While fools were arguing over who was the king of NYC last year, black artists were no where to be seen at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts for the first time since the company began charting top 40 singles in 1958. “How is this possible?” You may ask. Jay Z, Kanye West, Beyoncé, Pusha T and Drake all dropped albums in 2013 but none of them were able to get a top single. Furthermore, of the 52 weeks in a year, white artists were on top of the R&B and hip hop charts for 44 of them and blue eyed soul reigned supreme.
Is this what post-racial America looks like? Muthafuckas never loved us? Remember? But they always loved our music, and now we don’t even have that anymore. What’s next? An all white NBA draft?
But seriously, is this the future of hip hop and R&B? Will it soon be as white-washed as rock ‘n’ roll or punk? As, Keli Goff, author and commentator for The Daily Beast and The Root, explains “It almost reminds me of the ’50s and ’60s when you had a lot of music that was being made by white artists and being popularized by them but it was coming from black artists. It’s much easier to sell a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, an Eminem, a Justin Timberlake, to mainstream audiences than it is to sell a Jay Z. It is still a preferred feeling in mainstream pop culture that if we can find an attractive white act to do it, why not?”
Is Justin Timberlake the new Elvis? Do kids these days even know about Chuck Berry and Bad Brains? Will our kids know Afrika Bambaataa and Run DMC? Is hip hop as we know it DEAD??
Probably not, but here are some rational explanations:
Pop chart analyst and Slate writer, Chris Molanphy says the problem arose when Billboard started using digital sales to compile its charts; “What’s happened is, whether it’s radio, whether it’s iTunes — there’s now a lot of data feeding into the Hot 100…. The charts of ten years ago when Outkast was No. 1 — iTunes was not a factor in the charts yet because it was brand new. There was no YouTube — it literally didn’t exist — and so this great feedback loop we used to have where we had crossover from the R&B charts to the pop charts has kind of gotten swamped.” As Molanphy points out, “It’s a huge pendulum swing in less than a decade: In 2004, literally every song that topped the Hot 100 was by a person of color. This year, black artists had only featured roles.”
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