Since its inception in the South Bronx, hip-hop has always been a genre very closely tied to location. New York rap prides itself in intricate lyricism. L.A. is the birthplace of gangsta rap and more funk-influenced hip-hop, while Chicago is the home of drill. Houston comes chopped and screwed, and Atlanta — the recent hotbed of the genre — opts for club-ready trap.
But in the streaming era, when hip-hop reigns as the most popular genre for the first time and, arguably, anyone could upload a song and see that song on the Billboard Hot 100, many have asked if the regional aspects of hip-hop may become a thing of the past.
Kevin Liles, CEO and cofounder of 300 entertainment, thinks hip-hop will always be, at its core, a regional genre, but it’s inevitably entering a new era. One of the reasons Liles says hip-hop was so regional at the beginning was because “we [hip-hop] were not wanted.” Now, it’s the most voraciously consumed genre.
Looking at geographic data from Next Big Sound, a music analytics company owned by Pandora, it seems that this definitely holds true. While there are a number of new rappers who have little to no ties to the places they come from — particularly those who find viral success uploading their music to streaming services independently — there are still rappers new and old whose home cities drive a majority of their fanbase. In other words, while there are some notable exceptions, regionality isn’t dead and gone quite yet. Note, we’re only looking at regionality from a data standpoint, rather than a sonic one. Even if Kendrick Lamar doesn’t overindex heavily in southern California anymore, his music is still very linked to Compton.
You’re probably thinking, well the bigger the artist, the less regional they are, right? The more nationwide success they have, the less of a tie they have to their hometown? In many cases— like Kendrick Lamar or Kanye West— yes, but that’s not always the case. For example, the Detroit area still adds proportionally more artist stations for Eminem than other areas of the country. Lil Wayne, too, sees more activity in the south, near his hometown of New Orleans, than in any other part of the country.
“At 300 we never want to forget the home base, we never want to forget the core,” he said. “The internet’s not taking the Brooklyn out of Jay-Z just like you can’t take the Detroit out of Tee Grizzley.” The data holds up: Even though Jay-Z is a global star, he still highly overindexes in New York. And Tee Grizzley? We’ll get to him.
Featured Image: AP Photo/File
Inset Image: Forbes