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Hit & Miss: One Hit Wonders

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

Posted by Andrew Hickey

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!

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