As a measurement of what the country is currently listening to, Spotify's Top 100 is as good a meter as any. While browsing the most updated version of the chart, though, we noticed a glaring lack of hip-hop.
Among the 100 most popular songs currently streaming on Spotify, there are only eight actual hip-hop records—looking beyond the 12 records that either feature a rapper as a guest on a huge pop song, such as Sia’s “The Greatest” or Marc E. Bassy’s “You & Me," or Drake singing—and none of those eight are within the top 50.
Based on the eye and ear test, hip-hop’s exposure is at an all-time high. In television and film, hip-hop is being represented on a level never before seen. Shows like The Get Down and Atlanta are highlighting the history and reality of hip-hop culture, Hamilton brought hip-hop to Broadway in critically acclaimed fashion, and the genre’s presence in film through direct storytelling and wonderful soundtracks like The Birth of a Nation are keeping hip-hop at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness... so where the hell is all the hip-hop on Spotify’s Top 100?
Considering hip-hop’s heightened presence in mainstream media, where is this disconnect in listenership coming from?
One possible explanation is that it’s been a rather slow past few months from hip-hop’s heavy hitters. While 2016 has seen album releases from Drake, Kanye, and Chance The Rapper, other top-tier artists like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Eminem have yet to release proper solo material (although that should change soon with the recent news of an upcoming album from Slim Shady). Kendrick did release untitled unmastered., though, I think we can all agree a compilation of untitled, unmastered leftovers wasn't destined to see massive mainstream success.
Beyond the absence of releases from some of hip-hop’s most popular artists, the shortage of rap records in the Top 100 could also be due to a perceived lack of quality tunes through the first 10 months of 2016.
The ongoing debate on the inherent quality of mumble rap and it’s similar musical offshoots has been well documented, marking a clear disconnect between the average music listener and the underground. Sure, "Broccoli" (currently the top hip-hop song on Billboard and #36 on Spotify) is fun as hell, but that won't stop a large segment of hip-hop fans from looking elsewhere to find a brand of rap that connects with them on a level beyond just “vibes” or turning up.
Ultimately, the most compelling reason for rap missing in action from Spotify's Top 100 is a redistribution of streaming loyalty. While Spotify remains a free, go-to platform for anyone looking to stream music, both Apple Music and TIDAL have continued to bolster their user bases, mostly on the backs of hip-hop artists who provide them with exclusives, and the end result is a streaming community more divided than ever.
Whatever the reason, the lack of hip-hop in Spotify’s Top 100 is indicative of a disconnect between the mass amounts of music being released and the audiences that music finds.
While this news isn't a cause for alarm, hip-hop’s prevalence in American culture being at an all-time high makes its absence from the current Spotify charts, at the very least, confusing as hell.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.