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.
Then there's songs like "Lucid Dreams" from Juice Wrld and "Look At Me!" by XXXTentacion. Both artists released their respective songs well before they skyrocketed to fame. Juice's now six-times platinum-selling hit song dropped on his 999 EP back in 2017. A year later, it began climbing the charts. X's two-times platinum banger "Look At Me!" saw a similar rise when the song was released in 2015, and hit the Billboard Hot 100 two years following its release.
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.
Released as part of Juice Wrld's 999 EP in June of 2017, "Lucid Dreams" was out almost a full year before it debuted at No. 74 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May of 2018. In October of 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 of 2018. As soon as it got a video, it was pretty much on its way.
"Look At Me!"XXXTentacion
XXXTentacion's breakout single took over a full year to reach its commercial apex. Released in December of 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 6 God copied X, and X himself wasn't happy about the similarities. Still, it worked to X's benefit. Upon his release from jail after being arrested for some domestic violence charges in October of 2016, X's song began picking up some serious momentum and peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in April of 2017.
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 in 2019, which features TikTok users uploading 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 the song dropped in September of 2017, Lizzo's "Truth Hurts" peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on Sept. 7, 2019, after bubbling throughout that year.
Fetty Wap's breakout single, "Trap Queen," was definitely a slow burner. The New Jersey rapper originally dropped the song back in March of 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 of 2014. In December of 2014, after aligning himself with 300 Entertainment, Fetty rereleased 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 song "Gone," on his Late Registration album, 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 of 2013. To commemorate the occasion, she uploaded a video onto the internet featuring herself dancing to "Gone," 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
N.W.A's 1988 single "Straight Outta Compton," released on their debut album of the same name that year, got a second wind 27 years after its initial arrival thanks to 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 of 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. The song was recorded and released prior to the murders of YNW Juvy and YNW Sakchaser in 2018, so the latter is the case here. Fan curiosity led to the song to peak 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' hit song "Can't Hold Us" featuring Ray Dalton was put out 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 of 2011, but it took a while to pick up steam. By 2012, it started gaining momentum because their other 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 of 2013.
Saint Jhn dropped his song "Roses" in July 2016, and it took the length of an undergraduate's college career for it to truly blow. Two years later, the Brooklyn rapper added the track to his Collection One album. Then in 2020, a Kazakhstan DJ named Imanbek dropped a remix, officially titled "Roses - Imanbek 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 of 2020.
"It's Like That"Run-DMC and Jason Nevins
"It's Like That" is significant for being Run-DMC's very first single, but the 1983 song didn't really take off in its own era. However, 14 years later, in 1997, the song was remixed by house producer Jason Nevins and subsequently spent six weeks at No. 1 on the U.K. charts and climbed to No. 14 on the U.S. Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.
Lizzo pretty much saw lightning strike twice during her breakout year in 2019. After her sleeper hit "Truth Hurts" shot up the charts after resurfacing in both a hit Netflix movie and on TikTok, her 2016 song "Good As Hell" also enjoyed a huge resurgence. In November of 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 of 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 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 of 2019.
Mac Miller's "Knock Knock" technically dropped on his K.I.D.S. (Kickin' Incredibly Dope Shit) mixtape all the way back in June of 2010, but it wasn't too big of a song until Mac released it as a single in early 2011. By January of 2012, the track landed at No. 88 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.