When artists enter rap superstardom, they not only get a song that's career-defining, but they also have a catalog of hits in their past that helped lead them to that point. The interesting part about that is career-defining isn't a fully subjective term. It all comes down to how fans perceive the music and what stats are used to judge success. With how fast hip-hop moves these days via the output of music, streaming and social media in addition to the longevity of some of the game's legends, it isn't always easy to figure out an artists' definitive biggest song.
Here at XXL, we came up with a formula of sorts, where we calculate the highest-charting hits on Billboard Hot 100 chart, the amount of weeks a song remains on the Hot 100, Spotify streams, RIAA certifications and songs that include solo work and collaborations to piece everything together. The end result? Twenty rappers and their biggest songs of all time—there will certainly be some surprises.
Jay-Z is a living legend, and has had plenty of hits in his ongoing career. With the radio and commercial success of so many of his songs, it's a bit of a shock that his biggest song is actually a feature on another artist's record. Rihanna's "Umbrella," her inescapable breakthrough single, dropped in 2007, and features a Jigga verse. The song is six-times platinum, was a No. 1 record in 2007, and stayed on the Hot 100 for 33 weeks, making it the biggest song Hov has been a part of.
Then there's Cardi B, a rapper who hasn't been around very long, but has plenty of hits to her name since she began unleashing one of her biggest songs in 2017. Her biggest track to date isn't one of her own songs like the banger "Bodak Yellow" or the genre-mixing "I Like It." Instead, it's her feature on superstar pop band Maroon 5's 2017 hit "Girls Like You." The song is a smash by every metric, becoming a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit, staying on the chart for an eye-popping 52 weeks and earning an eight-times platinum certification.
Check out these rappers' biggest songs of all time below. They'll definitely surprise you.
Jay-ZRihanna's "Umbrella" Featuring Jay-Z
In 2007, when Rihanna's "Umbrella" was released, Jay-Z's star as an artist was still burning bright, and Rihanna was an up-and-coming pop act with promise. Once this track dropped, Rihanna began to skyrocket up the charts. "Umbrella" is well-written, the video is beautiful and Rih's vocal performance is memorable. Pair that with Hov's boastful bars of "No clouds in my stones/Let it rain, I hydroplane in the bank," and it hit on all parts. Reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100, going six-times platinum and having over 527 million Spotify streams shows how relevant the track was.
Lil Uzi Vert"XO Tour Llif3"
This somber song known as "XO Tour Llif3" arrived in 2017, after originally being released on Lil Uzi Vert's SoundCloud page. The track took on a life of its own pretty quickly, thanks to the TM88 and JW Lucas-produced beat, perfect hook and some of Uzi's very personal lyrics about a lady ("I don't really care if you cry/On the real you should've never lied"). At seven-times platinum and 1.3 billion streams on Spotify, this was the song that really took Lil Uzi Vert to the next level of his career.
NasMissy Elliott's "Hot Boyz" Featuring Nas, Eve and Q-Tip
Missy Elliott's contributions to hip-hop cannot be understated, with her off-kilter style and songwriting ability making it clear that she could be herself and still be a star. "Hot Boyz" was one of the most fire bangers of her career, and the remix video with Nas, Eve and Q-Tip felt like it was on TV every day when it dropped in 1999. The song earned a No. 5 placement on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually went platinum, making it the biggest song Nas has ever been on.
Eminem"Love the Way You Lie" Featuring Rihanna
Eminem has loads of hits, but few have the crossover appeal of "Love the Way You Lie" featuring Rihanna, his No. 1-charting song, which has been certified 12-times platinum. The track was centered on an abusive relationship, which both Em and Rihanna have had their own experiences with in their very public pasts. So the messaging of the song and the artists involved helped it become a hit.
Nicki Minaj's 2010 debut album, Pink Friday, really kicked the door in and marked her arrival in rap, and the deluxe edition that included "Super Bass" proved she had plenty of moves in her bag. Released five months after the initial album drop, this pop song with an unforgettable hook showcased that Nicki can have fun and let loose on a track. The video finds Nicki in her neon-colored element and anything that allows this version of Nicki to show her personality off works. The track is eight-times platinum and hit the No. 3 song in the country.
In the early 2000s, 50 Cent entered mainstream hip-hop like a tornado. The Queens rapper, backed by Eminem and Dr. Dre, came out swinging with his 2003 single "In Da Club," which would eventually become a mainstream song that the whole world knew. The brash new rapper at the time was well-versed in crafting a chorus over a hard beat, and it worked to his advantage, landing at at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and kicking off his run of chart dominance.
The late XXXTentacion was on an upwards career trajectory in 2018, before he was killed, and "SAD!" is one of the relics from that time. The slow-paced song about heartbreak and suicide was well-sung and demonstrated that X knew his way around a studio. The track resonated with his young fan base and became a smash hit, topping the Hot 100, racking up 1.3 billion Spotify streams and going platinum seven times.
The Notorious B.I.G."Mo Money Mo Problems" Featuring Diddy and Ma$e
The late The Notorious B.I.G. never got to see the success of "Mo Money Mo Problems," but the song allows fans to remember him in a joyous way. The track is just downright fun, with Biggie stealing the show alongside Ma$e and Diddy's verses. The video is a classic, and one of Hype Williams' greatest works. All of these factors tied together made it a No. 1 hit and earned the rappers a platinum plaque.
Cardi BMaroon 5's "Girls Like You" Featuring Cardi B
Cardi B entered the game with "Bodak Yellow" in 2017, and never really looked back. Pop group Maroon 5 realized how quickly she was heating up, and dropped "Girls Like You" with her that same year. A song that combines Maroon 5, a huge pop band with some funk to them, and Cardi B has all the makings of a hit, and that pairing paid off, going eight times platinum, earning 1.1 billion streams on Spotify and staying on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 52 weeks.
For Tupac Shakur, his biggest song is actually two separate songs. "How Do You Want It" and "California Love" were double A-side singles, meaning they were released at the same time, on the same side of a cassette/vinyl. Both of them are huge songs in his catalog, with "How Do You Want It" being a smooth, playful collab with K-Ci and Jojo, and "California Love" being ’Pac's return to the spotlight, post-prison. The singles both went No. 1 and double platinum.
To put it plainly, Drake is pretty much unstoppable. He's had a hit in nearly every way there is to have one, but 2018's "God's Plan" is a different beast altogether. The light nature of the song and the touching video, in which Drake gives back to communities in Florida, helped send the song over the top; it has over 1.6 billion Spotify streams, landed at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and is 11-times platinum.
"Mask Off," a 2017 single from Future's self-titled album that year, is his biggest song. The flute, the easy to remember hook that turned into a memorable chant and Future's mastery of his flow over this Metro Boomin-produced beat made all the difference. Going seven-times platinum, Pluto has to be proud of this one.
Lil Baby"Drip Too Hard" with Gunna
A collab between two friends who found hip-hop success together, 2018's "Drip Too Hard" was a hit that accentuated why Lil Baby and Gunna are so famous now. Baby had the hook duty, Gunna fits perfectly on the beat, and they work off of each other well. This track, which has over 678 million streams on Spotify, was also the No. 4 song in the country when it arrived, and is seven-times platinum.
Travis Scott"Sicko Mode" Featuring Drake and Swae Lee
Travis Scott was already famous by the time his third studio album, Astroworld, arrived in 2018, but it's success is what made him a legit superstar, and "Sicko Mode" was responsible for much of that rise. With three different beats on the song, two Drake verses and a Swae Lee bridge, the track makes multiple moving parts fit together for a hit. Drake's verse is full of quotables and all of the production (Mike Dean, Rogét Chahayed, Hit-Boy, OZ, Cubeatz and Tay Keith) is top-notch, which made its position at the top of the Hot 100, the 1.2 billion Spotify streams it earned and the seven-times platinum certification no surprise.
Migos"Bad and Boujee" Featuring Lil Uzi Vert
Migos and Lil Uzi Vert were two very exciting young acts in hip-hop in 2017; the four of them teaming up on one song was interesting on paper. The final product, 2017's "Bad and Boujee," surpassed every expectation, thanks to an incredible beat from Metro Boomin and every artist on the track going crazy. The song, which has over 678 million Spotify streams, is still great today, and was a No. 1 hit, hanging on the charts for 32 weeks.
J. Cole has had plenty of chart success and critical acclaim throughout his career, which has made the selection for the biggest track he lays claim to a tough one. His song "Middle Child" is the highest-charting song of his career, coming in at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2019, but the upper ranking doesn't eclipse the power of his 2014 song "No Role Modelz." "Don't save her, she don't wanna be saved" became an inescapable hook at the time of its release and still rings years later. The six-times platinum-selling song, which has over 805 million Spotify streams, is the biggest song in his catalog when comparing RIAA certification, chart placement and streaming numbers. Though "No Role Modelz" landed at No. 36 on the Hot 100 in 2016, its popularity and achievements in all areas have secured its legacy in Cole's body of work.
Before "Humble." dropped in 2017, Kendrick Lamar wasn't really rhyming over all-out thumpers like this Mike-WiLL Made-It-crafted beat. That, coupled with the excitement of new Kendrick music due to him laying low for a bit and the very quotable hook, did the trick, as it was a seven-times platinum, No. 1 hit with over 1. 3 billion Spotify streams.
André 3000John Legend's "Green Light" Featuring André 3000
André 3000 will always be known as one-half of the legendary Atlanta duo OutKast, but he's done plenty of solo features outside of the lauded group. His most successful solo moment (not counting "Hey Ya!," which was released under Outkast), was his verse on John Legend's "Green Light," a 2008 track about scooping women at a party. John and 3 Stacks are both smooth dudes, so they were in their element, and the fans agreed, as the song went platinum.
Post Malone"Rockstar" Featuring 21 Savage
Post Malone has become known for anthems, and built his career off of them. Besides the 2016 track "Congratulations" with Quavo clearly standing the test of time, Post's Grammy Award-nominated track "Rockstar" featuring 21 Savage is his biggest record to date. "I've been fuckin' hoes and poppin' pillies/Man, I feel just like a rockstar (star)," he croons over the Tank God and Louis Bell-produced track. Even if fans didn't have luck with the ladies and said no to drugs, they were still screaming out the lyrics right along with Post and 21 Savage to the tune of more than 2 billion Spotify streams. The effort is currently eight-times platinum and landed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 41 weeks.
Kid Cudi's "Day 'N' Nite" started out as something of an underground hit, traveling across the internet during the blog era in 2008. In 2009, it was released as a proper single, and really took off. At the time, there was nothing like this, with its spacey, out-there vibe and Cudi's half-sung delivery made him stand out even more. As of today, the song is five-times platinum, and was the No. 3 song in the country at its peak.