We’ve all noticed something felt slightly off about the month of June this year. For basketball fans, that something was the fact that this was the first time in nearly a decade to feature an NBA Finals without LeBron James. For dragonslayers and cosplayers, an extra four episodes of Game of Thrones were what went missing. But for those of us who enjoy a good day-party, the fact that 2019 may be the first year in recent memory in which we’re entering rooftop season without a unanimous song of the summer is what stood out these past few weeks.
Oddly enough, the democratization of what’s considered a hit could explain our lack of a ubiquitous summertime single, as there may simply be too many qualified candidates at the moment. An example of this can be found on Amazon Music’s Rap Rotation—a weekly playlist offering a curation of currently trending songs. With tracks from viral sensations, underground rappers, and regional loyalists all in the mix, conventional stars seem to have less of a monopolized grasp on Q3 anthems than in seasons past.
By this time last year, Drake had given us “Nice For What” in the spring and was days away from dominating the summer with “In My Feelings”—rivaled only by Cardi B’s “I Like It,” featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin. In June of 2017, “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi’s signature hit, and DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller were officially released just one day apart. And DJs of a certain age will someday share stories with their children about how essential it was to spin Drake’s “One Dance” and “Controlla” back-to-back alongside Rihanna’s “Work” during the summer of 2016. This year, however, one could argue marquee artists and upstarts are experiencing a more equitable share of real estate on playlists.
Similar to Drake’s Carribean-inspired run three years ago, last Friday Nicki Minaj released “Megatron,” an infectious song with an immediately recognizable Mr. Vegas sample. The Trinidadian-born star has stiff competition for song of the summer, though, as newcomer and former Nicki stan Lil Nas X released his much anticipated debut EP, 7, the same day. The project features the rapper’s latest single, “Panini.”
Familiar with the analytics of popularity and meme culture, the social media savvy mind behind “Old Town Road” joked about the song’s length on Twitter, suggesting its 1:54 runtime would lead to higher numbers on streaming services. With nearly half of the 50 songs currently on Rap Rotation clocking in at less than three minutes long, there’s some validity to the theory that shorter songs keep listeners engaged as they rush to run their favorite tracks back.
While Minaj and X offered two of the few solo June efforts, other artists entered the summer in collaborative spirits. Rick Ross appeared alongside both Drake and Wale respectively on “Money in the Grave” and “Act a Fool,” while J. Cole delivered an old-fashioned posse cut with “Down Bad,” elevating smaller Dreamville acts Bas, JID and EARTHGANG, as well as Yung Nudy.
Check out these new releases and more on Rap Rotation below, and keep it locked as Complex continues to track the songs of the summer.