Ten years ago, T-Pain and Yung Joc had the biggest song in the country. I can only imagine the amount of money spent on drinks as DJ's dropped "Buy U A Drank" in clubs worldwide. I wasn’t of drinking age; I was barely old enough to drive alone, but I remember vividly how the song reigned over radio and ringtones as if it were yesterday.
My generation has a nostalgic connection to T-Pain and Joc’s chart topper—it was the kind of monstrous smash that you couldn't escape. But where are the two now? T-Pain’s dominance seemed as if it would be everlasting, but he eventually became the sole catalyst of Jay Z’s attack on Auto-Tune. Yung Joc, meanwhile, is on track to be remembered more for scandalous actions on reality television than for hits on the radio.
Longevity isn’t promised to any artist, the times are moving faster than ever, and even the most acclaimed artists of our present risk becoming a name of the past.
Do you remember ten years ago? Can you recall the artists who dominated charts, sold ringtones and acquired plaques? How many are still around? How many are still producing hits? Who has been forgotten and who is still culturally relevant? Who is still creating new memories for fans and who is simply relegated to nostalgia?
Look at this list of the top 50 songs at Urban Radio in 2007. Now 10 years in the past, the list is a reminder of how hard it is to sustain popularity over a long period of time—relevancy doesn’t mean your moment in the spotlight will last.
Less concerned with whether an artist's present success is greater than their past success, I set out on a mission to see if any of these previously successful artists were able to return to the upper half of the charts. So, after reviewing every artist listed, I located their highest charting solo single within the top 50 (some artists had multiple singles on the list), and also the last year they had a solo single break the top 50 of Billboard's Hot 100, highlighting those that are still superstars, those who became lesser-known figures, and, finally, the crop that has almost been completely forgotten.
Still Superstars (Making Hit Singles)
2007: "Irreplaceable" (#14)
2016: "Formation" (#10), "Sorry" (#11), "Hold Up" (#13), "Freedom" ft. Kendrick Lamar (#35), "All Night" (#38)
Beyoncé’s pregnancy pictures have been viewed more than most albums have been streamed in 2017. Her due date is more anticipated than Drake’s More Life. She is to music what the Queen is to England, if not bigger.
2007: "Until The End Of Time" ft. Beyoncé (#7)
2016: "Can't Stop the Feeling!" (#1)
Justin Timberlake could sneeze and if Beyoncé is recorded saying “bless you” the sneeze would chart. It would be the biggest sneeze in music history. It’s no surprise Beyoncé’s version of “Until The End Of Time” was huge in ‘07, and it should be no surprise that Justin is still dominating, having once again topped the charts in 2016 with his contribution to the Trolls soundtrack. Some artists are able to stop the world, Justin has been one for much longer than the last decade.
2007 "Umbrella" ft. Jay Z (#32)
2016: "Work" ft. Drake (#5), "Needed Me" (#44), "Kiss It Better" (#48), "Love on the Brain" (#47)
The good girl who went bad and never looked back has so many hits that an entire generation of kids are probably unfamiliar with “Umbrella.” Rihanna is the kind of star that doesn’t peak but only gets bigger over time. By 2020 there will be a church of Rihanna with more members than Tidal has subscribers.
Still Household Names (Making Music, But No Longer Making Hit Singles)
2007: "No One" (#40)
2012: "Girl on Fire" (#11)
Alicia is an incredible talent, a voice that has captivated the world since her first single “Fallen,” but she hasn’t had a big record since “Girl On Fire” in 2012. I blame Swizz Beatz.
2007: "Promise" (#6)
2015: "I Bet" (#43)
She was once Atlanta’s princess, a young blossoming songstress who took R&B by storm. The years have been good to Ciara, but over time her personal life has completely overshadowed her musical offerings. She’s one of the few artists to never fall completely off from making hot singles, but there hasn’t been a smash hit since “Body Party,” co-written with Future. Now a wife and soon-to-be mom of two, family life may have precedence over making music at the moment, but at only 31-years-old and with a brand new deal with Warner Bros. Records signed in January of 2017, Ciara could easily retake the charts someday soon.
2007: "Make Me Better" ft. Ne-Yo (#11)
2009: "Throw It in the Bag" ft. The-Dream (#14)
Fab hasn’t had a big hit since the Motorola Razr but that doesn’t matter, he is the sole reason an entire generation has misspelled “fabulous.” He will forever be culturally relevant for that reason alone.
2007: "Make It Rain" ft. Lil Wayne (#36)
2016: "All The Way Up" w/ Remy Ma ft. French Montana & Infared (#27)
One song took Fat Joe all the way up out of commercial obscurity. He may have stumbled when it came to selling albums this latest time around, but he’s always been better with moving radio than moving units. He’s a prime example of shooting until you hit the bullseye. Let's see if he's able to keep the fire burning.
2007: "Like This" ft. Eve (#42)
2011: "Motivation" ft. Lil Wayne (#17)
Kelly Rowland saw group success with Destiny’s Child and was also able to make a name for herself as a solo artist. I feel like she went out to prove that she could stand alone and have records, and she’s accomplished just that. I don’t see much demand for a new Kelly album, but she has the talent to still make a bit of noise.
Jeezy (Young Jeezy)
2007: "Go Getta" ft. R. Kelly (#50)
2010: "Lose My Mind" ft. Plies (#35)
Jeezy’s last three albums failed to produce any singles with real chart success, despite debuting at No. 2, No. 4 and No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Like his change in moniker, he is no longer the young artist, but older and more mature (and less likely to impact radio).
2007: "You" ft. Lil Wayne (#2)
2007: "Get It Shawty" (#16)
In 2007, Lloyd’s “You” was the 2nd biggest song on Urban Radio. It peaked at No. 9 on the Hot 100, and was followed up with another big hit in "Get It Shawty." Back then, I didn’t foresee him taking a hiatus from music, and not making his return until 2016. Will he ever return back to the top? I’m uncertain, but I know he still has some loyal fans who would like nothing more than to see him regain his position.
2007: "Runaway Love" ft. Mary J. Blige (#24)
2010: "My Chick Bad" ft. Nicki Minaj (#11)
People are more likely to go watch Ludacris in a movie franchise about cars than hear him rap about Cadillacs. The times do change.
2007: "Do You" (#30)
2014: "Times Of Our Lives" ft. Pitbull (#9), "She Knows" ft. Juicy J (#19)
Ne-Yo had two singles to go Platinum in 2014. He is one of the best examples of a songwriter transitioning into the singer role and winning big. He could retire tomorrow and live comfortably off his Beyoncé royalty checks.
2007: "Lost Without U" (#4)
2013: "Blurred Lines" ft. T.I. & Pharrell (#1), "Give It 2 U" ft. Kendrick Lamar & 2 Chainz (#25)
Robin’s career has been interesting. ‘07 was the year of “Lost Without You,” but he wouldn’t have another massive hit until “Blurred Lines” in 2013. His biggest hit was cloaked in controversy―Marvin Gaye lawsuit, sexual consent discussions, and the separation/divorce from Paula Patton. He may be inconsistent on the charts, but Robin should never be counted out.
2007: "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" (#21)
2010: "Pretty Boy Swag" (#34)
*Crank Dat Lil Draco* Soulja Boy is a product of the internet. He ushered in the age of the YouTube star and has continued to use social media to constantly annoy/entertain us all. He will never disappear as long as the Wi-Fi is strong.
2007: "Big Things Poppin'" (#31)
2014: "No Mediocre" ft. Iggy Azalea (#33), "About the Money" ft. Young Thug (#42)
T.I. went from “Big Shit Poppin’” to becoming a major voice in activism and social commentary. His change in content hasn’t brought him the most mainstream success, but he is creating the kind of art that can create conversation. From going to jail every other album to speaking out against police brutality, I never saw it coming, but I applaud his new direction. Also, it's insane that his last big Billboard record has Iggy Azalea attached to it.
2007: "Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin')" ft. Yung Joc (#1)
2011: "5 O'Clock" ft. Wiz Khalifa & Lily Allen (#10)
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He was Akon’s golden goose, the hook man that could do no wrong, your favorite bartender’s favorite rappa ternt sanga. Teddy Penderazdoun had the momentum of a monster truck, and then he slowly became the size of a Hot Wheel. It’s been six years since Pain has appeared in the top 50 as a solo artist and four years since he's cracked the top 100. There’s always a chance he could return with something bigger, something better, but with each year I believe his days in the spotlight are behind him. Even if we never hear his voice conquer radio again, may we never forget the change in rap and R&B that he spearheaded.
2007: "Shawty Is A Ten" (#38)
2008: "Rockin' That Shit" (#22)
“Shawty Is A Ten” is 10 years old. The single will be remembered as the beginning of The-Dream’s incredible run of four straight top-30 hits. Sadly, the last of those four was the last time he's gotten near the top 30, but the brilliant singer/songwriter is still behind the scenes contributing his pen where it is needed. Even without hits, The-Dream is one artist my generation will never forget because even more impressive than his singles were the albums they were attached to.
Still Big Names (But No Longer Making Hit Singles, or Making Music At All)
2007: "I Wanna Love You" ft. Snoop Dogg (#23)
2009: "Beautiful" ft. Colby O'Donis & Kardinal Offishall (#19)
After introducing the world to T-Pain and Lady Gaga, Akon has probably been too busy counting his money to record another hit song. I wouldn't mind if Akon came back...
Boosie Badazz (Lil Boosie)
2007: "Wipe Me Down" ft. Foxx & Webbie (#12)
The South will forever love Boosie. “Wipe Me Down” was huge, but his audience is a much more niche than widespread demand. He’ll always be respected, revered, and even saluted as a legend in his hometown and throughout the South, but he isn’t an artist that anyone's expecting to drop the next big record.
2007: "Shortie Like Mine" ft. Chris Brown (#48)
When he went from calling himself Mr. 106 & Park to working on 106 & Park, I knew that Bow Wow would never make another hit. Hopefully, acting will last longer than his career in music. In success and in failure, Bow Wow will always be the child star that is loved from afar.
2007: "When I See U" (#3)
The world only remembers the first four seasons of American Idol. Anyone after that has long been forgotten. Fantasia's voice blew the world away, but she didn't survive the times.
2007: "Let It Go" (#8)
2008: "I Remember" (#24), "Heaven Sent" (#28)
Keyshia took over radio, her family took over reality television, and then they slowly disappeared into the background. Her time in the spotlight was brief, but she left a lasting impression. The name Keyshia Cole alone will awaken memories for anyone who had cable or access to a radio throughout 2007 and 2008.
2007: "Teachme" (#26)
A talented singer and songwriter who hit his commercial peak very early. “B.U.D.D.Y.” still goes, though!
2007: "Ice Box" ft. Timbaland (#25)
2014: "Post to Be" ft. Chris Brown & Jhené Aiko (#13)
There’s an ice box where the hits used to be. Despite not making much noise these last few years, Maybach O is could be one big record away; "Post To Be" proved he could make something modern, but there was no follow-up to the summer smash. Also, "Eat the booty like groceries" being uttered by Jhené Aiko on Omarion's single is one of the strangest moments of 2014.
2007: "Shawty" ft. T-Pain (#5)
2008: "Bust It Baby (Pt. 2)" ft. Ne-Yo (#7), "Put It on Ya" ft. Chris J (#31)
Plies is a character, the kind of person who has a large enough personality to transition from making street anthems to social media viral star. It’s been seven years since his last album, but he consistently racks up views on Instagram for his outrageous commentary. He’ll get more RTs off being a meme than for dropping an album, but memes have value in this age of virality.
2007: "I'm A Flirt" ft. T.I. & T-Pain (#18)
After two decades of domination, the 2010s was the era that R. Kelly finally cooled off. Every hitmaker has his day where the magic dies, and R. Kelly has been colder than a penguin ice skating. Being a serial rapist didn't help.
2007: "Please Don't Go" (#15)
“Please Don’t Go” was in 2007… R&B in 2017 is telling women to leave, not begging them to stay.
Gone, Never to be Heard From Ever Again
2007: "Rock Yo Hips" (#17)
Damn you "Juju On That Beat," turning Crime Mob’s fight anthem into a dance song! I guess that’s the best example of being long gone—you're away for so long that your old music is taken and flipped into something new. I’ll never forget all the fights I witnessed due to “Knuck If You Buck.” Crime Mob may be forgotten, but they will never go to hell. Somewhere in East Atlanta someone is doing the Pool Palace in their honor.
2007: "Walk It Out" (#28)
DJ Unk will forever be remembered for having one of the first post-OutKast remixes with the duo with “Walk It Out.” I don’t know what happened to him, but Atlanta will forever thank him for making the world dance. Long live DJ Unk, long live Oomp Camp, and long live big white tees.
2007: "Hood Figga" (#46)
Another rapper who suffered from rapping with Yung Joc. I liked Gorilla Zoe. I thought he had potential to be something big in Atlanta. Sadly, it didn’t happen for him, but I still bump his version of “Lost” with Lil Wayne.
2007: "Pop, Lock & Drop It" (#22)
“Pop, Lock & Never Drop Another Hit”
2007: "Ay Bay Bay" (#41)
Still struggling with the fact Hurricane Chris rapped about taking his shoes off in the club. Sounds like he hit the shenanigans.
2007: "Bed" (#10)
J. Holiday released a single in 2014 called “Where Are You Now.” A question that I’ve been wondering since “Bed” in 2007. The world may never know.
2007: "This Is Why I'm Hot" (#16)
Mims told us why he was hot, and then gradually got colder and colder until his music career became colder than the shoulder of a scorned lover. I'm fairly surprised he hasn’t tried to make the reality television move.
2007: "Duffle Bag Boy" ft. Lil Wayne (#44)
Tity Boi evolved to 2 Chainz and has prospered ever since. Long live the Duffle Bag Boys.
2007: "Throw Some D's" ft. Polow da Don (#20)
So much potential, but sadly Rich Boy didn’t become the next big Southern artist out of Alabama. He did give us some hits―we'll forever be grateful for “Boy Looka Here,” “Drop” and “Throw Some D’s.”
2007: "Party Like A Rockstar (#13)
“Party Like A Rockstar” was this weird moment in time where rap was going rock without really going rock, and these kids captured that spirit in one song. There’s something about kids in Atlanta who are able to make one massive hit song and then disappear. Shop Boyz couldn’t produce another big single but somehow released an album through Universal.
When you continue to scroll down the list, you’ll start to see names like Jibbs, Sammie, Yung Berg, Sean Kingston and Mario―all artists who have long since been exiled from the charts. Then again, there’s artists like DJ Khaled, Kanye West and Gucci Mane, who are much bigger than they were 10 years ago.
It’s strange how the game fluctuates; a great year could lead to a prosperous career or just 365 days of being on the radio and relatively famous. Trey Songz was once bigger than Drake, and now he has a fake reality show searching for love and declining record sales. 50 Cent was once the biggest rapper on the planet, but now he doesn’t have any impact on the culture besides what he posts on Instagram. No amount of foresight could have predicted such a change in relevance.
We live in an age of instant gratification and immediate criticism. To create any kind of art in this era is to be greeted by glowing praise and harsh opinions in minutes, if not seconds after uploading. Moments are constantly being created in the present tense; living within this revolving door of content and commentary, viral sensationalism and exaggerated glorification, it is becoming rather difficult to see who will survive in the long term―who will have longevity that extends beyond the length of an Instagram video.
Hip-hop is one medium where there’s always someone new emerging—an unknown face being championed as the genre’s revivalist or the culture’s executioner—but no one truly knows who will last. Artists can last 10 years, while some will only be here for 10 months.
Creating longevity is far more difficult than creating a hit, and tomorrow is never promised.
By Yoh, aka Billboard Yoh, aka @Yoh31