Five One-Hit Wonders With Great Careers
Something I hear a lot from self-described “real” rap fans, is a criticism leveled at artists whose first couple of singles are chart-toppers. Critics like that take the position that an artist’s initial popularity invalidates their artistic value, like they didn’t earn it or didn’t have time to develop. My usual response to people saying this kind of thing is to scream “HURRICANE CHRIS!” over and over while I sprint away and remove them from my life, which is why I’d like to take this time to address these “real” fans in an environment where they can’t respond.
DON’T WRITE OFF THE ONE HIT WONDER. The talent required in creating a hit can’t be understated; people spend years trying to do what DJ Unk did, to no avail. Respect the hitmakers, ’cause when they disappear from the popular consciousness, remember, they may still be pumping out certified jams you are just too far up on your high horse to see.
I’m embarrassed for you if you even have to read this one, yo. Cham is high-key a modern Houston legend and America’s harboring of individuals that believe his career began with “Ridin’ Dirty” and ended with “Hip-Hop Police” is a violation of the Geneva conventions. Starting with his first tapes rapping alongside the also under-appreciated Paul Wall, Cham has risen to the top as one of the more lyrically compelling artists to come out of H-Town.
His wordplay is top notch, but his creative song concepts are what really has given him staying power, showcased all over his 18 (a lot) mixtapes released to date. He has an AMA, a Grammy, but most impressively, a Teen Choice Award. Go listen to Mixtape Messiah right now. Go. I’ll wait.
Welcome Back. Odds are that in the time you were looking for that Chamillionaire project, Audio Push released two tapes, an EP, and a Netflix original series. These cats pump out music at Future-circa-2015 levels, in what seems like an attempt at redemption for their 2009 neon-skinny-jeans hit “Teach Me How To Jerk”. That may have been the last you’ve heard of them, but starting in 2012, Audio Push distanced themselves from their bubblegum past, signing with HitBoy’s HS87 label. Shortly after, they released their re-invented breakout mixtape “Come As You Are”, showcasing their discovery of a complex musical technique that I like to call “being good at rapping”.
Since their creative 180, Audio Push has released four dope mixtapes, countless singles and features, and freestyled on Power 99 until they ran out of beats to play. They’ve somehow stayed just below the radar despite all of this, maybe because their name carries memories of your goofy cousin bragging about his “Jerkin’ crew” at Thanksgiving. Why Hit-Boy took a chance signing a dance-rap crew is something I will never know, But we should all be glad he did.
When Oakland-based group The Pack released their 2006 hyphy jam “Vans”, I doubt they knew they were launching the career of one of the most influential rappers of the internet age. But, alas, here we are 10 years later and Brandon McCartney aka Lil B from The Pack is still cursing NBA players and rapping about how much he loves feet. At 16, Lil B and his crew dropped a charting single and got signed by Bay Area legend Too $hort, but the true success of the group lives through the Based God himself.
Since The Pack puttered out shortly after their first mixtapes, Lil B has released 10,000 songs (literally) and pretty much has the farthest reach on internet culture of any other artists. A lot of Young BasedGod’s fans don’t know about The Pack, but they should. Who knows, if “Vans” had never been released, we might be living in a world where James Harden had a championship, and I don’t know, maybe Joe Budden would have a career.
To a lot of people, Rappin 4-Tay’s career is made up of exactly two events, the first one being the release of his 1994 hit “Playaz Club”, and the second being that time that a certain Canadian rapper used most of the lyrics from his 1994 hit “Playaz Club” on a YG song. Either way, it comes back to one hit he made 20 years ago, something I’m guessing he’s not too thrilled with, considering he’s released nine full-length projects since then.
4-Tay still gets respect in the bay, highlighted by the high profile West Coast features he continues to get on his albums from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Andre Nickatina. But outside of that, his stuff flies pretty far under the radar. The best example of this is his latest album, Where Is The Love?, which, as I am writing this sentence, has exactly three views on YouTube. Two of those views are from me, with the other view presumably being from Canada, possibly hunting for inspiration.
I have no shame in my heart when it comes to Petey Pab, and he brings out a sort of North-Carolina-birthplace-pride in me that is normally only seen in conversations about barbecue. This man launched Ciara’s career, recorded and released a mixtape from jail, and had Kanye’s latest album named after him (in my opinion). And you honestly thought “Freek-A-Leek” was the only thing he ever did.
If that’s not enough, he got a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album the same year that The Eminem Show was nominated, singlehandedly sent the Panthers to the last SuperBowl with his single “Carolina Colors”, and had what was easily the best song on the soundtrack for “Step Up”. Absolute legend.