Forget Drake, Playboi Carti Is Rap’s New Go-To Feature For Big Hits

For years, music’s go-to feature\ for hits was Drake. Putting Drake on a buzzing underground single or remix could launch a new artist to the heights of stardom. Even established stars benefitted from the so-called “Drake Stimulus,” seeing some of their largest streaming totals from songs featuring the Certified Lover Boy. But this year, as Drake’s star seemed to be falling even before that embarrassing drubbing at the hands of Kendrick Lamar, a new name has emerged as front-runner for the most beneficial featured act in rap: Playboi Carti.

Over the past few months, fans have noticed that songs featuring Carti have outperformed the other tracks from the albums on which they appear, the same way songs featuring Drake have traditionally done. The unconventional Atlanta rapper has an unusually enthusiastic fanbase; Carti’s songs leak often, and in many cases, the leaks have been the most coveted tracks among those fans whenever he does release music. At the same time, the relative infrequency with which he releases likely drives interest in any new music from him.

For instance, “FE!N,” from Travis Scott’s 2023 album Utopia, was that project’s best performing track, despite the album also featuring Drake, Future, the incarcerated Young Thug, and even Beyoncé — all well-established hitmakers with proven chart success. “FE!N” was the fifth single released from the album, meaning it was more likely chosen for a push due to the existing response, rather than the other way around. Its popularity was such that they made the ill-advised choice to perform it at the 2024 Grammys, resulting in a fairly lukewarm reception from viewers.

Likewise, early this year, despite a rollout that could most charitably be described as “messy,” Kanye West’s oft-delayed album Vultures 1 spawned a No. 1 hit, the third single, “Carnival.” While the title track failed to crack the Hot 100, and its follow-up with an adorable North West verse, “Talking / Once Again,” peaked at No. 30, “Carnival” became West’s first chart-topper in 13 years after entering the chart at No. 3. It’s hard to attribute its success to West, whose last few years have been denoted by a marked fall from grace, nor to collaborators Ty Dolla Sign and Rich The Kid, who’ve hardly been known for moving the needle all that much over their respective careers. Could it be the Carti effect?

Then, there’s “Type Sh*t,” from Future & Metro Boomin’s new album We Don’t Trust You. The Carti-featuring track didn’t become the album’s highest performing song, but that was probably only due to the feisty Kendrick Lamar verse on “Like That,” which drove the “Everlasting Bass”-sampling single to the top of the Hot 100. While “Like That” was Future’s first No. 1 that didn’t feature Drake, “Type Sh*t,” which also featured Travis Scott, was the second-highest charter, landing at No. 2. And yes, that song featured a lineup custom-made to game the Spotify algorithms, but that lineup still featured Playboi Carti, whose hot streak appeared to continue as a result.

Heck, Carti’s cachet even extends beyond hip-hop, with pop star Camila Cabello tapping the King Vamp to juice the urban appeal of her album C, XOXO‘s lead single, “I Luv It.” Cabello’s reached out to unconventional rappers before — Machine Gun Kelly, Young Thug, DaBaby, and Gunna all spring to mind — but it’s telling that the Miami-bred Cuban star bet on Playboi Carti’s strange style to announce her new album’s experimental direction.

It’s also telling that all these artists were willing to overlook troubling accusations of domestic abuse against the rapper. But, if his rabid fanbase is also willing to do so, why would his peers do any differently? If artists in the industry continue to feel that Carti’s fans are worth courting, they’ll continue to reach out. The snake eats its tail; Carti gets bigger with every feature, which only makes his features that much more in-demand.