Even for those that aren’t immersed in hip-hop culture, 2016 was a year in which the genre's prevalence and influence could not be denied.
You didn’t have to be sitting on the computer scrolling through blogs like this one to see Kendrick Lamar or Chance The Rapper meeting the president, and you didn’t even need to be searching the world wide web to witness hip-hop’s ubiquity across entertainment platforms.
Movies, television, social media—they all benefitted exceptionally from hip-hop culture in 2016 on some level, yet despite its omnipresence, the commercial numbers didn't add up to an elite total.
Of the 75 singles released in 2016 that were certified Gold, Platinum or multi-Platinum by the RIAA, genuine hip-hop singles were only responsible for 11 Platinum or multi-Platinum awards.
So, despite the fact that you virtually cannot exist in everyday society without being aware of hip-hop’s influence, less than 15% of the awards given to exceptionally distributed songs this past year came from that same genre. Here is the complete list of hip-hop singles that were certified Platinum or multi-Platinum:
Desiigner - "Panda" (4x)
Drake - "One Dance" ft. WizKid & Kyla (4x)
D.R.A.M. - "Broccoli" ft. Lil Yachty (2x)
Future - "Low Life" ft. The Weeknd (2x)
21 Savage & Metro Boomin - "X ft. Future" (1)
DJ Khaled - "For Free" ft. Drake (1)
DJ Khaled - "I Got The Keys" ft. Jay Z & Future (1)
Fat Joe & Remy Ma - "All The Way Up" ft. French Montana & Infrared (1)
Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa & Imagine Dragons - "Sucker For Pain" ft. Logic, Ty Dolla Sign & X Ambassadors (1)
Madeintyo - "Uber Everywhere" (1)
Rob $tone - "Chill Bill" (1)
This is, of course, excluding the Bryson Tillers, The Weeknds and, oddly enough, Zayns of the world (what?) that were either given misappropriated genre placements or had their R&B efforts combined with hip-hop due to an ill-defined classification system.
What we’re witnessing is a shocking absence in line with what we recently saw in Spotify’s Top 100 listings, but on a much larger scale, it speaks to a massive disconnect between hip-hop’s relevance and its commercial success.
An attempted explanation as to why this disconnect is occurring would most likely take an absurdly detailed investigation, but the fact of the matter remains that it exists, and we’ve yet to see what that will mean for hip-hop as a commercialized art form. This isn't a Chicken Little moment, the sky isn't falling, but what gives?
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.