Hip-hop is one of the world's most popular genres, a style of music that's been on the rise since its inception in the 1970s. In fact, back in 2017, hip-hop and R&B collectively surpassed rock music as the most popular music genres in the United States, and their dominance on streaming platforms has seemingly held fast ever since.
This makes it all the more surprising that 2023 is the first year since 1993 that hip-hop has yet to yield a No 1 song or album in the first half of the year. Billboard reports that as we reach 2023's midpoint, not a single hip-hop artist has topped the Billboard Hot 100 or the Billboard 200 albums chart, while only six hip-hop singles have broken into the top ten.
By this point in 2022, however, six different rappers had released No 1 albums: Gunna, Pusha T, Future, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Durk and Tyler, The Creator all hit the top spot in the first half of last year, while Jack Harlow, Future and Drake topped the Hot 100 with tracks like First Class and Wait For U.
So what's behind hip-hop's failure to take the crown in 2023? Is this the beginning of the end for a genre that's been on a decades-long commercial hot streak and celebrates its 50th birthday this year? Before we declare that hip-hop's dead, we should probably note that despite its failure to reach No 1, the genre's overall sales have remained strong this year and are actually up by 6.3% compared to the first half of 2022.
Hip-hop is gradually losing its primacy in terms of market share, though: R&B and hip-hop collectively accounted for 26% of the US market in 2023 so far, a figure that's down 1.8% from the same figures in June 2022. Though it's a small dip, it's a telling one, as both country music and Latin music have made significant gains this year, suggesting that they might be on track to supersede hip-hop and R&B in the years to come.
Billboard speculates that hip-hop's apparent decline could be due to a number of factors. The genre's biggest names have opted not to release albums this year, after a strong showing in 2022, while the charts as a whole have remained stagnant thanks to the dominance of a select few releases. Miley Cyrus' Flowers and Morgan Wallen's Last Night have both enjoyed lengthy runs at the top of the Hot 100, nixing anyone else's chances of reaching No 1.
Is hip-hop on the way out? Frankly, it's too early to tell. But as Latin music, EDM and country continue to captivate international audiences and generate increasing numbers of sales and streams, something may have to give, and hip-hop artists will be compelled to adapt or fall behind.