How TikTok turned Don’t Rush by UK hip-hop artists Young T & Bugsey into a global hit

Back in November, when Sony Music UK-affiliated label Black Butter released Don’t Rush by British hip-hop artists Young T & Bugsey (feat. Headie One), there was no way anyone could have predicted that most of the world would be under COVID-19 lockdown six months later, or that the quarantine would be helping drive a global TikTok boom.

Both those things have now obviously happened. And both have happened alongside the launch and explosion of the #DontRushChallenge, which has seen over 600m videos created on TikTok, with the ripple effect of turning Young T & Bugsey’s single into a minor (but still snowballing) global hit.

So much so, Don’t Rush recently crept into the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States – a rare feat for British hip-hop acts.

The name of the track aptly describes Black Butter’s approach to breaking Young T & Bugsey globally, as Black Butter Co-President, Joe Gossa tells MBW.

“When we first signed Young T & Bugsey, we always knew it was about the long game,” he says.

“They have a unique style and innate ability to write anthemic choruses. We just needed the rest of the world to catch up.”

The #DontRushChallenge was created on TikTok by a group of students from Hull in the UK. They used one of the track’s lyrics, “I got the juice, the sauce and all them tings,” to launch a video challenge which sees participants magically transform their appearance in an instant.

“When we first signed Young T & Bugsey, we always knew it was about the long game.”

Joe Gossa, Black Butter

“What was interesting with this challenge, is that it actually started as a post on Twitter, spreading to Instagram and then ended up on TikTok,” explains Black Butter MD, Duncan Scott. “It was growing the whole time across all those platforms.”

The #DontRushChallenge went viral on TikTok, with Young T and Bugsey becoming the first UK rap artists to land on TikTok’s Discover page.

The track’s popularity on TikTok then translated into global Shazams, peaking at No.5 on the global Shazam chart – No.4 in the US, No.4 in France and No.37 in the UK.

“The challenge itself really resonated with people,” adds Scott. “People were sat at home getting introspective and demotivated, not able to glam up and go out. It definitely tapped into a sentiment.”

Ascent in the notoriously-difficult-to-break US radio charts swiftly followed, with Don’t Rush hitting No.14 at Urban and No.17 at Rhythm. The track has since been serviced to Top 40 radio.

Support at US Radio then translated into streams and chart positions globally including France (No.41). At the time of writing, the track has been streamed over 83m times globally (51m excluding the UK).

“Right now, we haven’t even scratched the surface [in terms of] numbers that we’re going to reach on streaming.”

Sylvia Rhone, Epic Records

Sylvia Rhone, Chairman and CEO of the duo’s US label Epic Records explains that Don’t Rush’s success on US radio “overrides the pattern that US radio doesn’t play UK hip hop artists.”

She adds: “It legitimizes radio in a bigger way. We always look at streaming as the force behind the success of singles. [But] in this case, it was really about TikTok, radio and then streaming.

“Right now, we haven’t even scratched the surface [in terms of] numbers that we’re going to reach on streaming.”

One of the key parts of the story surrounding the track’s burgeoning global appeal was its success in a number of markets in Africa, according to Sony Music EVP, International Operations Mark Collen.

“What we saw was an immediate reaction, with the record hitting No.1 in eight markets in Africa on iTunes and also getting picked up very strongly by [Africa-based streaming service] Boomplay, and that resonated back very fast,” explains Collen.

“From there, we’ve had support across all the platforms. Everyone’s been championing it. It’s not just coming out of one area. But the African narrative has been an important part of the second wave of this.”

By May 11, this multi media campaign and multi market success on TikTok, Shazam, radio and multiple DSPs culminated in Don’t Rush debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 and reentering the UK Top 40 six months after release.

It’s currently No.27 in the UK’s Official Singles Chart, climbing from No.32 last week.

And on Apple Music, Don’t Rush has charted in the Top 100 in 30 countries.

Elsewhere in Europe, the track has peaked at No.41 on France’s official singles chart, following key radio plays by the likes of Mouv, Generations and one of the country’s largest rap stations, Skyrock, which predominantly plays US and local repertoire.

“There’s always been an expectation that in France and Germany, great hip-hop markets, that UK hip-hop would do very well there,” adds Collen.

“That hasn’t proven to be the case, because those are obviously such strong local language markets. [But] with the influence of TikTok and Triller, and the social platforms and blogs, that has been evolving.”

Part of that evolution comes down to the power of the likes of TikTok as a global artist marketing platform, suggests Black Butter’s Sophie Lee: “On TikTok, there’s an audience there that transcends genre, which means tracks are able to have a broader reach.

“There’s an audience for the app itself, which is why we saw such a rapid uplift.”

Epic’s Sylvia Rhone concludes that the overarching theme of the track’s virality on social media and popularity on radio in multiple markets including the US, is that Young T and Bugsey “have opened the doors for UK hip-hop to travel into the States and be successful”.

“It doesn’t happen as regularly as it should,” continues Rhone, “but [Don’t Rush] has made a huge impression internationally.”Music Business Worldwide

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