Update, 5/9/2016, 3:15 p.m.: "One Dance" climbed to the top of the Hot 100 today, giving Drake his long-coveted No. 1.
Roughly seven months after Drake publicly declared that "no accolades really matter to me other than the fact that I have never had a billboard number one," he achieved his goal with "One Dance." The track moved from No. 2 to No. 1 this week, knocking Desiigner's "Panda" off the top of the chart. Including "One Dance," Drake has a stunning 20 songs on the Hot 100 this week as a lead or featured artist. Learn more about his latest chart feats here, and read his complete history on the Hot 100 below.
At the end of September, Drake notched his 100th entry on the Billboard Hot 100. This puts the MC in an elite club: Elvis Presley and Lil Wayne are the only individuals who have enjoyed more success on that particular chart. But Drake is still not satisfied. “I spend my life trying to make waves for the city I am from,” he wrote on Instagram recently. “No accolades really matter to me other than the fact that I have never had a Billboard number one.” “Hotline Bling,” which first appeared on the Hot 100 11 weeks ago, represents his best ever chance to reach this goal by himself.
Of course, Drake has had several Billboard No. 1’s. In 2009, he climbed to the top spot as a featured artist on Rihanna’s “What’s My Name” (though in 2009, Rihanna could have gone No. 1 singing a duet with a broken microwave). He has also scaled the Billboard albums chart (more than once), the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (multiple times), and even the Latin Songs chart. But in many ways, Drake’s career has been defined by crossover success: he injected record amounts of melody into rap, and non-hip-hop listeners embraced him for it. In this realm, the Hot 100 is king. Surprisingly, the MC has never had a solo No. 1 on that chart.
Drake’s career as a crossover artist can be divided into three phases. The first lasted from his commercial breakthrough, “Best I Ever Had,” up through 2013's “All Me.” During this period, in Drake-speak, he was “servin’ and servin’ again and again and again and again”—nearly everything he threw near the charts became a Hot 100 hit. Many of these records sound startlingly naïve now, but their success was undeniable. After “Best I Ever Had” hit No. 2, 11 of Drake’s next 12 solo singles reached the top 25, and four cracked the top ten. (Several non-singles charted as well.)
The initial offerings from Nothing Was The Same suggested the possibility of a new summit: “Started From The Bottom” and “Hold On We’re Going Home” remain the most successful pair of singles Drake has released back to back. “Started From The Bottom” was far and away his toughest single at that point; it climbed to No. 6, belying the notion that a rapper necessarily had to make pop-friendly concessions to cross over. (Drake was an early beneficiary of the incorporation of YouTube streams into the Hot 100: according to Billboard, “Started From The Bottom” jumped 53 spots on the chart when the accounting change was initiated in 2013.) On the other end of the spectrum, the butter-soft “Hold On We’re Going Home” topped out at No. 4.
But the rest of Nothing Was The Same did not connect as well on the Hot 100: the album’s next four singles didn’t reach the top 50. “Worst Behavior” stalled at 89—his lowest peak ever. Although Drake's solo work was failing to connect with the crossover public, collaborations kept him in the upper reaches of the charts. “Odio,” with Romeo Santos, didn’t make into the top 40, but it set records on the Latin chart. iLoveMakonnen’s “Tuesday,” a genuinely strange record, hit No. 12, as did Nicki Minaj’s “Only.” (Minaj’s “Truffle Butter” was also a hit, using a beat Nineteen85 originally put together for Nothing Was The Same.)
After falling out of pop-world favor, some artists might desperately try to return to what earned them the attention in the first place; interestingly, Drake did not attempt to reprise his early melodic successes in 2015. He did the opposite, in fact—his mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, is full of standoffish, fractious songs, none of which cracked the Hot 100's top 25. (“Energy” got close, reaching No. 26.)
To be sure, many of the songs on the mixtape did chart, but this is due to recent changes in Billboard's metric to account for streaming in the Hot 100: if many individual tracks appear in the chart simultaneously, that's usually a reflection of the album’s success, rather than that of any one song—unless those tunes hang around. With the exception of “Know Yourself,” none of the IYRTITL tracks lasted longer than a week or two on the charts.
“Back To Back,” another recent one-off, benefited from additional interest surrounding Drake's surprise clash with Meek Mill. It debuted at No. 21 on the Hot 100, but fell into the void after a single week. Meanwhile, Drake’s collaborations continue to soar in phase three—“Jumpman,” from Drake's September tape with Future, just breached the top 15.
The success of “Hotline Bling” makes it an outlier for Drake in 2015: the song represents a missing link between the first and third phases of his career. The lyrics, possessive and petulant, would fit in on Take Care, and he displays the signature flat croon that listeners have glimpsed less and less since the days of “Hold On We’re Going Home.” But Drake uses the song to showcase new flows, his delivery sometimes jumpy and delightfully bizarre. When he sings Ever singe I left the city YOU, he chases down the last syllable, pounding on it with peculiar intensity.
It’s likely that “Hotline Bling” will hit No. 1 next week. The Weeknd held onto the top spot for now by releasing a couple of high-powered remixes of “The Hills,” but Drake released a wildly successful music video for his track on Tuesday night. Though the clip is an Apple Music exclusive, and those views don't count on the Hot 100, interest in the track will probably continue to surge.
As Billboard Senior Editor Alex Gale noted on Twitter, the streams coming from the Apple Music video will not count, but "When it hits YouTube, though? No. 1 is still pretty damn likely."
If the rapper finally reaches his goal of No. 1, he already has his celebration planned out: he announced on Instagram that he “will be passed out in the water slide that connects to our pool.” In a supremely-Drake move, he preemptively vitiated his own joy in a postscript. “I always love the moment right before it happens more than when it actually happens.”