Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” is boomin’.
With its No. 3 ranking on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the Young Money/Cash Money single is the highest-charting Hot 100 rap hit by a solo female (without the aid of a featured artist) since Missy Elliott’s “Work It” reached No. 2 in 2002. “Work” spent 10 straight weeks stuck in the runner-up slot.
“Nicki isn’t like any other female rapper,” says Cash Money co-founder/co-CEO Ronald “Slim” Williams, “We knew she had the goods when Lil Wayne signed her. She’s not a female rapper — she’s a pop star who happens to rap.”
“Super” is also just the eighth rap single by a solo female to reach the top 10 in the chart’s 53-year history.
Aside from “Super” and “Work It,” here are the other six single lady rappers’ hits who reached the top 10:
M.I.A., “Paper Planes” (No. 4; Sept. 27, 2008)
Lil Mama, “Lip Gloss” (No. 10; June 30, 2007)
Missy Elliott, “Get Ur Freak On” (No. 7; June 30, 2001)
Lauryn Hill, “Doo Wop (That Thing)” (No. 1; Nov. 14, 1998)
Da Brat, “Funkdafied” (No. 6; Aug. 13, 1994)
Neneh Cherry, “Buffalo Stance” (No. 3; June 24, 1989)
(For those curious about “Buffalo Stance’s” inclusion — it also peaked at No. 16 on the Rap Songs list.)
Hill’s “Doo Wop” remains the only No. 1 rap hit by a solo woman in the Billboard Hot 100’s history. But, with “Super Bass” continuing to bounce up the tally, Hill may not be alone in the No. 1 club for long.
Minaj has been all over hip-hop and mainstream R&B radio airwaves — and Billboard’s charts — since late 2009, charting eight top 10 hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Yet, on the all-format Billboard Hot 100, “Bass” marked only her third top 10 — and first as a lead artst. She previously earned top 10s courtesy of being a guest star on Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up” (No. 6) and Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends” (No. 3).
Further, on the Mainstream Top 40 radio chart, “Super Bass” is her first top 10 hit.
CBS Radio VP/Programming Michael Martin thinks it’s “Super’s” kicky vibe — plus Minaj’s personality — that’s clicking with audiences.
“‘Super Bass’ is a fun uptempo summer song,” he says. “She has pop sensibility and presents herself as a mass appeal artist. The video is vibrant, colorful and inviting.” He concurs with Williams, too, on the don’t-be-so-quick-to-categorize-her front: “She’s not putting up walls around her in any way. You call her a female rapper, [but] the audience perceives her, especially through this song, as a pop star.”
Pat Monaco, executive vice president and general manager of Cash Money’s parent company, Universal Motown Records, echoes the pop angle: “She’s intelligent and has a pop sensibility. Girls want to be like her. She’s the Britney Spears of the rap world.” Fitting, since Minaj teamed with Spears on the “Femme Fatale” remix of the latter’s “Till the World Ends” single and is currently on tour with with diva.
“Super Bass'” success is remarkable, considering it began its commercial life as a bonus track on the deluxe explicit version of Minaj’s “Pink Friday” album, which was released on Nov. 22, 2010. (The deluxe edition wasn’t available in a “clean,” or edited, version.) Consumers could still purchase the song a la carte from digital retailers.
“Super’s” limited physical availability unsurprisingly didn’t stop it from turning into a phenomenon.
By February, videos of Minaj fans Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez rapping “Super Bass” began making the rounds on YouTube. Shortly afterwards, the song debuted on both the R&B Digital Songs and Rap Digital Songs charts (Feb. 19) and the Bubbling Under Hot 100 tally (Feb. 26).
“Super” was already establishing itself as a proper single — despite its bonus track status.
Clearly, Young Money/Cash Money knew they had a hit on their hands and in turn, an eye-popping hyper-colorful video for “Super” was produced. The clip debuted on Vevo and YouTube on May 5. A little over a week later, it arrived on the Hot 100 on May 14.
The next month, on June 21, Young Money/Cash Money issued a new previously unavailable clean deluxe version of “Pink Friday” — with “Super Bass” included.
Why bother dropping a new permutation of “Pink Friday” a long seven months after its first release? Mega-retailer Walmart doesn’t carry explicit albums — and the deluxe version wasn’t available in edited form — so a significant chunk of physical consumers were denied the “Bass” up until June 21.
Last week, “Pink Friday” passed the 1.5 million sales mark in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan. The set, which unusually climbed to No. 1 on the Feb. 19 chart (instead of debuting there, as most No. 1 albums do), has been lodged in the top 40 ever since its debut.
“Super Bass,” meanwhile, has moved 2.05 million downloads in 2011, making it the year’s 20th-biggest overall seller and the seventh-largest R&B/hip-hop digital song.