Hot 16

Current track



Hip-Hop Songs That Became Wildly Popular Long After They Dropped

Written by on November 4, 2020

The phrase “slow motion is better than no motion” applies to more than a few surprising breakout rap hits over the last few years. Modern marketing techniques, social media and extreme real-life circumstances have led to songs leveling up like never before long after they were first released.

Last year, Lizzo witnessed “Truth Hurts,” a song she dropped all the way back in September of 2017 propel her to superstardom. By September of 2019, almost exactly two years later, the song landed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In an even more extreme case, N.W.A’s 1988 single “Straight Outta Compton” found itself on the Hot 100 chart nearly 30 years after it dropped.

The stories behind these popularity surges are usually multilayered. “Truth Hurts” was, in addition to being fire overall, lucky enough to be used in a soundtrack for the 2019 Netflix film Someone Great before it sparked a social media challenge that ignited a viral sensation. N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton” benefited from a movie of the same name that was based on their life story.

Sometimes, it only takes one big thing. Other times, it can take a constellation of surprise factors people might not have imagined 10 years ago. With everything from TikTok to movies to word of mouth playing a role, almost any great song can eventually blow—it just takes a little time.

Today, XXL takes a look at 15 songs that suddenly became wildly popular a long time after being released. Learn the stories behind the successes of these songs for yourself below.

  • “Lucid Dreams”

    Juice Wrld

    Released as part of Juice Wrld’s 999 EP in June 2017, “Lucid Dreams” was out almost a full year before it debuted at No. 74 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 2018. In October 2018, more than a year after it was released, “Lucid Dreams” landed at No. 2 on the Hot 100.  The rise can probably be attributed to the song not getting an official release and a label push until May 2018. As soon as it got a video, it was pretty much on its way.

  • “Look At Me!”


    XXXTentacion‘s breakout single took over a full year to reach its commercial apex. Released in December 2015, “Look At Me!” really wasn’t known all that well outside of the underground. The track started picking up attention after snippets of Drake’s 2017 More Life song “KMT” hit the internet and fans remarked on the way Drizzy used a similar flow. Some people believe the 6ix God copied X, and X himself wasn’t happy. Still, it worked to X’s benefit.  Upon his release from jail after being arrested for some domestic violence charges in October 2016, X’s song began picking up some serious momentum and peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in April 2017.

  • “Truth Hurts”

    Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” is the biggest example of a song taking a while to reach its commercial peak.  Besides the song being fire all around, Lizzo owes that sudden resurgence to social media. Her song sparked a viral  TikTok challenge called #DNAChallenge, which saw TikTok users uploaded videos of themselves with one of Lizzo’s lyrics soundtracking a shocking transformation (“I just took a DNA test/ Turns out I’m 100 percent that bitch”). After it dropped in September 2017, Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on Sept. 7, 2019 after bubbling throughout 2019.

  • “Trap Queen”

    Fetty Wap”

    Fetty Wap‘s breakout single, “Trap Queen,” was definitely a slow burner. Fetty originally dropped the song back in March 2014, but it didn’t pop up on the Billboard Hot 100 chart until Feb. 7, 2015. At that point, it landed at No. 86. By May of 2015, the track peaked at No. 2. Fetty and his team promoted “Trap Queen” solo through Twitter and Instagram, but its next big bump came after Bobby Shmurda shared a video of himself singing the song in October 2014. In December 2014, after aligning himself with 300 Entertainment, Fetty re-released the song commercially and from that point on, the come up started coming, and the rest is history.

  • “Something New”

    Wiz Khalifa featuring Ty Dolla $ign

    Wiz Khalifa’s Ty Dolla $ign-featured single “Something New” was met with some fairly lukewarm reception when it dropped as the first single from Wiz’s Rolling Papers 2 album in 2018. After a TikTok challenge—one in which people get into a line and perform a dance before jumping off to the side—featured the song, it began to get a lot more popular in 2020. It peaked at No. 92 on the Billboard Hot 100 earlier this year.

  • “Gone”

    Kanye West featuring Cam’ron and Consequence

    Kanye West‘s Cam’ron and Consequence-featured Late Registration song “Gone” was definitely well-received when it dropped in 2005, but it was never close to a commercial juggernaut. That changed when one animator at a Taiwanese animation studio quit her job in September 2013. To commemorate the occasion, she uploaded a video of herself dancing to “Gone” onto the internet, and subsequently, sales for the song soared and it ended up peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

  • “Straight Outta Compton”


    N.W.A’s 1988 single “Straight Outta Compton” got a second wind 27 years after its release after the release of the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton in 2015. The movie played a big role in the song resurfacing and landing at No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

  • “Murder on My Mind”

    YNW Melly

    In February 2019, YNW Melly was arrested after police accused him of murdering his two friends and staging it to look like a drive-by shooting. On his 2017 song “Murder on My Mind,” Melly describes accidentally killing his friend, and after he was arrested in real life, fans looked to “Murder on My Mind” as either proof of his murderous intentions or a grim coincidence. Fan curiosity led to the song peaking at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on March 2, 2019.

  • “Can’t Hold Us”

    Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton

    Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Ray Dalton-featuring single “Can’t Hold Us” dropped almost two years before it landed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The track originally dropped as the second single from their 2012 album, The Heist in August 2011, but it took a while to pick up steam. By 2012, it started picking up a lot of steam due because their hit single “Thrift Shop” had fans going back to check out their previous singles. “Can’t Hold Us” hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 in February 2013.

  • “Roses”

    Saint Jhn

    Saint Jhn dropped “Roses” in July 2016, and it took the length of an undergrad’s career for it to truly blow. In 2020, a Kazahk DJ named Imanbek dropped a remix that ended up going viral on TikTok. As a result, the song eventually landed at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 2020.

  • “It’s Like That”


    “It’s Like That” is significant for being Run-DMC‘s first single, but the 1983 song didn’t really take off in its own era. However, in 1998, the song was remixed by house producer Jason Nevins and subsequently spent six weeks at No. 1 on the U.K. charts.

  • “Good As Hell”


    Lizzo pretty much saw lightning strike twice during her breakout 2019. After her sleeper hit “Truth Hurts” shot up the charts after resurfacing in both a hit Netflix movie and TikTok, her 2016 song “Good As Hell” also enjoyed a huge resurgence. In November 2019, the track peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. In other words, Lizzo did more than good.

  • “Playa Cards Right”

    Tupac Shakur featuring Keyshia Cole

    Tupac Shakur’s Keyshia Cole-featured, posthumously released single “Playa Cards Right” was originally released as part of his Pac’s Life album in 2006. People liked the song, but it didn’t make the Billboard Hot 100 chart until almost three years later. That’s when Keyshia Cole released the song as a single for her 2009 album, A Different Me. In January 2009, the song peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100.

  • “Double Up”

    Nipsey Hussle featuring Belly and Dom Kennedy

    “Double Up” was a slept-on song Nipsey Hussle released through his February 2018 album, Victory Lap. After the rapper was shot and killed on March 31, 2019, the Belly and Dom Kennedy-featured song got a second wind and landed at No. 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 2019.

  • “Knock Knock”

    Mac Miller

    Mac Miller‘s “Knock Knock” technically dropped on his K.I.D.S. (Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit) mixtape all the way back in June 2010, but it wasn’t too big a song until Mac dropped it as a single in early 2011. By January 2012, the track landed at No. 88 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Reader's opinions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *