The internet has changed the way we are introduced to music and recording artists. We live in an age where radio isn’t a requirement, and large followings can be built through online mediums, but the airwaves still remain a huge platform where million of ears can be reached.
Last week, Rae Sremmurd continued to reign over urban radio with “Black Beatles,” the most played song in the country. Drake is on their heels with “Fake Love,” and PARTYNEXTDOOR (assisted by Drake) isn't far behind at No. 3 with “Come And See Me.” This is all rather ordinary, the artists you expect to rule over the radio doing just that. What is both somewhat astounding and semi-baffling, however, is the fourth most played song on urban radio last week belonged to DJ Luke Nasty and his song, “OTW.”
An indie DJ and rapper from High Point, North Carolina is not only taking over urban radio but is currently receiving more spins than Aminé, Big Sean, Lil Uzi Vert, Young M.A and 21 Savage.
This is a rather unusual feat that DJ Luke Nasty has accomplished. He’s an artist that I somehow have never heard of, yet, he’s slowly dominating the country one radio station at a time. Radio is no longer my primary source for artist discovery, though, which could be the reason why he's flown under my radar.
A recent surge in radio plays has allowed “OTW” to premiere on Billboard’s Hot 100 this week at No. 91. It will likely continue to shoot higher if the momentum continues.
“OTW” was added to Spotify last May, and the original version of the single has acquired over 5.1 million plays through the streaming service. Additionally, the single has just under 3 million plays on SoundCloud, with another 5 million views on YouTube for the music video. During his run of constant features last year, 2 Chainz remixed the record, but his magic touch didn't send the record to the top of charts. These are all moderate numbers—not an online viral sensation, but through radio, "OTW" has reached an audience of over 19 million. One week at radio brought DJ Luke Nasty more attention than he has accumulated in eight months online, a truly eyebrow-raising accomplishment in 2017.
While “OTW” may be the fourth most popular song at urban radio, it has yet to see an increase in iTunes sales (it's nowhere to be found on the iTunes Top 100 Hip-Hop & Rap Songs), or a substantial increase in Spotify, SoundCloud or YouTube plays. Even Luke Nasty’s social media following is rather modest―he currently has less than 5K likes on Facebook and less than 8K followers on Twitter. You would think a record that’s crossing the country like a locomotive would have a bigger online presence, right?
According to Jonathan Master, an A&R at EMPIRE, the company who handles distribution and radio for Luke Nasty, a correlation between radio success and online success isn't always a straight line. "Sometimes a record is bigger than an artist's brand," Master explained. "We also have a dedicated radio staff at EMPIRE working the record. They've had a lot of success over the last year, including [D.R.A.M.'s] "Broccoli" and Fat Joe and Remy Ma's "All The Way Up."
It was through EMPIRE that Luke Nasty was able to get clearance from Anderson .Paak when his cover of “Might Be” miraculously blew up last April. His revamped version was far more popular than the original, peaking at No. 84 on Hot 100 and becoming his first taste of radio popularity.
In an interview with Billboard that was published after “Might Be” started to take off, Luke Nasty talks about being a DJ, his years of being in the industry, and more on his come-up. He’s far from an overnight success, but his recent soaring to the top of urban radio naturally had us wondering how he received his wings.
"Just the way WSSU gravitated to it. My DJ at this moment is the resident DJ on the campus and they just played it -- it just caught wind. Me being from North Carolina, it's a college state so it was everywhere. So it was literally from one college to the next. With all these college students being from different places, it was just a virus -- it just spread. Then one of my brothers who DJs was like, 'I'm actually going to play it on the radio.' I was like, 'You can't do that -- you got to get permission.' But he said, 'Nah bro, I believe in you -- I think it's the one.' So he breaks it, and I'm thinking he going to get in trouble -- but the radio lines just blow up. It just generated the buzz. Me putting in my groundwork for so long -- I've been doing this for 10 years. So from 15 to 25, I sort of earned the respect of my city and my state, so all it took was for me to find that one thing to get a hit." - DJ Luke Nasty on the Unusual (and Sexy) Inspiration for Covering Anderson .Paak's 'Might Be'
DJ Luke Nasty is blowing up on the radio, but he is almost completely unknown online. In 2017, it doesn’t get any weirder. To get a better understanding of why he's receiving such incredible support, aside from however large the budget EMPIRE is using to work the record, we reached out to three urban radio station program directors who currently have "OTW" in rotation. Two of the stations have yet to respond, but Reggie Rouse at Atlanta’s own V-103 replied: “We are not allowed to do media interviews without permission. Please send a formal request for an interview and I will try to get it approved.” Well alright.
Is it possible that DJ Luke Nasty has struck gold with “OTW” and radio is simply embracing his next big record after the Gold-certified "Might Be"? Possibly. He could also be a mindie artist (like D.R.A.M. was for most of 2016) or have a giant backer that has financially assisted him in getting radio behind the record. According to Master, however, Luke Nasty's success is a combination of radio familiarity, his ability to craft a hit record, a dedicated radio department at EMPIRE and "pounding the pavement" for two straight years.
There’s simply too many variables at play to form any one conclusion, but with how odd this situation seems on the surface, it's clear we'll have to keep our eyes peeled in 2017.