Hip Hop Livin’ Large

Posted on: 02/17/09 10:39 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Eminem, Kanye West, T-Pain, Beyonce, Flo Rida, T.I., Lil Wayne… these artist all know what #1 tastes like, and they all continue to dominate the top of the charts.

In my youth culture section of my seminars some youth workers seem surprised when I report the fact that Hip Hop and R&B are the most popular music choice of today’s generation over all. In my Getting Students to Show Up book, I revealed the results of a 2005 Kaiser study (among 7th to 12th graders who listen to recorded music in a typical day) where Hip Hop/Rap was not only the #1 music category (65 %), but it attracted more than twice the number of the second place category, Alternative rock (32 percent)(Kaiser report, page 29).

I was looking at the music charts today and we still see that trend, despite the speckles of rock and alternative that have maintained a strong second (with country hanging in there, thanks especially to youngins like Taylor Swift who often have a song in the top 10).

Today the #1 downloaded iTunes song is from Flo Rida, the rapper who had the number one dowloaded song of last year, also Billboard’s Hot 100 #1 song of last year. His new #1 song is Right Round (with a chorus that many of us who grew up in the 80’s will recognize).

Seven of the ten top 10 songs on iTunes right now would be in the Hip Hop/rap/R&B category.

Billboard’s Top 100 tells a similar story, with Eminem, Dr. Dre & 50 Cent riding #1 with their explicit song Crack a Bottle (#2 on iTunes right now). Sadly, when kids go to download this one on iTunes they’ll be downloading not only curse words, but the typical foul raunch that Eminem usually offers (along with some of the greatest beats ever made- thank you Dr. Dre. If we could only get this guy to lay down some beats for some clean music).

Billboard’s Hot 100 only has five of their top 10 songs in the in the Hip Hop/rap/R&B category (granted, it’s the #1, 2, 3, 5 and 9 slot), with the other five divided from different genres, from pop (Kelly Clarkson’s My Life Would Suck Without You), Alternative (The All-American Rejects’ song Gives You Hell), Country’s Taylor Swift, as well as the very melodic sound of Jason Mraz and The Fray.

A click at Billboard’s entire Hot 100 list reveals a majority of the top 11-50 in the in the Hip Hop/rap/R&B category.

The grammys gave us a glimpse of this, with Lil Wayne not only nominated for the most awards, but taking home four awards for his “art.” (sigh)

A lot of us might be concerned about the explicit and highly sexualized content in most of Hip Hop/rap/R&B music (we’ve talked about this in past Youth Culture Window articles). I agree. But that doesn’t mean denying the facts. I’ve literally had youth workers angry at me for reporting these facts. “My kids listen to rock! I don’t care what those stats say!”


Yes, classic rock is definitely coming back thanks to the number one video game at the moment, Guitar Hero. But rock, alternative and country are still just riding the coat tails of the hip hop industry. Like it or not… the genre is still dominating.

3 Replies to “Hip Hop Livin’ Large”

  1. Although I agree hip hop has some inappropriate lyrics it is not to say alternative, county or even classic rock has clean lyrics.

  2. JJ- I totally agree. Even the classic rock that’s coming back into style, thanks to Guitar Hero, isn’t exactly clean stuff. (ACDC, Guns and Roses… not exactly Altar Boys)

    But click on the last link in the blog above… the link to the Youth Culture Window article David wrote about Hip Hop content… it’s amazing how much more “per capita.” Sadly, Hip Hop excels at being vile.

  3. If youth workers are saying their kids are not listening to hip hop they are not paying attention, it’s what 90% of radio is.

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