The hot 100 victory shows a massive cultural shift.
"Stream Yummy by Justin Bieber," 21-year-old Compton emcee Roddy Ricch tweeted last week.
Roddy Ricch - The Box [Official Lyric Video] www.youtube.com
The tweet was in response to a brewing controversy surrounding Bieber's promotion of his new single, "Yummy." "I'm doing everything I can on my end," Bieber says with his mouth full of food in a now-deleted Instagram video. "Let's go, go stream it right now…" he says as he takes a massive bite. "I really want this number one spot. It'd be fire." The video, which is a misophone's worst nightmare, was seen by many as an unethical promotion. It was followed by a slideshow laying out the specifics of how to stream "Yummy" and get it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. "Don't mute it! Play it at a low volume. Let it play while you sleep," read one slide.
Five years ago, Bieber would have decimated the charts with a song like "Yummy." It's short, melodic, and has just enough of a Hip-Hop/R&B edge to stand out amongst mainstream songs. Some may even call it a "bop." But a lot has changed since Bieber owned the radio. As kids learn to survive within the unraveling socio-political fabric of the world, singing "girl you got that yummy" doesn't seem as relatable as screaming, "I WON'T EVER SELL MY SOOUULLL!" Crooning about marital coitus doesn't get kids as pumped up as the idea of putting a $100,000 bounty on George Zimmerman. As a result, a comparatively unknown rapper, Roddy Ricch, is topping the charts instead of Bieber.
Ricch's "The Box" is an absolutely magnetic rap song. Crammed with clever ad libs, Young Thug-inspired trills, quips, and vocal flourishes. Featuring an infectious, internet-ready hook, the track thrived on Tik Tok and ultimately rose to number 1.
But no one expected "The Box" to go where it did, not even Roddy himself. "Start Wit Me," an equally charismatic track featuring Gunna, was promoted as Roddy's lead single back in December and has all the makings of a hit rap record. With the twiddling flutes, the quick rhymes about women and fame, and Gunna's infectious bars, it was formulated to be a hit. But in 2020, it's clear that young listeners are starved for authenticity. "The Box" is angry and driven, while "Start Wit Me" is bouncy and jubilant, in comparison "Yummy" is just plain corny. In addition, Ricch's album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial was the first rap debut to top the Billboard 200 in over 15 years. "[Many people] get so wrapped up in this industry sh*t they forget what the point of making music was," Ricch told Complex back in December. "Make that sh*t for the [people] who are going through it. Make that sh*t for the [people] who really need to hear this sh*t."
If Justin Bieber wants to be on top in 2020, he's going to have to give the kids what they want: social awareness, authenticity, and a beat that stands out amongst the crowd. If he can't do that, perhaps Bieber's reign over the music world is finally at its end.