk have both out-performed hip-hop, and although R&B also won more often than hip-hop, considering how many nominated it's received, 3 wins is quite low.

Folk has been nominated 3 times, and won 3 (Raising Sand, Babel, Morning Phase). Electronic also holds a 100% nomination-to-win ration, thanks to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories in 2014.

At the other end of the scale, classical had one nomination and no wins, while hip-hop and R&B both sit on 11%; 11% of the time they are nominated, they win.

These figures aren't a perfect display of bias or win ratio, since genres can be nominated multiple times for just one award, and there are a finite amount of genres. For example, in 1990, every nomination was for a rock album, meaning the nomination-to-win ratio was 0.25. It's inaccurate to say rock had a worse year in 1990 than electronic did in 2014 (when it was nominated once, and won once), but the analysis still gives a good indication of the popularity of each genre when it comes to total nominations and total wins.

Nominations Per Year

This graph shows an interesting trend. Rock was dominant all the way until the mid-2000s, and it began to taper off. Since the early 2000s, all 4 major genres have been represented more evenly in nominations.

This change doesn't specifically align with any major changes in measurable consumption of each genre. Hip-hop became the most popular genre in North America in 2017, but in July of 2017, a report was published stating hip-hop had only just overtaken rock as the most consumed genre in the US, meaning right up until 2017, rock was still being consumed more than any other genre.

And hip-hop has been popular, relevant and critically acclaimed since the late 80s. So why exactly has it been nominated less, and why does it win less, than rock and pop?

Statistics of Album of the Year Winners

Any idea that the most popular or successful album of the year isn't a major chance of winning the award is debunked by this graph. The prior award winners have been ultra successful and almost all very well received by critics.

Only 3 Album Of The Year winners (out of 32) are currently certified less than platinum: Herbie Hancock's The River, The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, and Morning Phase by Beck. All of those albums were released post-2000, so it's likely they will achieve platinum status at some point in the future.

13 of the 32 winners have been certified Diamond for 10 million sales in North America. While the sales boost that accompanies winning the award can't be discounted in these statistics, it's unlikely that an Album of the Year victory would lead to 10 million extra sales. And 6 of the 13 Diamond albums were released since 2000, 3 of them this decade, including Adele's 25 in 2017.

With the above statistics, it becomes even more perplexing that more hip-hop albums haven't been nominated, let alone won the award. There are more than 10 hip-hop albums that have sold above 9 million copies in the U.S., and only 4 of those have been nominated, with only 2 winning (Lauryn Hill and Outkast). Missing entirely from the nominations list are Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, DMX, Ja Rule, and 50 Cent. And despite the upturn in rap fortunes since 2007, the award hasn't been won by a rap album since 2004.

There have been notable albums since 2000 that haven't even recieved a nomination, including The Blueprint by Jay-Z (88 on Metacritic), and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West (94 on Metacritic). Both these records sold over 1 million copies.

There have been plenty of albums from other genres that have a score above 90 on Metacritic from the last 10 years, but very few of them meet the commercial success requirements that seem to be essential in winning Album of the Year. Artists like Leonard Cohen and Ry Cooder released critically acclaimed albums since 2009, but they didn't sell well at all in North America.

And there have been rap albums nominated in the past that meet both the financial and critical requirements to win the award, yet were overlooked. Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP is certified Diamond and picked up an 86.3 approval rating from critics, yet it lost to Steely Dan's Two Against Nature, a record that is only certified platinum, with a 77 approval rating from critics.

Kanye's The College Dropout lost to Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company. Their sales are similar, yet Kanye has an approval rating 13 points higher than Ray Charles. Kanye has been consistently snubbed. In 2006 he was beaten by U2's How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, which sits 6 points lower on Metacritic with similar sales. Then Kanye somehow lost in 2008, when Graduation was beaten by Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters. Hancock's album sold 100,000 copies, with an approval rating of 73. Kanye's Graduation sold 2 million copies, with an approval rating of 79.

Will Hip-Hop Win In 2018?

Both DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar and 4:44 by Jay-Z meet the sales and critical approval requirements to win the award, but they're up against a hugely successful and popular album in 24K Magic by Bruno Mars. Statistics say Bruno will win the award, and the least likely is Lorde. Very occasionally the Album of the Year award strays from the "Sales and Critical Approval" popularity contest, but the only time it does that, it awards an album that isn't from R&B or hip-hop.

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