Ben Shapiro’s new song hit No. 1 on iTunes. How did that happen?


Ben Shapiro, a right-wing political commentator known for his incendiary takes, just made his rap debut with a spitfire song called “Facts.” It soared to the No. 1 spot on the iTunes Store, sitting above recent pop and hip-hop hits from the likes of Megan Thee Stallion, Justin Timberlake and Jack Harlow.

The song, a collaboration between Shapiro and Canadian rap artist Tom MacDonald, is packed with lyrics that take aim at critics, the culture wars, the rap genre in general, and calls out rap artists Nicki Minaj and Lizzo.

“Let’s look at the stats, I’ve got the facts/ My money like Lizzo, my pockets are fat,” Shapiro raps. Later, he adds, “Nicki, take some notes, I just did this for fun/ All my people download this, let’s get a Billboard number one.”

Being No. 1 appears to be a big deal for Shapiro, who founded the Daily Wire in 2015 and currently hosts his own political podcast and radio show. He recently changed his bio on X (formerly Twitter) to read: “WORLD’S #1 Rapper.” He titled one of his recent YouTube podcast videos, “I Am America’s #1 Rapper,” in which he played the entire “Facts” music video while praising the success of his song.

“FACTS is officially the top song IN THE WORLD on iTunes. Rap god status: unlocked!” Shapiro said in an X post on Tuesday.

“I just want to thank God, @IAMTOMMACDONALD, and my parents, who paid for 15 years of classical violin lessons so I could become the #1 rapper in America,” Shapiro wrote on X on Friday after the song’s release, sharing a picture of himself, MacDonald and the words “#1 in Hip-Hop” in massive gold lettering.

“No one is fantastic on their first outing but Ben did better than a lot of the guys you see in the mainstream who have been doing it for years,” MacDonald said.

Much of the song’s success so far has been seen on iTunes, which ranks its top songs based on direct downloads and buys, according to Apple. Despite millions of listens on Apple Music and Spotify, the song hasn’t garnered enough streams to crack its way into top playlists on those platforms.

The song’s success mirrors that of other songs that have ties to America’s politics, such as Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” and Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” from last summer — both of which were celebrated by conservative music fans.

Here’s a look at how “Facts” found success and how much of an imprint its making on pop culture. Representatives for Shapiro did not respond to requests for comment.

What is ‘Facts’ about?

The song’s name is drawn from Shapiro’s catchphrase, “facts don’t care about feelings,” one that he frequently uses to argue ideas that mainstream listeners might find offensive.

“Facts” features a number of lyrics that seem to call back to talking points floated frequently from far-right wing influencers and media outlets.

MacDonald raps on the opening verse: “They call me offensive, controversial / There’s only two genders, boys and girls.” He then adds, “They claim that I’m racist, yeah, all right I’m not ashamed because I’m White / If every Caucasian’s a bigot, I guess every Muslim’s a terrorist, every liberal is right.”

“I think it presents an alternative [to] the manufactured, overproduced, wrapped-in-plastic mainstream product,” MacDonald said about “Facts.”

“I feel like not only did this song encourage high moral standard … it also is a legendary troll on the music industry. It’s a bit of revenge to enter their arena and beat them at their own game,” he added.

Has Shapiro rapped before?

Shapiro has a noted history of criticizing rap music and explicit lyrics. In 2019, he said on his show that rap wasn’t a real genre of music, igniting a backlash on social media.

“It’s not actually a form of music,” Shapiro said in an interview with the rapper Zuby. “It’s a form of rhythmic speaking. Thus, beyond the objectivity of me just not enjoying rap all that much, what I’ve said before is that rap is not music.”

In 2020, he went viral for criticizing and reading the lyrics of the controversial song “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. Similarly, Shapiro ridiculed Sexyy Red’s song “Pound Town” and “Pound Town 2″ — a remix of the song by Nicki Minaj — last year. The criticism led to him and Minaj trading barbs over social media.

After the release of “Facts” on Friday, Minaj, who is dealing with a rap-based feud with Megan Thee Stallion, praised the song.

“I just listened to it @benshapiro not bad,” Minaj wrote in a post on X on Saturday. “Congrats on #1. But it def sounds like Roman’s Revenge when the beat first came in … idk,” she added, referencing her own song “Roman’s Revenge” with Eminem.

Shapiro responded shortly later, “Didn’t know what I was doing, but I put on a cape. Now it’s, ‘Which world tour should I go on today?’” — a lyric from Minaj’s 2010 song “I’m The Best.”

MacDonald’s online fame predates his Shapiro collaboration.

The Canada native and former pro wrestler has been going viral since 2017. His breakout song, “Dear Rappers,” criticized mainstream rappers for ostensibly misusing their cultural influence — and was seemingly critical of then-president Donald Trump: “You’re living in a country that elected Donald Trump/ You’re living in a country where police are killing people every day, and all you wanna talk about is doing drugs.”

MacDonald also raps about his struggles with alcoholism and mental health, but his most popular songs mirror the language and grievances of the far right. In “Your America” and “Politically Incorrect,” MacDonald takes aim at “communist and criminal” liberals and “cancel culture.” MacDonald has referenced Shapiro before, using the Shapiro catchphrase “’Facts don’t care ‘bout feelings,’” as part of the chorus for “Fake Woke.”

Has MacDonald had hits before?

“Fake Woke” entered the Billboard Hot 100 in 2021, as did MacDonald’s singles “Snowflakes” and “Brainwashed.” In March 2022, MacDonald topped the Billboard album sales chart for the first time with “The Brave,” a collaboration between him and another rapper known for his far-right music, Adam Calhoun. (The week they hit No. 1, they outsold Dolly Parton’s “Run, Rose, Run.”) MacDonald and Calhoun released a follow-up album, “The Brave II” last year.

A 2022 Rolling Stone profile described MacDonald as a representative of “a new kind of online right, interested in liberal totems like rap culture,” though the piece also questioned how much MacDonald believed in the MAGA messages that litter his oeuvre.

“Pretty quickly, I sort of realized that the people who didn’t like me were doing the most for me,” MacDonald, who now lives in Los Angeles, told the magazine. “They were the ones that were like, ‘I have to show 30 of my friends this piece of s—-, because I hate him.’”

Is ‘Facts’ really a hit?

“Facts” held the No. 1 spot on iTunes Music as of Wednesday, Jan. 31, sitting ahead of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hiss” and Nicki Minaj’s “Big Foot.”

According to Apple, iTunes numbers are calculated by what songs are downloaded and bought through iTunes — different than Apple Music, which purely measures streams.

Streaming numbers paint a different picture. As of Wednesday morning, the song had just over 1 million listens on Spotify. On Apple Music, the song hadn’t cracked the top 100 songs in the country. Apple did not share data about the song’s overall streaming numbers.

“Label artists have access to playlisting and resources that independents do not,” said MacDonald on the song’s success on iTunes compared with streaming. “If we want to compete with them on the Billboard charts, this is the way to do it.”

The full scope of Shapiro’s success won’t be known until next week. Billboard won’t receive digital sales chart numbers until Saturday, said Alex Vitoulis, chart data analyst for Billboard. Streaming and sale number providers, like Apple and Spotify, won’t share their full data until Monday, Feb. 5, according to Luminate, which tracks U.S. music sales and chart data.

Shapiro and MacDonald claimed on Monday that YouTube was suppressing the song by not promoting it as the No. 1 trending song despite its views. On Wednesday, the song sat in third place behind “Hiss” and “Big Foot.”

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“We’re outperforming her in every metric,” MacDonald said Monday. “They’re not allowing us to pass Megan and hit that number one spot.”

The “Facts” music video has more than 9.7 million views on MacDonald’s YouTube page. (In the comments section, MacDonald encourages listeners to download the song on iTunes, which costs $1.29.) Meanwhile, the “Hiss” music video from Megan Thee Stallion has just under 8.2 million views on YouTube and the “Big Foot” audio video has 3.7 million views on Minaj’s page.

MacDonald and Megan have near identical subscribers — MacDonald with 4.36 million YouTube and Megan Thee Stallion, who has appeared in Marvel’s “She Hulk” television show and has mainstream exposure, with 5.96 million.

Have similar songs reached the mainstream before?

“Facts” is only the latest song touching on the culture wars that has found some mainstream success.

In 2021, rapper Loza Alexander’s song “Let’s Go Brandon!” — an obvious reference to the popular phrase among Biden critics — jumped to No. 1 on the iTunes’ hip-hop charts, according to multiple reports. In June of last year, pro-Trump rappers Jimmy Levy and Forgiato Blow watched their “Boycott Target” song — which was created in response to the retailer’s Pride Month merchandise — climb the Billboard charts. A viral rap song titled “First Day Out” — made by an AI version of former president Trump, called “Trump The Don” — rose to No. 2 on the iTunes hip-hop charts and No. 27 on the overall charts, according to multiple reports.

Last summer, Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” became a hit among conservative defenders as the song praised small town America and the sense of community. Critics slammed Aldean and the song for allegedly containing coded messages against Black people. The song’s music video originally included a clip of violence that took place during Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Atlanta, which was later removed.

In a similar light, “Rich Men North of Richmond” became a favorite among conservatives last September. The song criticized Washington politicians over tax policies and creating economic policies that made life hard for working class citizens.

The song led Anthony to become the first artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart without previous history on the chart. Many said Anthony capitalized on the difficult times for the working class to find success and break his way into the mainstream.

Will Sommer contributed to this report.





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