Revolt to Release New Study About Hip-Hop's Impact on Mainstream Culture: Exclusive

Lil Nas X
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET

Lil Nas X performs onstage at the 2019 BET Awards on June 23, 2019 in Los Angeles.

REVOLT is putting its stamp on the pervasiveness of hip-hop culture via an expansive in-house survey the media company next week will send to brands, agencies and other business stakeholders that parses the genre’s role in mainstream popular culture.     

Billboard got an early look at Gen Hip Hop, which reads more like a coffee table book than a white paper. Based on poll data, interviews with attendees at two REVOLT Summits last summer and research from REVOLT editorial staff, it parses connections between the genre and millennials and Gen Zers, as well as more general stats about the 13-34-year-old demographic.

Among findings: Mental health, climate change, and police brutality/gun reform are the top three issues among those surveyed. Almost half, 49%, said the first place they learn about politics and activism is through music. One in three people surveyed reported they’ve experimented with a gender identity other than the one assigned at birth, and 22% described themselves as LGBTQ+. 

“Hip-hop culture is youth culture,” says Roma Khanna, ceo of the cable network founded in 2013 by Sean Diddy Combs. “To not understand the role hip-hop plays would be like missing the role of rock & roll during the ‘60s, and how that affected people’s view of politics, gender rights and all sorts of issues.”

The concept for the survey crystallized after a 2017 Nielsen Music report found hip-hop/R&B to be the dominant genre in the U.S. for the first time, overtaking rock at 25.1% compared to 23%. Its release also comes on the heels of recent Census Bureau data projecting the country will be “minority majority” in 2044 when white Americans will fall below half the country’s population and lose their majority status.

“Despite all the numbers and all the charts, hip-hop is still treated like it’s not the mainstream, like it is a genre sitting in the corner. What we know to be true is that simply isn’t reality,” she says. Coming off a year where Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus busted records for most weeks at No. 1 on The Hot 100 with “Old Town Road," she adds, “This survey makes explicit what we implicitly have known to be true. Where historically you may have had your alternative rock playlist and your country music playlist…now you’ve just got your ‘I’m waking up on a Monday’ playlist. For this youth generation, these genre borders are irrelevant.”

As well as a tool to elevate REVOLT''s place at the table in larger popular culture conversations, the study also is informing REVOLT''s own programming. Khanna says the network already is at work on programming focused on mental health and the climate crisis.