The terms “rap” and “hip-hop” are often used interchangeably, which is misleading. Writer Shaka Shaw of Ebony credited disk jockey Afrika Bambaataa with using the term hip-hop in the 1980s “to describe the culture that [rap] belonged within.” Other aspects of hip-hop culture at the time were breakdancing, DJing and graffiti. Rap is the type of music that is made within the culture and it has many different subgenres.
“Pop” is hard to define. Some people think it is the music that is being played on Top 40 radio stations. By this definition, Post Malone’s song
“Better Now” would be considered a pop song because of its heavy radio play—but Malone is a hip-hop artist.
The New World Encyclopedia defines pop as “commercially recorded music with the goal of having mass audience appeal,” so “its style changes significantly depending on the time and place.” The Beatles, Madonna and Ariana Grande all have a different sound—Grande is influenced by hip-hop to a degree—but each artist is “pop” for their era.
Rap doesn’t follow the pop formula but it is dominating the mainstream. When hip-hop artist Drake released his 2018 song “God’s Plan,” it received 4.3 million plays on Spotify and 14 million on Apple Music in the first 24 hours. The song broke records for the most-streamed song in a single day on both streaming services, taking the title from pop star Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.”
Rap also took over the 2018 Billboard charts. Of the year’s Top Artists, four of the top 10 were rappers, with Drake in first and Post Malone in second. Cardi B was rated the Top New Artist. Five of the top 10 Hot 100 Songs were rap and “God’s Plan” took top honors. Drake also claimed ninth place with his pop culture sensation “In My Feelings.” In a viral video, comedian Shiggy jumped out of a moving car and danced to the song in the road. Thousands of people recreated the video—the Washington Post said the hashtag #InMyFeelingsChallenge was used more than 400,000 times on Instagram. People risked their lives to show their love for Drake’s music.
Rap music has also been winning major awards. Kendrick Lamar was named the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his album “DAMN.” He is the first rapper to ever win a Pulitzer, and “DAMN.” is the first non-classical or jazz work to win the prize. Maeve McDermott of USA Today praised Lamar for his ability to “meditate on relationships with his family, community and newfound fame” on the album. Some classical musicians dismissed Lamar’s win but it was otherwise accepted.
Another highlight of the night was Drake’s acceptance speech when he won Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan.” He has been famously snubbed for awards in the past so it was a shock that he came to the Grammys at all. Onstage, he criticized awards shows, saying “You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word, if you are a hero in your hometown.” He continued but his speech was cut off before he could go too far. A Grammys representative told Variety this was unintentional.
Drake would probably agree with DJ Khaled, who said “They don’t want you to win.” But that is exactly what rap is doing. Keep an eye out as it dominates charts and awards shows—even if it doesn’t always win the right ones. Someday it could be everyone’s favorite genre.