Over the past few decades, rap has moved from the underground to the mainstream, becoming a regular fixture in the charts and making stars of its performers.
With artists such as Eminem, Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar managing to bridge that difficult divide between commercial success and critical acclaim, rappers are now some of the most well-respected figures in the industry.
They’re also some of its biggest sellers… with some rappers now selling more records than artists from the traditionally more “popular’ genres, it’s understandable why record labels are tripping over themselves to find the next big thing. To find out which rap artists are responsible for the top-selling rap singles of all time, keep reading.
20. Kanye West, “Heartless’ - Total Units Sold: 5.5 million
First up we have Heartless, Kanye West’s biggest selling single to date with 5.5 million copies sold worldwide. Taken from his fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak, the single was a critical and commercial success, becoming the ninth best-selling single worldwide in 2009 and peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
19. T-Pain, "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')" - Total Units Sold: 5.9 million
In 2007, T-Pain released his biggest-selling single to date. Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin') debuted at number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100 before peaking at number 1 in May.
It also hit number 1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, number 2 on New Zealand Singles Chart, number 25 on the Canadian Hot 100 and number 18 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart. While it failed to chart in the UK, its sales elsewhere did well enough to make it the 19th biggest selling rap single of all time.
18. Flo Rida featuring Sia, "Wild Ones"- Total Units Sold: 6.5 million
Flo Rida’s first entry to our list is Wild Ones, the 2nd single released from his fourth studio album of the same name. Featuring guest vocals from Australian singer Sia, the track peaked at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100 and hit the top 40 in every other country it charted.
Thanks to Sia, the single was as much of a success with critics as it was in the charts, with The Vine noting "When [Sia] sings the chorus, phrases like 'I heard' and 'if I took you home' speak of uncertainty. She likes the idea of wildness but isn't certain how it will go.
Flo Rida's role in the song is to convince her that she actually does want to be a wild one, to convince her that it is okay to let go, to obliterate herself.”
17. Flo Rida, "Whistle" - Total Units Sold: 6.6 million
The second entry from Flo Rida (but not his last) comes with his 2012 hit, Whistle. Released on September 5, 2011 as the third single from his fourth album Wild Ones (2012), Whistle managed that rare feat of winning both critical and commercial success: critics praised its catchiness (although some were slightly less keen on the less than subtle references to oral sex), while fans sent it to number one in the US (displacing Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe", which had been languishing at number one for nine weeks, in the process), Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. Since then, it’s gone on to sell 6.6 units worldwide.
16. Nicki Minaj, "Starships" - Total Units Sold: 7.2 million
Nicki Minaj’s first entry to our list comes with her 2012 single, Starships. Since peaking within the top 5 in 15 countries (and in the top 10 in the US), Starships has gone onto to move more than 7.2 million units worldwide, certifying 2× Platinum in the UK and 6× Platinum in the US.
15. DJ Khaled, "I'm the One" - Total Units Sold: 7.9 million
Featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne, "I'm the One" by DJ Khaled took the artist to the top of the charts in the US (making him the first hip hop artist to hit the top spot since Eminem in 2010), as well as giving him a number 1 in the UK, Australia, Scotland, and Canada. Since its release, I’m the One has sold more than 7.9 million units worldwide, while its accompanying music video has received more than 1.2 billion views on YouTube.
14. Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack, and Nayer, "Give Me Everything" - Total Units Sold: 8.2 million
Pitbull’s monster hit from 2011, Give Me Everything, was the second single to be released from his sixth studio album, Planet Pit (2011). The single gave Pitbull his first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, and his first UK number one as a lead artist. Critics may have given the track a lukewarm reception (with many criticizing it for a lack of cohesion) but that didn’t stop fans lapping it up to the tune of 8.2 million worldwide sales.
13. Kendrick Lamar, "Humble" - Total Units Sold: 8.3 million
Released on March 30, 2017, as the lead single from Kendall Lamar's fourth studio album, Damn, Humble became the rapper’s first number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 as a lead artist, earning him a slew of awards (including Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song, and Best Music Video at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards) and the accolade of claiming Entertainment Weekly’s title of the best song of the year.
12. Lil Wayne featuring Static Major, "Lollipop" - Total Units Sold: 9.1 million
The lead single to Lil Wayne’s hugely successful sixth studio album, Tha Carter III, has proved to be his bestselling and most critically well-received single to date, selling 9.1 million units worldwide, certifying 5x Platinum by the RIAA, ranking number five on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Songs of 2008, number one on the 2008 issue of Notarized by BET, and claiming a Grammy award in February 2009 for Best Rap Song.
11. Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, "Fancy" - Total Units Sold: 9.1 million
Taken from Australian rapper Iggy Azalea’s debut studio album, The New Classic (2014), Fancy quickly became a sensation on its release in February 2014. Peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and debuting at number one in Canada and New Zealand, the single was named Billboard's Song of the Summer for 2014, and the biggest hit by a female rapper in 2017. Covered by everyone from Da Brat and Lil' Kim to Anna Kendrick, the track remains both Azalea’s and XCX’s biggest hit, selling over 9.1 million units worldwide.
10.Post Malone featuring Ty Dolla Sign, "Psycho" - Total Units Sold: 9.2 million
Taken from Post Malone’s second studio album, Barebones and Bentleys, Psycho debuted at number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in February 2018, climbing to number one position later that year.
Critics were vitriolic in their response to the track, with Pitchfork describing its raps as "some of the least interesting raps you could possibly imagine" and Time naming it the worst song of 2018. Despite the criticism, the single still managed to give Post Malone his biggest hit to date, selling 9.2 million units worldwide.
9. Eminem featuring Rihanna, "Love the Way You Lie" - Total Units Sold: 9.3 million
What would a compilation of the top rap singles of all time be without at least one addition from Eminem? The greatest white rapper of all time makes his entry with Love the Way You Lie, a collaborative effort with Barbadian singer Rihanna.
Despite receiving a mixed reception from music critics (some of whom expressed discomfort with its accompanying video, which depicted several scenes of domestic violence), Love the Way You Lie was well-received enough with listeners to make it the rapper’s biggest selling single of all time: so far, it’s sold 9.3 million records worldwide.
8. Pitbull featuring Kesha, "Timber" - Total Units Sold: 9.6 million
Released as the lead single from Pitbull’s Meltdown EP of 2013, Timber topped the charts in the US and several other countries, staying at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three consecutive weeks and at number 1 in Canada for 8 consecutive weeks. Since its release, its sold over 9.6 million copies worldwide, becoming the 8th biggest selling rap single of all time in the process.
7. Nicki Minaj, "Super Bass" - Total Units Sold: 10 million
Taken from her debut studio album, Pink Friday (2010), Super Bass is Nicki Minaj’s biggest seller to date. On its release, it debuted at number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at number 8 on the UK Singles Chart. The single received a generally favorable response from critics, with Rosie Gray of BlackBook describing it as a “killer’ and Rap-up complimenting it as "infectious".
6. Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, “Low” - Total Units Sold: 12 million
Flo Rida’s debut single, Low, charted at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, spending 10 consecutive weeks at the top in total. As the most downloaded single of the 2000s, it’s been certified 8× Platinum by the RIAA, as well as giving Flo a place on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs of the Decade. To date, it’s sold 12 million units worldwide.
5. Flo Rida featuring Kesha, "Right Round" - Total Units Sold: 12 million
Mixing dirty rap with electric pop, Right Round by Flo Rida featuring Kesha may not have been received well by most music critics (with many calling the lyrics out as misogynistic and tacky) but it performed well enough with fans to top the charts in 19 countries, giving Flo Rida his second number single in the States and breaking first-week sales records for digital downloads. So far, it’s managed to sell 12 million units worldwide, given Flo Rida his biggest selling single of all time, and Kesha her second.
4. Drake featuring Wizkid and Kyla, “One Dance” - Total Units Sold: 12.5 million
Drake’s first entry on our list comes with 2016s One Dance. Taken from his fourth studio album, Views, and featuring guest vocals from Nigerian artist Wizkid and British singer Kyla, the track proved phenomenally successful on its release, topping the charts in 15 countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United State. Selling more than 2 million copies in its first year alone, it ranks as the fifth biggest seller from 2016 and the 4th biggest selling rap single of all time.
3. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz, "Thrift Shop” - Total Units Sold: 13.4 million
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ fourth single from their debut studio album, The Heist (2012), came out in August 2012 and quickly became their biggest and fastest-selling single to date. Its humorous lyrics (which center on Macklemore's love for a thrifty lifestyle) and send-up of the typically extravagant hip hop lifestyle was heaped with praise by music critics, with Digital Spy calling it "a rare beast of a song - original, musically daring and genuinely funny." Commercially, it performed just as well, reaching number one in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand.
2. Drake, "God's Plan" - Total Units Sold: 15.3 million
Released on January 19, 2018, God’s Plan manages to bridge the genres with its mix of pop, rap, and trap. Taken from Drake’s fifth studio album, Scary Hours (2018), God’s Plan received an overwhelmingly positive reception from both music critics and listeners alike, receiving 5 nominations at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, and three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Rap Song. In addition to breaking first-day streaming records, it managed to top the charts in fourteen countries, giving Drake his 4th chart-topper in the US in the process. 4 years on from its release, it's sold over 15.3 million units worldwide.
1. Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth, “See You Again” - Total Units Sold: 20.9 million
In 2015, rapper Wiz Khalifa and YouTube sensation Charlie Puth teamed up on the soundtrack of Furious 7, the first film in the franchise to be released after the tragic death of actor Paul Walker in 2013. The single is the most successful either artist has ever released, spending 2 consecutive weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart, and 12 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the US Billboard Hot 100. To date, it’s managed to shift a staggering 20.9 million units worldwide.
You can also read:
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson