Halfway through 2017, Nielsen Music announced that R&B and hip-hop now account for 25 percent of all music consumption, outpacing rock for the first time in the company's 25 years of compiling the report. The viral R&B or rap hit jetting up the Hot 100 has become so commonplace that Vulture called 2017 "the year hip-hop won the music business."
But that depends on which part of the music business you're looking at. Success on the Billboard Hot 100, which includes sales, streams and radio play, disguises a crucial realm where singles from both rappers and R&B singers still face significant hurdles: the pop airwaves. Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow" reached No. 1 on the Hot 100, but over on the Pop Songs airplay chart, it only made it to No. 23. That's slightly better than Kendrick Lamar's "Humble.", another Hot 100 No. 1 that stopped at No. 26 on Pop Songs. Migos' "Bad and Boujee," featuring Lil Uzi Vert, also topped the Hot 100 but was unable to crack the top 30 on Pop Songs. Pop radio reaches the largest audience of any radio format every week, according to Nielsen Music, yet some of the most popular singles in the country are not played there heavily.
In the current pop radio climate, though, "Bodak Yellow" and "Humble." are actually crossover success stories. Lil Uzi Vert's "XO Tour Llif3" and Future's "Mask Off" were inescapable in 2017, unless you spent months listening to pop radio, where they were imperceptible -- both failed to register on the Pop Songs chart. As many have noted, pop radio programmers may have been the only camp unmoved by Beyoncé's Lemonade album in 2016: "Formation" did not crack Pop Songs, and "Sorry" did not make it into the top 30.