Two weeks into the 2020s, and it appears the decade’s first new breakout star has already been anointed in West Coast rapper Roddy Ricch.
The 21-year-old MC had already topped the Billboard 200 in late 2019 with his acclaimed debut LP Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, and scored a combined three nominations at the 2020 Grammys with his features on hit singles from Mustard (“Ballin'”) and the late Nipsey Hussle (“Racks in the Middle”). But this week, not only does Antisocial return to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, but its lead single, the hypnotic “The Box,” ascends to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 — making Ricch the first artist since Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper last March to top both charts simultaneously.
How was “The Box” able to rise so rapidly — even outpacing “Yummy,” the long-awaited comeback single from ’10s megastar Justin Bieber? And how does it portend for the rest of the 2020s to have the song as the first new No. 1 of the decade? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below.
1. Wow, Roddy Ricch the chart-topping superstar kinda came a little out of left field. Why do you think “The Box” has had such a rapid ascent to smash status?
Trevor Anderson: The song has a lot working for it: the “ee ee” squeaking sound that will be the soundtrack to TikToks galore, along with plenty of quotables (“she suck a n—a sooooooooooooulllll”, “I’m a 2020 presidential candidate”). But perhaps its biggest strength is easy to gloss over: It’s the second track on the album. For anyone who streamed the new Roddy Ricch on release Friday, you can’t miss it. It’s in your face from the get go, not some lost gem only to be found by those who dig deep enough. Sounds lame, but it’s a strategy that works time and time again!
Josh Glicksman: Ehh-err! Is it too simple to say it’s because this song is insanely fun to listen to? It’s perfectly tailored for 2020 — a backing adlib first class ticketed for TikTok fame, a sticky chorus destined for audience singalongs (“Pour up the whole damn seal/I’ma get laaaaaazy”) and a runtime that stays within the parameters of listeners’ attention spans. It’s not like Roddy came totally out of nowhere, either: Between his features on “Ballin'” and “Racks in the Middle” and the slow-burning success of his own Feed tha Streets mixtape series, Roddy Ricch has been building to this moment.
Bianca Gracie: I think fans who were first introduced to Roddy’s talent back in 2018 with his “Die Young” breakout single were always rooting to see him win. Since then, he’s been consistently releasing bangers (“Every Season”) and massive guest features (Mustard’s “Ballin”) — so the anticipation for his debut album was sky-high. It so happens that “The Box” is not just a firestarter for Roddy himself, but one of the most thrilling singles we’ve heard from any rapper in a long time. Aside from being a lyrical assassin (that unconventionally long chorus is forever etched in your brain way after the song is over), that quirky beat is what DJ sets, radio playlists and TikTok dreams are made of. And of course the hype that built from its competitive race to No. 1 with Justin Bieber’s “Yummy” didn’t hurt either.
Jason Lipshutz: The ascent of “The Box” is reminiscent in the way that DaBaby’s “Suge” shot into the top 10 of the Hot 100 last year, seemingly out of nowhere, thanks to little more than an undeniable track and an especially engaging hip-hop personality behind it. “The Box” contains a more delineated chorus, and Roddy Ricch had accrued a fair amount of interest from the hip-hop industry before “The Box” was released, but sometimes it’s as simple as a song being molten-lava level of hot — the type of rap song that you want to put on every playlist you’ve ever created.
Andrew Unterberger: There’s something to be a said for a great song that doesn’t quite smack you over the head with its greatness. “The Box” doesn’t present itself as a classic straight away: It’s a little too knotty, a little too tough to get a grip on. But something about it just gets under your skin in a wait, what did I just listen to? kind of way, and makes you want to play it again. Based on the absolutely stupefying streaming totals the song is putting up — better than any new song in its non-debut week since “Old Town Road” — it seems like plenty of listeners are still trying to figure it out.
2. The chart showdown between Roddy Ricch and Justin Bieber on the Hot 100 this week was obviously one of the most high-profile of recent months. How do you feel about how it ultimately played out, and are there any lessons to be learned from it?
Trevor Anderson: What a way to start the decade! As far as the results go, my personal take … *is handed notecard* … we must respect the people’s choice and that’s all I’ll say.
For the big picture, it’s quite clear that big names aren’t enough to guarantee huge smashes and, despite “Yummy” as the proper Purpose follow, past success don’t ensure that everyone picks up where we left off. Taylor Swift is probably the closest example to draw from in recent memory, but the potential silver lining for Bieber & co. is – without knowing what R&Bieber 2020 will sound like — most fans thought the Lover single choices were some of the weaker tracks. Let’s hope that Team JB fudged on the decision-making and that better hits make the final album tracklist.
Josh Glicksman: For the sake of further controversy, it’s likely for the best that Roddy Ricch ended up snagging the No. 1 this week. I’m always in favor of new artists at the top of the charts, and given that Bieber is in the early stages of an album cycle, it may ultimately not be too long before he winds up back at the top of the tally. In terms of lessons learned, the whole situation became bigger than it ever needed to be — but if you’re an artist with the pull of Bieber, maybe it’s best to leave the streaming boost posts to the fan accounts.
Bianca Gracie: While I’m a diehard Belieber, Roddy deserved this win. It would’ve been awesome to see Bieber reclaim the top spot after being away as a solo artist for so long, but “Yummy” wasn’t the comeback single to do so. After all the failed alleged plans of Bieber’s team trying to push that song over the top on streaming, I’m glad that Roddy entered at No. 1 off seemingly genuine support and excitement.
Jason Lipshutz: Throwing it back to 2019 once again, this showdown felt like a sequel to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” boxing out Taylor Swift’s splashy new single “ME!” from the top of the Hot 100 last spring — the rising, by-no-means-household-name artist fending off the superstar. Timing is everything, and in different chart weeks Swift and Bieber may have guided their singles to the summit, but in this instance, “Yummy” ran into a buzzsaw of a surging hip-hop smash and had to settle for the runner-up spot. We’ll see how long “The Box” stays on top, but “Yummy” may have to build a foundation at radio before it challenges for No. 1 again.
Andrew Unterberger: I think it’s tougher to just walk into a No. 1 single than a lot of pop fans expect. Travis Scott and The Weeknd were essentially able to do it last year with “Highest in the Room” and “Heartless,” respectively, but that was largely a virtue of timing and a lack of strong-performing competition. Bieber returned with a comeback single that hasn’t exactly earned rave reviews and ran into a runaway hit, so No. 2 is gonna have to do for him for now — which, for the record, is still a pretty convincing testament to his enduring star power. But hard to argue that the right song didn’t emerge victorious here.
3. There’s a lot going on in “The Box,” both musically and lyrically. What’s the one detail in the song that really sticks with you and/or puts it over the top for you?
Trevor Anderson: I love the orchestral-type swell at the beginning. I’ve had some debates about whether it’s exactly lifted from Ciara and Justin Timberlake’s collab “Love Sex Magic” — lawyers, assemble! — but regardless, it adds an air of a sophistication and makes “The Box” feel like an event, evoking the opening notes of a major movie premiere.
Josh Glicksman: I already made note of the squeaky door adlib, so I’ll head in a different direction here. As both a self-aware sucker for one-liners and a Brooklyn Nets fan, the Vince Carter dunk contest reference — yes, I’m aware it’s from his Toronto Raptors years — is always welcome territory. Ricch buries valuable one-off gems throughout the entirety of the album, but the Vinsanity shoutout and the “Shawty call me Crisco ‘cause I pop my s-t” lines really bring “The Box” to the next level.
Bianca Gracie: It’s that wickedly bizarre production! The “EEE-ERR” melody courtesy of 30 Roc is equal parts menacing, meme-worthy and minimalistic. It can easily transition from soundtracking a horror film to a TikTok video. I like that it’s steady enough to where it doesn’t distract from Roddy’s impressive flow, setting a stage for his lyrical punchlines. But it’s also experimental enough to set itself apart from other rap songs, as the genre’s production is otherwise honestly starting to blend together in a pretty banal way.
Jason Lipshutz: It’s easy to say that creaking beat, but for me, it’s all about the “la-a-a-a-zy” on the chorus, the sort of hook that’s conjured out of nowhere but will be singlehandedly sending up clubs for months. Roddy Ricch draws out his syllables throughout “The Box,” but that’s the one that feels most like a celebration.
4. In addition to “The Box” going to No. 1 on the Hot 100 this week, Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial returns for a second week atop the Billboard 200 as well. Is there a worthy “Box” follow up to be found on its tracklist?
Trevor Anderson: “Moonwalkin,” which, as one would expect, contains plenty of references to King of Pop and sports a nice turn from Lil Durk. In way that Roddy Ricch came through with spots on those Nipsey Hussle and Mustard hits, he could do the same to boost Lil Durk. Plus, just want to mention: a Michael Jackson-filled song already worked well for A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie! (On a personal, personal note: big tennis fan here, so any references to Serena and Venus — though the latter is used to rhyme with penis — earns points in my book.)
Josh Glicksman: I’m not sure that there’s another massive hit à la “The Box,” but the Meek Mill-assisted “Peta” feels like it could gain some legs given the right promotion. Sure, the flute rap movement may not be as prominent in 2020 as it was in 2017, but between that and the plucking strings, the song’s backing beat (and star power) lends itself to potential success. It might have to be the type of slow-burner that eventually explodes thanks to a remix, though.
Bianca Gracie: Roddy’s album is filled with impressively strong tunes from top to bottom, but the other standout for me is “High Fashion.” The summery production (thanks, Mustard) is perfect for the upcoming months, it’s more radio-friendly and it’s targeted to the ladies — which is a tried-and-true winning formula.
Jason Lipshutz: Hopes were high for “High Fashion,” Roddy Ricch’s latest team-up with Mustard, after the rapper and producer scored a smash with “Ballin’,” but the new track once again pairs Ricch with the type of kinetic beat that works well with this sinewy flow. There are multiple top-line collaborations on Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, but Mustard unlocks the most in the MC.
Andrew Unterberger: “High Fashion” probably has the highest commercial potential, but in terms of a sleeper, give me the Ty Dolla $ign-assisted “Bacc Seat,” with its gently massaging guitar groove and similarly un-rushed chorus hook (“She want Celine…. she want the gu…cci….“)
5. On a scale from 1-10, how excited are you for “The Box” to be the first new No. 1 hit of the 2020s?
Trevor Anderson: I’ll land at eight. It’s more a synthesis of a song than discovering new frontiers, but the narrative of a young, 21-year-old Compton kid expertly melding sounds in a fresh feel and turning the product into another who-saw-this-coming-a-month-ago type hit is a perfect energy to bring into the 2020s. Advances in technology and communication will most likely change the music landscape, again, into a new ecosystem, and “The Box” feels like a good way to introduce the new era. Expect hip-hop to still set the pace as we develop – good luck to all the other genres!
Josh Glicksman: 8. Have to leave the door (and the man-made door sound effects) open for improvement!
Bianca Gracie: I’m at a 15 right now. I’ll likely be shouting “POUR UP THE WHOLE D–N SEAL, IMMA GET LAZY!” for the rest of the year!
Jason Lipshutz: 8! It’s always enjoyable when the top of the Hot 100 gets shaken up a bit and we get to anoint a new artist for the first time. “The Box” rules, and as for the “first new No. 1 of the 2020s,” well, catch me bellowing Roddy Ricch’s name on trivia night for years to come.
Andrew Unterberger: Let’s say 9. There’s always a chance that hip-hop and pop will shift so dramatically in the next couple years that we’ll end up looking back at “The Box” as a relic and holdover of the late ’10s. But for now, I couldn’t ask for a more fresh, exciting, fun and rewarding song to kick off the 2020s with. It’s my favorite first new No. 1 of the decade in Hot 100 history.