Music

Will Kendrick Lamar’s Drake Diss Go to No. 1 – And If So, Which One? 

The Contenders is a midweek column that looks at artists aiming for the top of the Billboard charts, and the strategies behind their efforts. Next week (for the upcoming Billboard Hot 100 dated May 18), the Kendrick Lamar-Drake beef that’s dominated pop culture for the past month sets its sights on also taking over the Billboard charts.   

Kendrick Lamar, “Not Like Us” (pgLang/Interscope/ICLG): Though it arrived as the fourth diss track in Kendrick Lamar’s anti-Drake campaign – fifth if you count “Like That” — “Not Like Us” appears on its way to being the rapper’s biggest single since at least that initial Future and Metro Boomin collab, which topped the Hot 100 in its first three weeks on the chart in April. Since debuting on Saturday night (May 4), the Mustard-produced banger has simply swept through pop culture, being played on NBA on TNT broadcasts and as MLB walk-up music and inspiring mash-ups and club chants and general West Coast fan hysteria.  

The public response has been overwhelming enough that even with its late Saturday release – meaning it will only have a little over five days of consumption in its debut tracking week – “Not Like Us” should still be a strong contender for a No. 1 Hot 100 debut next week. The song shot to the top of essentially every relevant daily or real time chart (including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Trending and iTunes) and is currently still gaining steam, with its eye-popping most recent Spotify U.S. total of over 6.8 million plays (for Tuesday, May 7) being its highest yet.  

Competition for the top spot will still be stiff in such a loaded period for new hits, including from other songs by Kendrick himself. But “Not Like Us” is outpacing the competition enough right now to likely be the frontrunner for next week’s chart – and regardless is certainly on pace to be one of the defining hits of this year, as well as one of the biggest songs of Lamar’s decade-plus hitmaking career.  

Kendrick Lamar, “Euphoria” (pgLang/Interscope/ICLG): Before the arrival of “Not Like Us,” it still seemed like Lamar would have the inside track on the Hot 100 with the first shot from his recent attack wave, “Euphoria.” That track, a vicious six-minute assault on Drake’s character that also became a pop culture phenomenon upon its release two Tuesdays ago (April 30), managed to debut at No. 11 on this week’s Hot 100 (dated May 11) from just two and a half days of tracking. 

Following its first full week of release, “Euphoria” should also be a major contender for the top of the Hot 100, as it has been holding strong near the top of most daily DSP charts in the days since. (Both “Euphoria” and “Not Like Us” are just getting going on radio, each drawing a little over a million airplay impressions in the first four days of the tracking week, May 3-6, according to Luminate.) With “Not Like Us” lapping it basically across the board as the popular favorite from this back and forth, however, “Euphoria” might have missed its best shot at nabbing the No. 1 spot, and will likely have to settle for the silver or bronze on the chart next week.  

Kendrick Lamar, “Meet the Grahams” (pgLang/Interscope/ICLG): Perhaps the nastiest of Lamar’s invectives against his rival, “Meet the Grahams” arrived on Friday night (May 3), a day before “Not Like Us.” The song doesn’t quite have the invigorating punchiness of “Euphoria” or the sheer club-readiness of “Us,” and so it hasn’t quite taken over the culture like those two certified hits. But its performance since arriving on all DSPs on Sunday (after a YouTube-only debut) has been notable enough – with the song currently ranking in the top 10 on both the Spotify and Apple Music updating charts, as well as on iTunes – that it should still be ticketed for a fairly high debut on next week’s Hot 100.  

There is of course a fourth Lamar song from song from the feud that was released the past weekend, in Friday morning’s “6:16 in L.A.” — but that song was an Instagram-only release, meaning its streams will not contribute to Billboard chart calculations, and it will not be eligible for the charts next week. However, “Like That” — the Future and Metro Boomin collab that kicked all of this off a month and a half ago — is also still hanging around the Hot 100’s top 10 (No. 8 this week, following its three-week reign), and is up in consumption following the brighter spotlight on the beef, so it will also certainly be in the mix for next week (if no longer a likely top-spot contender).  

IN THE MIX 

Drake, “Family Matters” (OVO/Republic): Don’t forget about the other guy in the beef! Though Drake is obviously trailing both in terms of public opinion and in overall streams/sales count in this back-and-forth – as well as in terms of total songs, with just two this past weekend to Lamar’s stunning four – his “Family Matters” is still on pace for a very high bow on the Hot 100, as the Friday night-released diss track is still ranking in the top 10 on both Spotify and Apple Music. (Sunday night’s follow-up “The Heart Part 6” has only been released on YouTube so far.)

Tommy Richman, “Million Dollar Baby” (ISO Supermacy/Pulse): You gotta feel for Tommy Richman a little: If not for the Kendrick-Drake showdown generating more drama and attention than the entirety of the NBA playoffs, he’d very likely be the biggest story in the music world right now. The little-before-known Virginia singer-rapper debuts at No. 2 on the Hot 100 this week with his runaway breakthrough hit “Million Dollar Baby,” and the song has only been rising on streaming and in airplay and sales in its second week of release. But unless interest in the beef (or at least Kendrick’s musical part in it) tails off mightily in the last couple days of the tracking week, Richman’s likely gonna have to wait at least one more week to climb that last spot and take over the Hot 100’s apex.  

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