Chart Beat Podcast: How Cardi B, Post Malone & Kendrick Lamar Have Helped Rap Rule 2017

AP Photo; Design by Jessica Xie
Cardi B, Post Malone & Kendrick Lamar

A rap roundtable on the genre's streaming-driven rise.

Welcome to the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast, where each week co-hosts Gary Trust and Trevor Anderson, from the Billboard charts department, discuss why what's on the charts … is on the charts, while also looking at current chart action in a historical context for even greater insights.

This week, it's a rap roundtable on the genre's historic 2017. Five rap songs have topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017, tying for the most in a single year, as current leader "Rockstar" by Post Malone, featuring 21 Savage, follows Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)"; DJ Khaled's "I'm the One," featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne; Kendrick Lamar's "Humble."; and Migos' "Bad and Boujee," featuring Lil Uzi Vert.

What's behind the surge? Beats 1 host LowKey, Vibe music editor Mikey Fresh and Billboard Latin's Marjua Estevez (formerly of Vibe) join Gary and Trevor to analyze numerous likely factors.

Among the topics covered is radio's relatively conservative approach to rap, as only eight of 49 total top 10s on the all-genre Radio Songs chart this year have been rap titles. Mikey Fresh muses that many rap newcomers sport a minimally-produced sound not fully compatible for pop stations: "The aesthetic now is to put out rap songs that might not be radio-[ready]."

Conversely, on the Streaming Songs chart, 39 of 53 total top 10s in 2017 have been rap. Says Estevez, "Look at that dichotomy: radio isn't playing, but we're consuming [hip-hop] via the digital grid."

As for many rap rookies breaking through with downtempo, sparser sounds, LowKey says that it makes sense that the longtime go-to practices of sampling past hits or adding a pop vocalist to sing the hook of a rap track appear to be lessening: "I think it's a little more business than artistic, because these [new] guys don't have the budget to pay a Rihanna, or Ariana Grande, $40,000, $50,000 or $60,000. It's like, 'If I can put Auto-Tune … I'm a good writer already … that's it.' "

Listen to the latest Chart Beat Podcast and check back for more upcoming episodes with artists, label executives, radio programmers and personalities, songwriters, producers and more. And, to receive every episode automatically in your inbox, subscribe to (and rate) the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast on iTunes!


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