Drake and the Science of a Label-Free Hit

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Until recently, the typical game plan for rappers was to develop some buzz, get discovered by a major label, and blast some songs nationwide.

But today’s hip-hop artists are blasting that dream to bits, thanks to mixtapes, the internet, and a totally different set of economic rules.

One of the biggest songs on the airwaves is a catchy rap ballad called “Best I Ever Had” by newcomer Drake.  According to data found on BigChampagne’s BCDash, “Best” is currently ranked #2 on Mediabase’s Urban chart and #3 on Hit-Rhythmic.  That’s quite impressive, especially given the lack of a major label push.  Instead, this Canadian rapper has topped the charts based on internet buzz and guest appearances.

Now, Drake is caught in the middle of a huge label bidding war.  In fact, he’s so hot that a shifty outfit named Canadian Money Entertainment released an unofficial Drake album called The Girls Love Drake.  The album, slipped onto iTunes, included some songs from Drake’s unreleased mixtapes (he’s trying to clear some samples).

Drake is not alone.  In fact, he is the second rapper this year to have a hit single without major label backing.  Kid Cudi’s massive “Day ‘N’ Nite” was originally recorded in 2007, and the rapper built an audience using his MySpace page and a popular club remix.  Dipping back into the BCDash dataset, the song is still #6 on Mediabase’s Hit-Rhythmic chart.  Kid Cudi just signed a deal with Universal Motown and will release his debut album in August.

Story by Shalewa Sharpe.