SCRATCH: Bring Back That Ringtone Rap


Oh ringtone rap, where art thou?

Seems as if just two years ago you were the reason why everyone in hip-hop was complaining. Now it’s like you’ve moved on and left rap to exist solely blogs, mixtapes, and rap websites. You can’t leave rap alone, THE GAME NEEDS YOU!

08′ came and went with nary a real ringtone hit. Like, a real ringtone hit, one where you damn sure know the song (and most likely it’s accompanying dance), but for the life of you can’t name the artist who makes the song. And I, for one, am pissed about it. I mean, what are people in the kosher aisle of the supermarket supposed to hear when someone calls me, “Party Like A Rockstar?” That song is damn near two years old. When’s a new one hit wonder going to step to plate and make another easily forgettable ringtone smash?

It might not happen, because it’s very possible that the era of the ringtone rapper has come to an end. Maybe we need to end the discussion on ringtone rap right here and now. Let’s analyze.

In 2006, the top 10 selling ringtones included smash hits such as D4L’s “Laffy Taffy,” the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps,” DJ Unk’s “Walk It Out,” Jibbs’ “Chain Hang Low,” and Jim Jones’ “We Fly High.” The ringtones here are a nice mixture of new (Jibbs, Unk) and old (BEP, Jim Jones) acts, but for the most part you can see that silly songs with accompanying dances are the key. Even “Ballin” had that shooting a basketball dance that went along with it.

Then in 2007, the floodgates opened. You had T-Pain’s “Buy U A Drank,” Mims “This Is Why I’m Hot,” Soulja Boy’s “Crank That,” “Shop Boyz’ “Party Like A Rockstar,” Akon’s “Don’t Matter,” Huey’s “Pop, Lock and Drop It,” Hurricane Chris’s “A Bay Bay,” Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls,” and Plies “Shawty.” Hip-Hop had 9 of the top 10, with the only other song being a Nickelback track, go figure. Out of this crop of ringtone rappers/singers, Akon was cementing himself as a star, T-Pain was just getting started, and Plies looked like just another Southern rapper imitating Juvenile. Hurricane Chris and Huey had dances that went with their songs, Mims was a New York rapper who rhymed over a catchy Southern beat, and Sean Kingston borrowed perhaps one of the top 5 most recognizable songs ever written and recorded his hit (Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”).

But in 2008, things changed. Really, the only urban songs that made it into the top 10 were Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop,” TI’s “Whatever You Like,” Usher’s “Love In This Club,” Ray J’s “Sexy Can I,” and Flo Rida’s “Low.” One could argue that Flo Rida and Ray J are the only two one hit wonders out of this crop of acts. For the most part, Usher, TI, and Wayne performed well on the charts regardless of whether they sold ringtones.

By looking at the numbers, you can see that a lot of the fly by night rap artists aren’t breaking through anymore. If 2006 was the year everyone found out they could make a couple mill by saying nothing on the track, 2007 was the year they actually implemented that strategy. By 08′, clearly frustrated by being late to the party, the record labels got hip to the game, and made it so the big boys like TI and Wayne would make ringtone raps that would eclipse those corny little dance tracks. That’s not to say there weren’t a bunch of big rap songs from little known rappers (Shawty Lo’s “Dey Know,” and Rocko’s “Umma Do Me” come to mind), but for the most part a few of the artists who got big through ringtones (Plies and T-Pain) remain, and the others have fallen by the wayside.

So I think it’s time to close the book once and for all on ringtone rap. Ringtones are a part of the way we consume music, just like the iTunes digital download. And while there will always be new catchy dances and songs that entertain the kids, like the “Stanky Leg,” ringtone rap’s period of relevance is pretty much over. There will still be one hit wonders, that’s for sure. But they’re going to come and go a lot of faster, to the point where if you blink, you might just miss them.

What do you think?

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