Future and Lil Uzi Vert Don't Get Much Radio Love—But Still Tore Up the Charts This Week

All hail the viral challenge.

By Shawn Cooke Apr 18, 2017
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for New Era // Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 20th Century Fox
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for New Era // Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 20th Century Fox

It was only a matter of time: This week, Future and Lil Uzi Vert have earned their first top 10 singles as solo artists on the Billboard Hot 100. Powered by a pair of viral challenges—the #MaskOffChallenge and the #LilUziVertChallenge—"Mask Off" and "XO TOUR Lif3" clock in at No. 7 and 8, respectively, as Billboard reports.

In addition to the social media gambits, both singles have vaulted up the Hot 100, primarily thanks to streaming. As with Migos' "Bad and Boujee" and Rae Sremmurd's "Black Beatles" before them, the viral rap hits perform much better on the streaming charts than digital song sales. "Mask Off" climbed from 7-3 on Streaming Songs, and "XO TOUR Lif3" held steady at No. 5 on the same chart. However, they clock in many rungs lower on the Digital Song Sales chart—Future reached No. 15, and Uzi only hits 36.

If it wasn't clear before, now it's startlingly obvious: Billboard's major streaming rule changes from 2014 have been especially kind to rap singles. Just this week alone sees four rap tracks in the top 10 (Kendrick Lamar's "HUMBLE." at No. 3, KYLE and Lil Yachty's "iSpy" at No. 6), which would have been a rare occurrence before the shift toward streaming. It's led to a lopsided, and potentially skewed method for how the charts gauge a song's popularity.

For instance, of those four singles, "iSpy" is the only one to place on this week's top 50 Radio Songs chart. Given the PG-13 content of some of these singles (Percocets, molly Percocets, and suicide), it becomes hard to imagine soccer moms driving the minivan around to "Mask Off" (one can dream). And if they're catching the radio edited version—well, they might be missing a tiny bit of context.

"Mask Off," "XO TOUR Lif3," and "HUMBLE." present a challenging issue: While it's great that there's room for these top-notch singles in the top 10, are they really among the most popular songs in the country right now? As recently as 2015, Nielsen issued a report stating that terrestrial (FM/AM) radio was still the No. 1 medium for 93 percent of adults to consume media weekly—besting even television and smartphones. Teens and millennials have been more inclined to move on from terrestrial radio, and the charts seem to favor their listening habits. We might eventually see the Hot 100 recalibrate its scales to curb the skewed emphasis on streaming—but for now, the kids are winning.