Tems’ “Free Mind” captures a 17th week at No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, a new record for the most weeks atop the list for any song by a lead female artist. The achievement continues the sleeper hit’s success story, which saw the 2020 EP deep cut work its way to becoming a fan-pushed streaming hit in 2022 and, now, a record-setting radio smash.
The historic week for “Free Mind” is on the chart dated May 20, where it wins a 17th frame on top after a 1% bump to 19.2 million audience impressions made it, yet again, the most-heard song from a combined slate of U.S. monitored adult R&B and mainstream R&B/hip-hop radio stations in the week ending May 11, according to Luminate.
Now with 17 weeks, “Free Mind” surpasses Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” for sole possession of the record for the longest-leading No. 1 by a lead female artist. The former champ reigned for 16 weeks in 2018. As “Free Mind” shakes up the leaderboard, here’s a look at the songs by women in lead or co-lead roles with the most weeks at No. 1 on R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay since the chart launched in 1992:
Expanding to women in both lead and featured roles, Tems still holds the record for the song with the most weeks at No. 1. She featured on Wizkid’s 27-week champ “Essence” in 2021-22.
The breakthrough Afrobeats hit is tied as the second-longest-leading No. 1 in R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay history with Chris Brown’s “No Guidance,” featuring Drake. Both songs trail only another Brown track, “Go Crazy,” with Young Thug, which posted 29 weeks at the summit in 2020-21.
Though “Free Mind” was released in 2020 on the EP For Broken Ears, the song generated its earliest significant attention only after Tems’ breakthroughs on a trio of other high-profile songs. In addition to “Essence,” she featured on Drake’s Certified Lover Boy cut “Fountains,” and, with Drake, on Future’s No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Wait for U.” Thanks to the triple play of hits, her own material experienced renewed interest and streaming gains, with “Free Mind” as the leading beneficiary, which sparked an official radio promotion push soon after.
The track climbed to No. 1 on Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay in November 2022, and later crossed over onto the Adult R&B Airplay chart, crowning that for nine weeks beginning in February 2023. The one-two punch put Tems in rare, and enviable, company. Such dual coronations on both radio charts occurred only twice in 2022, with Silk Sonic’s “Smokin’ out the Window” and Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul.”