Last week, rapper Lil Wayne added to his already-quite-substantial legacy by breaking Elvis Presley's record for most songs on the Hot 100 charts by a solo artist. Immediately, however, many began squawking that this record deserved an asterisks, a la Roger Maris' 61 home runs.
Wayne's feature on The Game's “Celebration” was the 109th time Weezy has charted; pretty impressive, especially considering that while Wayne just turned 30, Elvis had his 108th hit 26 years after his death. The trolls who find the Martian's name not worthy of mention in the same sentence as the King had a field day, but even Billboard's piece on the record felt the need to undercut Wayne's achievement by pointing out, of his charting songs, he's the lead on less than half.
Weezy has been the lead artist on 42 – or only 39% – of his Hot 100 hits, showing as a featured act on his other 67. Presley was billed as the lead artist on all 108 of his chart hits.
While this is true, let's consider some context. For starters, the music industry was an entirely different place during Elvis' heyday. Artists didn't openly collaborate as much, whereas Wayne (and many other rappers) have been extremely prolific; he appeared on over 70 songs from other people in 2007 alone.
But that doesn't mean they were forgettable cameos, in fact, even as a guest appearance, he's often the song's main draw. With all due respect to Playaz Circle, “Duffle Bag Boy” was able to find such an audience because Wayne contributed a monster hook.
Still, if you insist on disqualifying the songs where Wayne wasn't the lead, it would only be fair to also remove the Elvis songs that Presley himself didn't write, right? That would certainly knock him down many pegs. After all, of his 37 Top Ten hits, he only had writing credits on four, all of which were shared.
This isn't the first time Elvis being overthrown has caused an uproar. Last decade Mariah Carey broke his record for most number one hits, and Madonna passed him for most songs in the top ten. Again, the Presley defenders had pointed questions: Should his singles where both sides were hits should count as one single or two? Also, what about his signature hits that predated the Hot 100?
These are certainly fair points, ones which should be applied to the Wayne debate as well. To be sure, we're not trying to play down Elvis' accomplishments. And Wayne has a great deal more work to do if he's ultimately going to have such an enduring legacy.
But both men's accomplishments are a testament to their tremendous fan bases, and their work ethics. To somehow contend that Wayne's success is gimmicky, or a fluke, is pretty ridiculous, as is the underlying assertion here — that Elvis has more to do with his success in this realm than Wayne has.
In the end, however, these are just nerdy debating exercises. Elvis' Hot 100 record surely isn't what first comes to mind when you think of the man, and decades from now we'll be saying the same thing about Wayne.
Now, somebody make “Jailhouse Rock”/ “A Milli” mash-up and let's be done with this.