At long last, the Hot 100, which has been jammed with just a handful of artists all summer—especially at the top—has started to break up. Like a breath of fresh air, a clutch of new songs debuted on the chart this week, including three that have benefitted greatly from the attention of obsessive internet rap fans.
The big news this week is the appearance of “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj at number 6, the second-highest Hot 100 debut of the year. It’s not surprising that the single opened strongly—Grande’s Iggy Azalea-featuring “Problem” currently sits at number 5, while her track with EDM producer Zedd, “Break Free,” rose to number 18 (from 21) this week, and Minaj’s “Pills N Potions” climbed to number 41 (from 48). While Grande and Azalea have been sort of cooperatively battling to be the biggest star of the summer, Minaj has spent the past few months waging an internet-based viral campaign. While it incorporates official singles like “Pills N Potions” and her upcoming Sir Mix-a-Lot-sampling “Anaconda,“ she’s been generating more buzz–especially among her more rap-leaning base–with unofficial releases alongside rappers like Soulja Boy and Lil Herb, who qualify as stars in certain corners of the hip-hop world despite the fact that the mainstream doesn’t know (or in Soulja Boy’s case, has forgotten) that they exist.
One of the best songs Minaj has put out all year is “No Flex Zone,” a remix of a track by the previously unknown Rae Sremmurd, a young sibling duo from Tupelo, Miss. The original just broke into the Hot 100 this week at number 98. The attention Minaj brought to “No Flex Zone!!” (the brothers and Billboard apparently prefer exclamation points in the title) has certainly helped put the song on the map. But the Mike Will Made It beat and Slim Jimmy and Swae Lee’s melodic flows–which reflect the unexpectedly bluesy direction that young Southern rappers have been taking since Future blew up–would probably have made it without her.
Two spots above “No Flex Zone!!” is “Hot Boy,” the PG-rated incarnation of Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot N–” that has been devouring the rap internet since it exploded online at the end of June. Making it suitable for radio play involved extensive and unkind edits to Shmurda’s rap, but even mangled into incomprehensibility, the song’s still compelling enough to hopefully draw people to the potent original. Expect to see a lot more of the Shmoney Dance going on.