Hit & Miss: One Hit Wonders

Andrew Hickey explains why being a one-hit wonder isn't always a bad thing (but usually is)....

Scroll through the gallery to see the Hits & Misses of hip-hop's ONE HIT WONDERS
HIT // BLACK ROB: When it comes to one hit wonders in rap history Black Rob is one that doesn’t always come up and yet his sole hit, Whoa! has left a lasting impression on listeners. Unfortunately for our man Robert he came out at a time when Diddy and his Bad Boy brigade were facing a backlash based on oversaturation and his personal misdeeds. Following in the footsteps of the Notorious B.I.G and Ma$e was never going to be easy. Interestingly his debut album contained a collabo with a pre-celebrity Jennifer Lopez, called Spanish Fly, which never got released as a single. Like Craig ‘Flava In Ya Ear’ Mack he can now be found on the side of milk cartons.
MISS // KHIA: Even with artists like Queen Latifah doing their best to establish a place for women in the rap game it has always been a struggle. Rather than talk about boring shit like equality and intelligence, the tattooed Khia went straight for the jugular, or in this case the balls. My Neck My Back found her trying to wrestle away sexual dominance from her male counterparts, as she took the lead in the theoretical bedroom. Disguised as a female empowerment anthem the track is the equivalent of having lady trucker parts rubbed in your face. It does nothing to distinguish itself from similar tracks, except that it’s a woman rapping. It can now be heard being performed by sexually frustrated secretaries the world over at karaoke nights.
HIT // RICH BOY: It was the summer of 2006 and rap fans were hungry for a new song about protruding car rims. This also coincided with rap’s obsession with the ‘dirty south’ and was the perfect time for a fresh-faced fella by the name of Rich Boy. Straight out of Alabama, a state more associated with Nascar than rap music, he hit like a juggernaut wearing a Jesus piece with the instant classic Throw Some D’s. Sadly for Rich though the track was a hit based on the addictive beat rather than his close-to-incomprehensible molasses thick voice. Producer Polow Da Don has become hit-maker for the stars while Rich Boy remains in rap purgatory, plotting his mainstream comeback.
MISS // GUERILLA BLACK: The love and dedication inspired in fans by dead icons Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G is one that record label execs have capitalised on for years. It has resulted in an endless array of posthumous albums. That wasn’t enough though. The game has also seen a parade of Biggie and ‘Pac imitators including Krazy of No Limit Records and Diddy protégé Shyne. Possibly the most blatant and least talented however would have to be Compton’s Guerilla Black. Not only did he bear a vocal and lyrical resemblance, he also had the same rotund frame. Rap music has never been so creepy.
HIT // AFROMAN The early 2000s saw rap music experience some of its biggest success on the pop charts. Suburban white kids more than ever were exposed to the brazen attitude and colourful language of Eminem, Jay-Z and the like. For Joseph ‘Afroman’ Foreman, a middling Bay Area rapper who had been in the game since the late 90s, it was a case of right time and right place. While Cypress Hill got shit popping when it came to glorifying pot smoking in the mainstream it was Afroman and his hit Because I Got High that helped bring it to a new level. Now little Timmy and his mother were singing about getting high. Kudos sir, kudos.
MISS // JESSE JAYMES: Before Asher Roth was learning to master beer pong, Jesse Jaymes was the original white college rapper. With his blonde perm mullet and poor fashion sense he was a blatant symbol of whiteness in what was still a predominantly black culture. The ‘average homeboy’ Denny Blaze had more street cred. While he technically released two singles, Shake It (Like a White Girl) and College Girls (Are Easy), both meld into one hot mess. These abominations were actually produced by guys also responsible for Paul’s Boutique and Bust a Move. Jaymes is having the last laugh however as a rich entrepreneur and husband of the woman that created Spanx female undergarments. The white man wins again.
HIT // AHMAD: South Central LA may get associated more with gangbangers and lowriders in popular consciousness but this native son, who was 18 at the time, put himself on the map with a feel good nostalgic anthem. The early ‘90s is a blur of flash in the pan rappers, from Jay-Z’s buddies Original Flavor to the cartoonish Fu-Schnickens, so sadly Back in the Day has become unjustly lost in the shuffle. The smooth track however has endured among many rap fans and artists, and has been sampled by the likes of The-Dream. Apparently the track was produced by Redfoo of LMFAO fame, however it has not been substantiated by any mainstream publications. Ahmad has gone on to become a songwriter for Flo-Rida, the aforementioned LMFAO and others.
MISS // HURRICANE CHRIS: Some say that Hip-Hop is dead but apparently they haven’t heard of Hurricane Chris. Oh wait. This Louisiana native is the antithesis of Nas but he can be commended for producing one of the single most ignorant and ridiculous rap anthems of all time. The fact that the music video for ‘Ay Bay Bay’ opens on a shot of a child should tell you all you need to know about the lyrical content. Like a disease, the track stayed stagnant on the charts before it built strength and worked its way up to the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Much to the delight of nobody anywhere he is now planning his next album.
HIT // JJ FADD: The idea of gangsta rap pioneers NWA being responsible for a squeaky clean all female rap group is like finding out Charles Manson coached a kids little league team but it actually happened. Ruthless Records mastermind Eazy-E was no dummy and he saw the dollar signs with this Salt N Pepa esque trio. Dr. Dre put his gritty and multi-layered sonic explorations on hold to devise some shiny electro tinged productions for the girls to do their thang over. While they didn’t hold a candle to MC Lyte and other lyrical counterparts the simple rhyme patterns and memorable hook of Supersonic set the stage for seemingly every female pop-rap performer, from Fergie to Nicki Minaj.
MISS // JIBBS: Nelly made an art out of turning nursery rhymes into platinum plaques. Our band-aids wearing pioneer was like Van Gogh compared to his young St. Louis counterpart, Jibbs, who was still learning to draw with crayons. Debuting at age 16, you could blame his musical indiscretions on his age but that would be giving him a free pass. He took Nelly’s sing-songy formula and put it through a blender, and a malfunctioning one at that. The result was Chain Hang Low, a lobotomized anthem too immature for nursery school. You can almost feel your brain melt like an M&M with every passing minute.

The one hit wonder is a phenomenon as old as time itself. Over the years the concept of the one hit wonder has undergone many variations, the most common being artists that literally have one hit to their name (looking at you Baha Men). There have also been artists that have had a handful of hits but are only remembered for one specific song and have since become a punchline (see Mr. Right Thurr, Chingy).

Music has a grand tradition of one hit wonders from the thinly disguised weed anthem Naturally Stoned by future game show host Chuck Woolery and his band The Avant-Garde, to novelty hits like Pac-Man Fever. When it comes to this phenomenon rap music is no exception. The chart for R&B and rap singles in the U.S. has undergone many variations, with the current incarnation being the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. That name is better than Race Records, which the chart was known as from 1945-1949. As rap music became a gluttonous beast in the late ‘80s, the opportunity was there for labels and artists to take advantage and make some of that fabulous mulah. The charts aren’t the be-all and end-all however when it comes to rap music. Many artists haven’t made a huge impact on the mainstream charts but made a lasting impact within hip-hop circles. While the term ‘one hit wonder’ generally carries negative connotations, some artists that may technically fit into the category actually had talent and did go on to have successful careers either independently or in other parts of the industry. Hip-hop deities like Ras Kass and Souls of Mischief have struggled to reach mainstream success beyond their initial single but have legendary status based on their pure natural ability. After all it does take some semblance of talent to capture the attention of the public, even if for a fleeting moment. As much as people laugh at them now Kriss Kross made everybody jump. Producing a hit single does require the talent of at least a couple of people, whether it’s an enigmatic vocalist or an experience studio knob fiddler. Thanks to YouTube and streaming, the concept of the ‘one hit wonder’ has taken a new twist. Rather than relying on a record label machine, people can now use their own self-promotion abilities to force themselves onto the public. Now we are blessed with viral hits like Ima Read by openly gay rapper Zebra Katz and Njena Reddd Foxxx, which encourages both playful misogyny and getting an education. Here we look at the good, the bad and the atrocious when it comes to one hit wonders in rap music. Miss anyone? Let us know!