With two albums that debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, two top-20 crossover hits and a third album on the way, VIBE magazine didn’t exactly shock the world when it declared Plies the “future of hip-hop” at the end of 2008, and the magazine certainly wasn’t alone in the prediction.
But after the Florida native’s third album, Da REAList, was met with lukewarm reviews and 2010’s Goon Affiliated failed to produce a top-40 hit, Plies has faded from the hip-hop and rap limelight.
Pop, rock, country and R&B often spawn hit makers who last for years, but as Plies and countless other MCs with plenty of hype but no bite have shown, hip-hop is simply a difficult genre to prognosticate.
It wasn’t too surprising to see Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” follow the pop diva’s last five songs into the Billboard Hot 100 top-five this winter, yet you would have been hard-pressed to find many who thought Tyga would have not one, but two crossover hits on his hands this year in “Rack City” and “Faded.”
But the genre always seems to be looking for the next big thing, whether it finds it or not. And with no highly anticipated major releases on the horizon until B.o.B.’s Strange Clouds hits shelves May 1, the attention of the rap community has turned squarely to the radio single format to find its next big hit. But who will it come from?
Here are a few of the most recent singles to hit the airwaves that could hold the rap community over if or when Drake’s Take Care stops spitting out hit after hit.
“Take It To The Head” — DJ Khaled feat. Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross
DJ Khaled made his name by assembling and producing posse tracks just like “Head,” which will serve as the lead single for his upcoming Kiss the Ring.
This time Khaled has outdone himself, bringing together four of the biggest names in hip-hop while collaborating with production team The Runners to produce what looks to be his most radio-friendly single since 2010’s ubiquitous “All I Do Is Win.”
Sure, last summer’s “I’m On One” dominated rap radio until ‘Ye and Jay stormed onto the scene, but like “Win,” “Head” has crossover appeal and potential.
With Brown screaming out every note as if sex were the only thing on his mind and Wayne and Minaj spitting in a more laid-back, slow-flow fashion alongside molasses king Ross, “Take It to the Head” has all the makings of a hit.
“Richard” — Obie Trice feat. Eminem
Obie Trice has spent the last 12 years making himself into one of the more respected names in the hip-hop game.
But he’s probably still best known for his cameo on Eminem’s 2002 smash “Without Me” — you remember, “Obie Trice / real name no gimmicks” and “And Moby? / You can get stomped by Obie,” right?
On “Richard,” however, the two find their roles reversed. A play on a nickname for someone named Richard that probably gave everybody the giggles in middle school actually comes out as a well-produced, entertaining collaboration between Trice and his mentor.
The most anticipated single off Trice’s upcoming Bottoms Up lives up to the hype this time, as the Statik Selektah-produced track has Trice admitting to his lack of name recognition but warning “Take it back Selektah, let ‘em know it’s Trice / Put your seatbelts on, we gon’ ride tonight.”
“The Don” — Nas
After last summer’s “Nasty” got people talking about Nas’ return to the styles and flow that made Illmatic — the Queens-bred rapper’s now-legendary debut album — a hip-hop classic, many wondered if anything else on the upcoming Life is Good could match up.
While “The Don” is certainly not “One Love,” the beat has more of an immediate impact than “Nasty” — the Super Cat reggae sample combined with drum claps will have supporters of the more traditional East Coast hip-hop running for their iTunes when Life is Good appears.
Leave it to the late Heavy D, who co-produced the song, to leave Nas with something so simple but so infectious.
Nas is at his best when his razor-sharp lines also speak to the truth of New York as he sees it, and when “The cops be out wildin, all I hear is sirens / It’s all about surviving, same old two step” is laid over Super Cat’s “New York girls, dem a mad ova wi,” that’s exactly what we get.