First-week sales are important to hip-hop fans. Likewise, every rapper likes to stunt about their blockbuster opening weeks.

But these days, album sales are a smaller piece of the puzzle than ever before. Artists have more revenue streams, and singles artists are notoriously underrepresented in discussions about LPs. Plus, a lot of them take a slow and steady route to chart success; Future only sold 40,190 copies of his album in its first week, but by January of this year, he was halfway to a gold record.

Welcome to Billboard Breakdown, a weekly series that will take a deeper look at the trends happening on the Billboard charts. We’ll also see how hip-hop is performing in the wider scheme of popular music.

Billboard made major changes recently to the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, incorporating digital downloads and streaming into their genre-specific charts, as we explained back in October. What this means is that R&B/Hip-Hop charts are often topped by artists like Psy and Macklemore, who come to dominate without ever reaching traditional R&B/Hip-Hop audiences. As a result, we’ll highlight the Airplay charts as well, in an effort to better get perspective on where artists are making their mark.

Chart placements are all courtesy Billboard, and album sales come from Hits Daily Double.

Written by David Drake (@somanyshrimp)

Rap Albums on the Billboard 200

Number of Rap Albums on the Billboard 200: 18

Top 10 Rap Albums on the Billboard 200 (And Placement):

1. A$AP Rocky LongLiveA$AP (No. 7)
2. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis The Heist (No. 14)
3. Kendrick Lamar Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City (No. 20)
4. T.I. Heavy is the Head (No. 28)
5. Wiz Khalifa O.N.I.F.C. (No. 49)
6. 2 Chainz Based on a T.R.U. Story (No. 63)
7. Pitbull Global Warming (No. 66)
8. Chief Keef Finally Rich (No. 71)
9. Game Jesus Piece (No. 72)
10. Flo Rida Wild Ones (No. 88)
  • A$AP Rocky’s album LongLiveA$AP remains in the top 10 one week since its release, dropping from the top of the charts to No. 7, selling around 37,311 copies. 
  • Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ The Heist actually climbed the charts this week, moving around 19,510 copies, likely on the strength of “Thrift Shop” spending another week atop the Hot 100.
  • Kendrick Lamar dropped slightly, from No. 16 to No. 20; it’s his 14th week on the chart after debuting at No. 2 (behind Taylor Swift) back in October. He sold approximately 17,125 copies this week.
  • Most other rap artists fell slightly or remained steady; after six and seven weeks on the chart respectively, Chief Keef and Game fell around 20 places. Future’s Pluto is the 11th-best selling rap album this week, spending its 38th week on the Billboard 200 at No. 111.

Rap Singles on the Hot 100

Number of Rap Singles on the Billboard Hot 10031, including rap guest spots on pop records and assuming that Psy is "rap music."

Top 10 Rap Singles on the Hot 100 (And Placement):

1. Macklemore “Thrift Shop” (No. 1)
2. Justin Bieber f/ Nicki Minaj “Beauty and a Beat” (No. 7)
3. A$AP Rocky f/ Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar “Fuckin' Problems” (No. 10)
4. Alicia Keys f/ Nicki Minaj “Girl On Fire” (No. 12)
5. Justin Timberlake f/ Jay-Z “Suit & Tie” (No. 13)
6. Lil Wayne f/ Drake & Future “Love Me“ (No. 16)
7. Flo Rida “I Cry” (No. 19)
8. Kendrick Lamar “Swimming Pools (Drank)” (No. 25)
9. Pitbull f/ TJR “Don't Stop the Party” (No. 27)
10. 2 Chainz “I'm Different” (No. 33)
  • Macklemore spent his second week atop Billboard and shifted double-platinum units as of Wednesday.
  • This week finds A$AP Rocky making his very first entry in the Hot 100 top 10 for the rap-Voltron collaboration “Fuckin' Problems.”
  • “I’m Different” has surpassed Kanye collaboration “Birthday Song,” and become the second-most successful single of 2 Chainz's career as a solo artist after the Drake-assisted “No Lie,” and the highest to chart without a guest rapper.
  • Justin Timberlake's “Suit & Tie” has actually dropped a few places after reaching No. 4 on the charts last week. The song has only been out for three weeks, though, and will likely regain its momentum once it gains more radio traction.

Rap Singles on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay Chart

Top 10 Songs (R&B and Hip-Hop) on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay Chart:

1. Miguel “Adorn”
2. A$AP Rocky “F**kin Problems”
3. Rihanna “Pour it Up”
4. Trinidad James “All Gold Everything”
5. Kendrick Lamar “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
6. T.I. f/ Lil Wayne “Ball”
7. Chris Brown “Don’t Judge Me”
8. Future “Neva End”
9. 2 Chainz “I’m Different”
10. The Weeknd “Wicked Games”
  • The biggest difference between the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart and the R&B/Hip-Hop chart is the lack of Macklemore (who doesn’t appear in the Airplay top 50) and Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” with Jay-Z, which doesn’t appear on the Airplay charts until No. 29. On the Hot 100, both of those tracks were likely greatly assisted by Digital Downloads; Timberlake’s record seems likely to gain traction on R&B radio with time, but despite his broader success, it seems Macklemore has little appeal to R&B/Hip-Hop radio audiences.
  • Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” while present on both charts, definitely has more traction on the Hot 100 than it does with R&B/Hip-Hop radio audiences, who prefer the Mike WiLL Made It-produced “Pour It Up.”
  • On the Hot 100, hip-hop actually gains a boost thanks to downloads and streams; artists like Chief KeefBig Sean, and Tyga (whose latest song, “Dope” f/ Rick Ross, debuted at No. 19 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart) are further down on the Airplay chart. In their place are R&B records by artists like former Gap Band singer Charlie Wilson (“My Love is All I Have” is at No. 16 on the Airplay chart), Keyshia ColeAvantBeyoncé and Tamar Braxton.

We'll be back next week with another breakdown.