Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, two of the world's biggest pop artists, defended themselves Monday after rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine accused them of buying the No. 1 spot on the Billboard chart.
The hip hop star claimed Monday that Grande submitted tens of thousands of units of her joint charity single with Bieber, "Stuck With U," at the last minute Thursday before Billboard's deadline for its Hot 100 chart. He alleged that Bieber and Grande bought the units themselves to top the competition.
"Understand this, they bought 30,000 or so units on six credit cards," the rapper said on Instagram. "Six credit cards. Now again, you're gonna enjoy your No.1, now explain how you buy 30,000 with six credit cards."
Tekashi 6ix9ine, 23, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, was released from prison last month into house arrest over fears that his chronic asthma makes him vulnerable to the coronavirus. He was serving time after he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of racketeering, firearms offenses and drug trafficking. Hernandez received a more lenient sentence after he testified against members of New York City gang the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods.
He released "Gooba," the first single for his anticipated 2020 album, on May 8.
Hernandez also claimed that Billboard discounted 20 million digital streams of "Gooba," which fell to the No. 3 spot after Doja Cat's song "Say So."
Grande, 27, responded Monday on her own social media, where she thanked fans for their support of her third No. 1 single in three years. She said her and Bieber's fans were the ones who bought songs.
"they are ride or die motherf------ and i thank god every day that i have them in my life," Grande wrote. "not just when they fight for us to win (even when i ask them not to as i did this week) but because they're some of the greatest people i know."
Bieber and Grande have large fan bases, the self-described Beliebers and Arianators. Collectively, they have more than 320 million Instagram followers, compared to Hernandez's more than 20 million followers.
Grande also noted that the rules state that only four sales per buyer are counted toward the Billboard calculation and that sales have always counted for more than streams. Grande advised "anybody that is displeased with their placement" to humble themselves.
"be grateful you're even here," Grande said. "that people want to listen to u at all. it's a blessed position to be in."
Hernandez made a subsequent video addressing Grande, in which he said he wasn't coming after her but instead was highlighting a corrupt system. He pointed to Grande's early career in acting, whereas he needed welfare growing up.
"I speak for the millions of kids that come from nothing," Hernandez said.
Responding directly to Grande's remarks, he wrote, "You say for me to be humble. I don't think you know what humble is." He also added, "YOU ARE VERY TALENTED AND BEAUTIFUL GOD BLESS YOU."
Bieber also responded to the accusation in his Instagram story Monday, explaining that the last-minute disclosure of 60,000 units was the result of a strategy to keep the numbers quiet until the end of the week.
"Nielsen company checks this and found all our fans are amazing and bought them," Bieber said. "Don't discredit our fan base with false info."
Nielsen told NBC News that it sold its music data division to Valence Media in December.
Bieber, 26, also claimed that some streams of "Gooba" were disregarded because global streams aren't included in the Hot 100 chart calculation.
"This is my song with Ariana Grande and I'm honored to work with her to raise money for a great cause," Bieber said, referring to the fact that "Stuck With U" is a charity single. "If you're going to say her name make sure you say mine because it's our song."
Proceeds from "Stuck With You" will help fund the First Responders Children's Organization.
Billboard published an article on Monday explaining its tabulation process in the "interest of transparency." The company denied withholding information from Hernandez regarding the chart calculation and said that it cannot provide "granular detail" on a song to anyone other than the content's owner.
As for the claims that 30,000 units were bought with six credit cards, Billboard said that it conducts sales audits on all excessive bulk purchases to remove those transactions from its chart calculations.
"The sales spike is likely referring to sales on Thursday, May 14 — the final day of the tracking week — when signed 'Stuck With U' singles were put up for sale in Grande and Bieber’s webstores," Billboard said.