"Mercy" by Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz jumps to #1 on this week's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. While the charts these days are studded with collaborations, four-way collabos are still relatively rare. And four-way collabos that make it all the way to #1 are extremely rare. This is just the eighth recording involving four or more artists to reach #1 on the R&B chart in its nearly 70-year history.
There have been even fewer #1 hits on the pop and country charts which involve four or more artists. There have been four on the Hot 100 and just one on Hot Country Songs.
Two songs that involved four or more artists reached #1 on both the pop and R&B charts. They are USA for Africa's 1985 smash "We Are The World" and Dionne & Friends' 1986 smash "That's What Friends Are For." Both were charity recordings that raised money for famine relief and AIDS, respectively. Both won multiple Grammys, including Song of the Year. "We Are The World" featured dozens of top artists, including Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, who co-wrote the song. Dionne Warwick was joined on "That's What Friends Are For" by Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder.
The song with the most individually billed collaborators to reach #1 on the R&B chart was "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)" by Quincy Jones featuring Al B. Sure!, James Ingram, El DeBarge and Barry White. The five-way collabo, from Jones' Grammy-winning Back On The Block album topped the R&B chart for one week in March 1990. It reached #31 on the Hot 100.
Here are the five other songs which involved four collaborators that hit #1 on the R&B chart:
"The Best Things In Life Are Free" by Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson with BBD and Ralph Tresvant. The song, from the Damon Wayans movie Mo' Money, topped the R&B chart for one week in July 1992. It reached #10 on the Hot 100.
"Hot Boyz" by Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott (featuring Nas, Eve & Q-Tip). The song, from Elliott's sophomore album Da Real World, topped the R&B chart for six weeks in January and February 2000. It reached #5 on the Hot 100.
"I Think They Like Me" by Dem Franchise Boyz Featuring Jermaine Dupri, Da Brat & Bow Wow. The song, from the hip hop group's eponymous debut album, spent three weeks at #1 R&B in December 2005. It reached #15 on the Hot 100.
"I'm On One" by DJ Khaled featuring Drake, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne. The song, from DJ Khaled's fifth studio album We The Best Forever, topped the R&B chart for 11 weeks from July to October 2011. It reached #10 on the Hot 100.
"Mercy" by Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz. The song, which jumps from #19 to #15 on this week's Hot 100, is from the upcoming compilation Cruel Summer, which will feature artists who are signed to West's GOOD Music label. The album is due in August. (Note: This is the first four-way collabo on which all four artists received equal billing to reach #1 R&B.)
Four collaborations involving four or more artists have made it to #1 on the Hot 100 since that chart was introduced in 1958. I've already mentioned USA for Africa's "We Are The World" and Dionne & Friends' "That's What Friends Are For." Here are the other two:
"Lady Marmalade" by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and P!nk had five weeks on top in June 2001. The Grammy-winning collabo was from the movie and soundtrack Moulin Rouge. (As with "Mercy," it's a rare instance of an equal-billing four-way collabo.)
"Give Me Everything" by Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, AfroJack & Nayer had one week on top in July 2011. The song was from Pitbull's sixth studio album, Planet Pit.
The Hot Country Songs chart has been around almost as long as the R&B chart (since 1944), yet only one four-way collabo has made it to #1. That was "Highwayman" by Highwaymen, an all-star group consisting of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. The song, which was the title track from their first collabo album, topped the country chart for one week in August 1985. It failed to crack the Hot 100. (Country was under-represented on the charts until Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales for Billboard in 1991.)
Since collabos in country music rarely go beyond twosomes, and since I like to give all genres their due, I'm going to also give you the two #1 country hits which were collabos involving three artists.
"To Know Him Is To Love Him" by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris hit #1 in May 1987. The song, a remake of the 1958 pop smash, failed to crack the Hot 100. The song was featured on their Trio album.
"Buy Me A Rose" by Kenny Rogers with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean hit #1 in May 2000. The song, from Rogers' album She Rides Wild Horses, reached #40 on the Hot 100.
The Fine Print: You may be wondering about "Forever" by Drake featuring Kanye West, Lil Wayne & Eminem. The song peaked at #2 on the R&B chart and #8 on the Hot 100 in October 2009.
Extra Fine Print: "Fiesta-Remix" by R. Kelly (featuring Jay-Z and Boo & Gotti) topped the R&B chart for five weeks in June 2001, but Boo & Gotti was a duo, so it's just a three-way collabo. It's a similar story with "Grillz" by Nelly featuring Paul Wall, Ali & Gipp, which topped the Hot 100 for two weeks in January 2006. Ali & Gipp is a duo, so this, too, is just a three-way collabo. To further complicate this case, the recording also features Brandi Williams. But she didn't receive a label credit. Still a three-way.