Upon its release, the song received generally positive reviews from critics, who complimented its confident, upbeat tone and the performances of both rappers, with many praising it as a highlight off the album. The song was later certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of 2,000,000+ copies.
The song premiered on August 3, 2010 on the New York urban contemporary radio station Hot 97. On the same evening, the show's host Funkmaster Flex conducted an interview with Lil Wayne from Rikers Island prison, who announced that the song would be released as a single, amongst discussing I Am Not a Human Being, although the release date was not announced at the time. The single was officially digitally released in the United States on August 17, 2010.
On December 31, 2010, Lil Wayne performed the song on NBC's New Year's Eve with Carson Daly. As Drake was not available to sing his verse, it was not featured in the performance. Lil Wayne and Drake perform the song on 106 and park Young Money Cash Money party on December 31, 2010
The song received generally positive reviews from music critics. Allmusic writer David Jefferies called the song "grand" stating that it "swaggers and struts like a free man cruising through the club". Jon Caramanica of The New York Times described the song as "bombastic" and praised Lil Wayne's musical diversity, comparing the song to more recent hits ("I'm Single" and "No Love") and their different musical styles, stating "[his] successes in the last few months have been in different, and divergent, modes... diversity is Lil Wayne’s strength". Despite describing the song as "generic", Los Angeles Times writer Jeff Weiss wrote positively of the song, stating that "[it] achieves a kind of bizarre solipsism". However, he also felt that "Wayne’s done this shtick better before".
After experiencing strong digital sales on release, the song debuted at number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart dated September 4, 2010, making it the highest debuting song on the chart for that week, and at number 1 on the BillboardHot Digital Songs chart, becoming the first Lil Wayne song to top this chart. With 225,000 copies downloaded during the first week, it was Wayne's best sales week as a lead artist and as of December 27 the single has sold over a million copies. The song also peaked at number one on the BillboardHot Rap Songs chart, and also at number four on the BillboardHot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
"Right Above It" also achieved modest international charting. The song debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number 37 on 5 September 2010 following strong digital downloading from the album. This marks Lil Wayne's second Top 40 hit in the UK after "Lollipop" peaked at number 26 during 2008. The single also peaked at number 11 on the UK R&B Chart. The song also peaked at number 34 in Canada, and number 27 in Belgium.