2016’s Top Surprise Hits

2016 top hits

Every year the music industry is hit with a wave of new artists with hit records. With the landscape of the industry changing to streaming, fans and viral memes are helping unknown artists secure major hits that lead to instant fame, record deals, and fast growing fanbases. 2016 saw too many hits that came out of nowhere and we highlighted 19 of them. Each song had it’s unique story of how it reached the height it did, so we did our best to give the statistics behind them along with th story.

Dig in below.

Aminé – Caroline

While Aminé did have some minor buzz to his name prior to ‘Caroline’ – the Portland based artist was fairly unknown. The exuberant single came out of nowhere in March and has reached 105M Spotify streams, 43M Soundcloud streams, and 63M views on the track’s official music video. The song peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is still climbing on radio, sitting at #5 and #6 on rhythmic and urban radio respectively at the time of publishing. Aminé now has a deal with Republic Records under his belt and he will look to recapture the magic in 2017.

Rob $tone – Chill Bill (Ft. J. Davi$ & Spooks)

‘Chill Bill’ from San Diego-based Rob $tone originally hit the internet in June of 2014. By June of 2015, the music video for the Kill Bill sampling track was released. It was not until 2016 that the song completely took off. Thanks to some serious coverage in memes, ‘Chill Bill’ was able to surpass 120M streams on Spotify, 56M on Soundcloud, and 56M on the music video. Similar to ‘Caroline’ – the track is still in the top 10 of the rhythmic and urban radio charts at publishing time. The track has spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at #29. An impressive remix with D.R.A.M, Denzel Curry, & label-mate Cousin Stizz also exists and is arguably just as impressive of a song.

21 Savage & Metro Boomin – X (Ft. Future)

Oh Boy. 21 Savage had a heavy amount of buzz coming into 2016 but it is safe to say NOBODY thought he was going to reach the level that he has. His explosive rise to stardom is led by ‘X’ – his Future assisted single off the impressive Metro Boomin-produced Savage Mode EP. Thanks to 21’s distribution deal with SONY, this song has reaped the benefits of major label resources and it is paying dividends.

By the time 2016 ends, ‘X’ won’t even be close to it’s peak. A rhythmic and urban radio push just begun at the beginning of December when most of the industry is away for the holidays. The track’s music video was released on Christmas Day and saw 1.5M views in the first 48 hours. The track has reached platinum status, led mostly by it’s 82M Spotify streams. The song also has 44.7M streams on Soundcloud and 38M on the official audio on YouTube. Those numbers are going to keep climbing FAST heading into 2017.

Young M.A. – Ooouuu

Young M.A. skipped the stairs and took the elevator this year. ‘Ooouuu’ was one of the year’s biggest viral tracks and impressively, it was one of the few independent hits. The track was led by it’s misogynistic punchlines which seemed to help propel the song’s popularity given the fact that M.A. is a girl. Boosting a major cosign from Beyonce and many other big name artists, the music video has been seen 135M times on YouTube. Add in 71M Spotify streams, 42,000 urban radio spins, and countless remixes from high profile artists and you have a very amazing mix of success.

Jerreau – Really Got It

Former Fly Union frontman Jerreau may have the biggest low-key hit on the list. The song was off his first solo project Never How You Plan and almost immediately took off thanks to LeBron James posting himself vibing to the song on Instagram. What’s interesting is that LeBron has supported nearly every FlyU release to-date but it appears that the video of him dancing was more helpful than past shoutouts.

Aside from the tracks 2.7M views on YouTube (which was shot by Beats by Dre), over 5M plays on Soundcloud, and it’s 13.6M Spotify streams, Jerreau performed this song at halftime during the NBA Finals. LeBron really helped take his buddy to the next level this year with minimal effort. I don’t think anybody could have predicted this hit at the start of 2016 but we’re sure happy it took off.

Nebu Kiniza – Gassed Up

Nebu Kiniza‘s energy is absolutely infectious. Every track just makes you vibe off the rip. Nebu’s track ‘Gassed Up’ absolutely took off in 2016 out of nowhere and is leading him taking the step to the next level. The song – which has the same beat as Rich The Kid‘s ‘Plug’ – was picked up by Sony after it’s initial buzz and the track has been taken to the next level. The song boosts over 15M plays on YouTube, 37M on Soundcloud, and an impressive 17M Spotify streams. With a radio push expected for the start of 2017, expect to hear this song A LOT more in the near future. Although aforementioned, Nebu may have a place in the game long-term thanks to his energy. If he keeps it up, he’ll be around for a minute.


6LACK has been on our radar for years – with his first Fashionably-Early post dating back to 2014. As mentioned throughout his FREE 6LACK album, it’s been a long time coming for the Atlanta product. Thanks to a massive Apple Music push, his single ‘PRBLMS’ was the track that put 6LACK on the map. The song impressively boosts 9M streams on AM’s fierce competitor Spotify, 6M on Soundcloud and the music video surpassed 1M views in about two months. ‘PRBLMS’ is not the most conventional sounding hit, which makes the numbers that this song has received even more impressive.

Khalid – Location

Khalid went from a Soundcloud darling to one hell of a priority at RCA Records over the course of a few months. ‘Location’ hit Soundcloud back in April and it took off almost instantly. The song is probably the most unique hit song on this list and the sky is really the limit for this track. At publishing time, the song is due to debut on the Billboard Hot 100 next week. The song is one of the biggest surprises at both urban and rhythmic radio while also boosting impressive streaming numbers: 24M on Spotify, 8M on Soundcloud, and 2.4M on YouTube. At only 18 years old, Khalid has one hell of a career ahead of him.

Luke Nasty – Might Be

‘Might Be’ was one of the most overlooked hits of 2016. Luke Nasty‘s track might not be the most original, as the song is a cover of Anderson Paak‘s ‘Might Be,’ which features a sample of Xscape’s 1995 cover of The Jones Girls‘ 1979 song “Who Can I Run To.” That did not stop the song from having a massive success on radio this summer, eventually reaching #1 on urban radio. The song spent 10 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at #78. The song eclipsed 23M streams on Spotify including it’s two remixes, 14M Soundcloud streams, 12M YouTube views, & 72,000 urban radio spins. Luke Nasty might not be the artist you look to for some life changing music but the man has a knack for crafting hits.

A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie – My Shit

A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie seamlessly came out of nowhere this year and has a number of underground hits under his belt. His year was led by his short but disgustingly catchy single ‘My Shit.’ The song clocks in at only 2:07 but A Boogie gets done what needs to get done for the track. The song made minor noise on urban and rhythmic radio but streaming services are where A Boogie is making his dough. 30M on streams on Spotify and 19M on the music video are some big numbers for the artist that really is not getting much love on traditional formats. A Boogie seems to have the East Coast absolutely on lock and is in the forefront of the new-age New York movement. His music lacks variety all around but that does not mean the songs are not catchy. All A Boogie needs is a few more songs like ‘My Shit’ and his place in the game should be cemented, especially given his support from New York.

Dae Dae – Wat U Mean

Dae Dae went from an unknown Atlanta artist to one of the city’s brightest stars in 2016 thanks to his single ‘Wat U Mean.’ The song went national this summer thanks to his deal with 300 ENT, which propelled the song to spending 17 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaking at #66. The song was an urban radio mainstay, receiving 65,000 spins and finishing in the top 25 most spun songs on the format for the year. Add in 32M views on the music video and 30M streams on Spotify and that makes this song an undeniable smash. ‘Wat U Mean’ gave Dae Dae the platform to keep things moving, as his single ‘Spend It’ may surpass it’s predecessor’s peak and now boosts a remix with Young Thug & Young M.A. His mixtape with London On Da Track also showed a ton of growth which should give the ATL product a chance to keep his name hot in the streets for the near future.

Madeintyo – Uber Everywhere

Similar to ‘Chill Bill,’ Madeintyo‘s smash hit ‘Uber Everywhere’ was elevated from buzzing Soundcloud release to a national hit quite some time after it’s initial release. ‘Uber Everywhere’ was originally released in July of 2015 while the music video – which now boosts 49M views – was released in August of 2015. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2016 when the song started to absolutely take off. The song ends 2016 with nearly 90M streams on Spotify, 48.5M on Soundcloud, and helped give Uber some amazing free promotion. Needless to say, I don’t think Madeintyo is paying for an Uber ever again in his life. With a handful of dope projects and a new buzzing single ‘Skateboard P’ under his belt, Madeintyo has something going for him.

Russ – What They Want

Russ‘ story is very commendable and the tipping point to his rise to stardom was ‘What They Want.’ After years of self-releasing albums, the Atlanta product began ferociously releasing single after single, building his fanbase and racking up hundreds of thousands of streams. Thanks to ‘What They Want,’ the streams went from hundreds of thousands to millions. The song has 30M views on YouTube, 59M Spotify streams and over 22M on Soundcloud. This song helped Russ have the leverage to pursue a 50/50 profit split deal with Columbia Records, which boosted ‘What They Want’ to another level. With his rabid fanbase behind him, expect many more hits in the future.

Fat Joe & Remy Ma – All The Way Up (Ft. French Montana)

2016 seemed to be a big year for comebacks. We saw many artists from the early to mid 2000s start to release music again but no artist had more success than Fat Joe & Remy Ma. Their anthem ‘All The Way Up’ was a smash from the jump. Hitting the internet at the beginning of March, the song eventually peaked at #27 on the Billboard Hot 100, dominated urban and rhythmic radio (63,000 & 70,000 spins respectively), saw over 80M YouTube views, 87M Spotify streams, and oh, got a remix from JAY Z. This was one of the biggest rap songs of the year and the critics thought so too, giving the track two nominations at the 2017 Grammys.

Kent Jones – Don’t Mind

DJ Khaled‘s rise to worldwide phenomenon also saw success for his artist Kent Jones, who had one of the biggest songs regardless of genre in 2016 with ‘Don’t Mind.’ Like many songs on this list, ‘Don’t Mind’ actually was released in July of 2015. The song began to get a full push from Khaled and We The Best at the top of the year and it eventually went platinum, peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, topped rhythmic radio, and accumulated hundreds of millions of streams. The music video topped 115M views in only nine months, while the Spotify streams surpassed 240M in just seven months. Chalk ‘Don’t Mind’ up as another one for Khaled.

D.R.A.M. – Broccoli (Ft. Lil Yachty)

D.R.A.M had some buzz after releasing ‘Cha Cha’ in 2015, which landed him a deal with Atlantic Records and a cosign from Beyonce. Nobody could have predicted the success of ‘Broccoli’ this year – not even myself who had the song stuck in my head within an hour of it being released. The single was a smash hit, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and surpassed 240M streams on Spotify. The song also reached 113M streams on Soundcloud, making it one of the biggest hits on the platform to date. D.R.A.M showcased that he has a lot of to offer on his album Big Baby D.R.A.M, so expect him to be around for quite some time.

Desiigner – Panda

It would be an absolute crime if ‘Panda’ was not on the list. Desiigner originally dropped ‘Panda’ in December of 2015 and heavily promoted it at the start of the year. It looked like ‘Panda’ was going to be a regional hit out of New York until Kanye West heavily sampled the track on his album The Life of Pablo and signed him to G.O.O.D. Music. The song then hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached quadruple platinum status. 507M streams on Spotify, 143M plays on Soundcloud, and 187M views on the music video help certify this as one of the biggest, and arguably the most surprising, hits of 2016.

YFN Lucci – Keys To The Streets (Ft. Migos & Trouble)

Rich Homie Quan did essentially nothing in 2016, which meant that Think It’s A Game had time to viciously promote more artists on their label. YFN Lucci was the artist that saw the most from it. ‘Keys To The Streets’ featuring Migos & Trouble was one of the top urban hits of 2016. The song saw over 66,000 spins on urban radio and peaked at 70 on the Billboard Hot 100. Add in 35M views on the music video and 25M streams on Spotify, along with a remix with Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz and you have a hit. It’ll be interesting to see how YFN progresses in his career: will he drop hit after hit like Quan or be known just for ‘Keys To The Streets’ popping off? Only time will tell.

PNB Rock – Selfish

To close out the list, we have another track that quietly has been racking up millions of plays. PNB Rock is destined to be one of the next urban stars and after a number of low-level hits, he got his own smash with his somber cut ‘Selfish.’ The track was originally a Soundcloud hit that eventually was released by his label Atlantic Records. Racking up over 21.6M plays on Soundcloud, the song also boosts just under 20M Spotify streams. No serious radio push has taken place yet and the music video for the track surpassed 1M views in under a week. These numbers are pretty scary given the lack of traditional promo (or meme promo) for the track. Keep your tabs on ‘Selfish’ as we begin 2017.