Legends and 1 Hit Wonders


I’ve been having discussions lately revolving around hip hop legends.  Most interesting subject being 50 Cent’s status.  I agree that he is a hip hop legend/icon, I just don’t feel like he’s a legend because of his music.  50 is a legendary figure because of the music AND his mogul status.  When it comes to his music solely, he almost shares the same sentiment as 1 hit wonders (definitely not saying he is one).

What I mean by that is, some 1 hit wonders actually had pretty successful careers or at least more than 1 hit.  It all depends on how conservative you want to be on the definition.  Via Wayne Janick, a music journalist, a 1 hit wonder is “an act that has won a position on the national, pop, Top 40 just once.”  Based upon this criteria, Jimi Hendrix (a legend, an icon) is a 1 hit wonder and Vanilla Ice (one of the most notable 1 hit wonders) would not be.  It can get a bit tricky depending on your definition.

For purposes of this conversation, I’m defining it as a person who had 1 song that was so huge it defines their career alone. Think Hanson, I remember them being a thing for a hot minute and having several songs, but whats the one song you think of? “MMMbop.”  Vanilla Ice, also had more than one song but what does everyone know him for? “Ice Ice Baby.”  When it’s all said and done, they’ll be remembered for the one song.  50 Cent shares this same sentiment in relation to his debut album.

When it comes down to his music, Get Rich or Die Trying overshadows the rest of his work.  50’s music was poppin’ for a few years but then its relevancy died out pretty quickly.  His other albums moved units, but none come anywhere near Get Rich and it’s impact.  “In Da Club” was a rap hit that went pop long before rap went pop.  The album got a perfect score in XXL, ranked #12 of the top 200 albums of the decade.  Even though his 2nd LP sold like 13 mil worldwide, I feel it was mostly off the strength of Get Rich and doesn’t quite have the staying power and impact of his first.  Album sales following that fell off drastically.  Basically, when anyone talks about 50’s music, they typically go straight to Get Rich or Die Trying and name like half that album before they can think of other songs.  Similar to the effect of some 1 hit wonders who had other hit songs.  Get Rich or Die Trying was such a massive success it had an overflow effect.  The strength of that album and everything associated with it kept us buying his music hoping that he would be able to recreate that magic, but he didn’t.

My argument is that, if it were not for other factors, Fif would not be a legend, or at least it would be a harder case to make.  His controversy and business acumen keeping him relevant skews things.  Just like in sports, you can be a legend/icon without being an athlete (coaches, commentators, etc.), the same with music (i.e. Sway).  I know I might be splitting hairs with Fif though.

Plenty of artist moved units, had longevity, but that still doesn’t necessarily puts them in the hall of fame, the conversation maybe.  To me there’s a subjective piece to it as well, you’re ranked among your peers, your respect level, and impact/influence/relevance.  They’re all factors.  Which gets to my second point (did I really have a first one? I’m just kind of talking here).  A friend said that Ja Rule is a legend because he was a top tier rapper for a long period of time (until Fif came and knocked him off..so 50 points to GryFIFindor I guess *ta-dum-dsshh*).  Ja definitely needs more respect than he gets, but i think that’s why he doesn’t get into the hall of fame, because the respect is not all there.  He was knocked off by a rookie and never came back, that tarnishes his legacy, and you cant be a legend without a legacy.

Say all this to say, I feel that the term “legend” has lost some of its luster just like “classic” and “epic” because of its overuse. Folk throw it out there too much just to describe someone/something they like.  Just because it’s an older song you like doesn’t make it a classic, and doesn’t make the artist a legend either.

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