Thanks to a dedicated team of scientists, it was recently confirmed that hip-hop's explosion in the early '90s was the biggest revolution in the history of American popular music. Now, thanks to a wave (pun intended) of music streaming sites we can confirm that hip-hop is continuing its upward trend, at least when it comes to people actually listening, as data from Nielsen Music proves the genre is conquering its genre peers.
While hip-hop's success has been undeniable for decades, it trailed behind other genres such as rock and pop when looked at through the lens of traditional sales metrics. Even in 2014, album sales for hip-hop were less than half that of rock, according to Nielsen Music. Then again, this is 2015, and not everyone is purchasing music.
Separate out strict sales figures and hip-hop is the clear champion of streaming right now. Of all the on-demand streaming in 2014, 29% belonged to hip-hop and R&B. Just over four months into 2015, the same holds true, as the genre narrowly edges out rock and pop with 25% compared to 23% and 20%, respectively. Four of the top streamed albums on Spotify over the last six months? Drake, Kendrick, Cole and Big Sean (with One Direction rounding out the top five). Most streamed song in a single week ever on Spotify? Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again."
Why? BuzzFeed News, from where many of these stats were taken, has a few suggestions. One, that the youthful age of hip-hop listeners coincides well with the average age of streaming service users. Second, that the genre's mixtape culture has bred a fanbase that is used to and expects free music, and third, that the social media behaviors encourage the spread of these streams.
In any case, this is a very positive sign for the genre and confirms what many of us hip-hop fans already know; hip-hop rarely gets the credit, but it's in the driver's seat of American music culture. It's widely thought that streaming is the future when it comes to how fans will consume their music, and these statistics bode well for hip-hop as both the genre of the future, and present. Who knows how things will look even a year from now, but for the moment, hip-hop really is number one.
[By Brendan Varan. One time, he used Tidal. Then his free trial ran out. Follow him on Twitter.]