1. Polo G, who scored his first Hot 100 No. 1 single earlier this year with “Rapstar,” now has his first No. 1 album with Hall of Fame. On a scale of 1-10, how significant of an accomplishment is this for the rising Chicago rapper?
Andrew Unterberger: I'd say a 7. It'd be a little higher even if Polo didn't already have the Hot 100 No. 1 debut with "Rapstar," which I think was the real indicator of his arrival in rap's top tier. But a No. 1 album is never anything to sneeze at -- particularly with a strong-enough bow to even outpace Migos' long-anticipated third installment in their Culture series -- and it's a good indicator that, though the Chicago MC now has a smash big enough to make him something of a household name, his success still isn't really dependent on individual hits.
Carl Lamarre: I'll go with 8. I'll be the first to say that I was surprised when "Rapstar" debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100. That's not to say I doubted Polo's trajectory, but for him to peak this quickly, on a playing field where pop heavyweights reign supreme, means he can brawl with anybody. Knowing Polo, though, this is manifestation at work -- peep his last three album titles. It's also a big win for Chicago, a city with two new bonafide rap stars who can collide with anyone on the mainstream turf. Last week's Billboard 200 No. 1 crown holder was Lil Durk, and now, it’s Polo G.
Jason Lipshutz: A 9. Although those of us who have been paying attention to the way Polo G has been gathering momentum since 2019 -- culminating in “Rapstar” debuting at No. 1 earlier this year -- aren’t shocked that Hall of Fame scored a No. 1 bow, the debut still represents a monumental achievement for an artist trying to crack hip-hop’s A-list. Polo G’s first two albums were brimming with promise, but with Hall of Fame, he’s fully arrived, artistically and commercially. In my opinion, the reception to this body of work cements Polo G’s status as a star even more so than scoring a Hot 100 chart-topper.
Lyndsey Havens: An 8. Considering the Chicago rapper's chart history, there's a natural progression that's led to this moment. The years of hard work and continual climb are respectable, and at the same time, the fact that this success didn't happen seemingly overnight is the only thing preventing me from rating it a 9 or a 10. Once you top the Hot 100 with a song called "Rapstar," I imagine there's no better feeling than proving that claim with a No. 1 album to follow.
Neena Rouhani: I’d say it’s an 8. It’s a huge accomplishment, no doubt, but if he can do the same with his next album, I’d give that a 10. He’s coming off a super hot record (in part thanks to TikTok), which obviously contributed to the success of Hall of Fame, but I am curious to see how he does moving forward. His sound and lyricism are so distinctly him, from when I first heard him on “Pop Out” to now, and I think that consistency will pay off.
2. In 2019, Polo G’s debut album Die a Legend debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200. In 2020, The Goat debuted at No. 2. What is it about this album that allowed him to push higher and reach the top spot?
Andrew Unterberger: The No. 1 single certainly helps -- as does not having a new Future album to contend with, since The Goat was held off by the debut of High Off Life last year. But Polo G's stardom has also just grown steadily (and seemingly organically) over the past two years, since "Pop Out" with Lil Tjay first made him a national sensation. The Chicago rapper has been a steady presence on the charts since then, and a prolific releaser of new material -- with strong albums in each of the past three years, as well as big features for the likes of Lil Durk, Rod Wave and the late King Von. He's built both an impressive resume of hits and a real connection with fans in a short period of time, which is usually a good recipe for major chart success.
Carl Lamarre: I enjoyed Polo's rollout -- I think that helped push him over the edge. He stayed true to his vision and executed each step flawlessly, whether it was dropping his contagious hit "Rapstar," channeling his inner MJ for his Hits cover, or having a conversation with Bulls legend Scottie Pippen. He saw his vision of being a Hall of Famer all the way through.
Jason Lipshutz: The success of “Rapstar” is an easy flash point, a No. 1 hit that naturally resulted in heightened interest around the project it preceded. Still, a smash single doesn’t necessarily lead to six-figure equivalent album units earned; the fact that Hall of Fame is Polo G’s most compelling full-length yet, complete with top-line guest stars and his signature brand of street life storytelling, is the reason why he now has a No. 1 album under his belt. To put it another way, “Rapstar” set the table, but Polo G still had to deliver the meal.
Lyndsey Havens: While Polo G managed to secure buzzy collaborations on his first two albums, the features on Hall of Fame come from, as the title suggests, some of hip-hop's greats. Along with Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, Polo G also tapped DaBaby, Roddy Ricch and Young Thug to help bolster his third album. I think landing such features speaks to Polo G's own stature -- collaboration goes both ways, and a featured act should believe just as much in the artist they're guesting for.
Neena Rouhani: “Rapstar.” It was a mega-hit, and catapulted Polo to where he needed to be in order to land a No. 1 album. If you want to look past that, he has some extremely noteworthy features from fellow chart-toppers and melodic rappers, and he really leaned into mainstream drill, making the project more “palatable” for a larger audience.
3. Aside from “Rapstar,” which of the 20 tracks on Hall of Fame could you foresee becoming another major hit for Polo G?
Andrew Unterberger: "No Return" has the most formidable guests, with assists from two of 2021's biggest breakout chart forces in Lil Durk and The Kid LAROI. But I've got my eye on two solo cuts: "Black Hearted," which has the same kind of looping, melancholy guitar figure as the ukulele riff that propelled "Rapstar" to blockbuster numbers, and "Boom," which has a whining string hook, so high-pitched it almost sounds like a theremin. I could certainly see either ending up sticking on TikTok and/or streaming services.
Carl Lamarre: First, "No Return" with Kid Laroi and Lil Durk goes hard; after their success in 2020, it's safe to say that Laroi and Durk are instant chart magnets now. The hook is insanely good, too. Secondly, "Party Lyfe" with DaBaby follows the same recipe: You have a perennial Hot 100 superstar in DaBaby and an indelible hook laced by Polo. I can see this one going off this summer, especially since those guitar riffs kind of mirror a familiar Hot 100 hit (and last year’s song of the summer), DaBaby's "Rockstar."
Jason Lipshutz: Hall of Fame contains a ton of great collaborations -- “Gang Gang” with Lil Wayne, “Party Lyfe” with DaBaby and “Heart of a Giant” with Rod Wave are personal favorites -- but “No Return,” with The Kid LAROI and Lil Durk, is the only team-up that sounds like a surefire hit. That strings-and-piano combo, LAROI’s hook and Polo G’s absolutely possessed delivery make the rags-to-riches reflection both powerful and effortlessly listenable.
Lyndsey Havens: My dark horse pick is "Broken Guitars,” featuring Scorey. If the title wasn't a big enough clue, the rock-leaning production perfectly aligns with other recent rap-rock hits, from 24kGoldn and Iann Dior's "Mood" to Machine Gun Kelly's "My Ex's Best Friend," and would be a welcomed addition to the growing list.
Neena Rouhani: Judging by the music video, production, DaBaby feature and lyrics, “Party Lyfe” sounds like it was designed to be the mainstream hit. I could definitely see it doing well, but I see fans gravitating towards “Black Hearted” and “No Return” (my personal fave), so it’s a toss-up.
4. As Hall of Fame debuts with 143,000 equivalent album units, Migos’ Culture III opens at No. 2 with 130,500 equivalent album units. How surprised are you at the result of this battle for the top of the Billboard 200?
Andrew Unterberger: Surprised at how not surprised I am, really. Though Migos' numbers are still pretty solid in their own right -- particularly considering that none of the advance tracks from their C3 have taken off anywhere near the level that "Rapstar" has -- this feels to me like a pretty telling torch-passing moment from the hip-hop ruling class of the '10s to the stars of the new decade. I think we'll be seeing Polo G back at the top of this chart again a handful of times to come in the 2020s.
Carl Lamarre: Not surprised at all. If you recall, Polo went toe-to-toe against Future when he released The Goat in 2020. Though he landed at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, he proved he's down to compete against anyone. The youngster relishes these kinds of battles -- and you have to, especially when you anoint yourself The Goat.
Jason Lipshutz: Not surprised, really, even though I have enjoyed Culture III and hope it sticks around the top of the Billboard 200. Although all three Migos members have stayed busy in solo and side projects since 2018’s Culture II, a three-year gap between releases in modern hip-hop is an eternity, and if anything, their No. 2 debut is impressive considering the layoff. Polo G came into the chart duel with more momentum thanks to “Rapstar,” and eked out a win as a result.
Lyndsey Havens: A bit surprised, but pleasantly so. While it is unfortunate that the latest chapter of Migos' Culture series failed to deliver a hat trick -- Culture and Culture II both topped the Billboard 200 -- Polo G's rise is a more compelling tale at this moment.
Neena Rouhani: Not surprised at all. Part of me feels like it’s a battle of generations, with Migos holding a special place in the hearts of millennials, and Polo G really resonating with the TikTok generation. And it’s not too surprising to see who prevailed.
5. Finish the sentence: at the 2022 Grammy Awards, Polo G will...
Andrew Unterberger: ...be one of the bigger snubs. He'll be worthy of top honors, but likely still a level below Grammy-type recognition -- though a best rap song nod for "Rapstar" certainly isn't out of the question, and if I were Ben Winston, I'd be lining up Polo and Einer Bankz for a live performance of it on the broadcast, for sure.
Carl Lamarre: ...probably not be nominated, and it's not his fault at all. He's already three albums in, so a best new artist look might be out of reach. I think he deserves at least two nominations, but let's see if the Grammys are willing to play ball in 2022.
Jason Lipshutz: ...be nominated for more awards than most people expect, including best new artist. The fact is, Polo G is one of the very best storytellers in modern hip-hop, and has found a sizable audience. The Recording Academy will recognize his gift in the rap categories, and hopefully in the general categories, too.
Lyndsey Havens: ...finally earn a nomination -- and in a Big Four category, no less, as "Rapstar" receives a record of the year nod.
Neena Rouhani: ...stand tall in nominations -- and go head-to-head with a few Hall of Fame featured artists.