As of: Nov 27, 2017 | Spotify rank: #3 | Chartmetric daily podcast
Like the streaming version of NYC’s Hot 97 radio station or BET’s 106 and Park, Spotify is loudly answering the question: what’s the latest & greatest in rap music?
RapCaviar sits at the #3 position for most followed playlist in the Spotify ecosystem. Outstripped only by Today’s Top Hits (check out our analysis of that playlist here) and Global Top 50, RapCaviar is the hottest genre-specific playlist in the surging field of digital music curation.
At 8.3+ million total followers and growing ~7700 every day, here at Chartmetric we’ve been tracking its statistics since March 2017 and want to share what we’ve learned so far both in our data and from the wider music industry. With over 43% growth over the last 8.5 months (started at 5.7 million), it’s worth the attention.
“If Tuma moves your song down on RapCaviar, your sh*t’s not working too well,” says Atlantic’s Greenwald. — “How a Hit Happens Now” by Vulture’s Craig Marks
Tuma Basa, Spotify’s Global Programming Head of Hip-Hop, is RapCaviar’s eminent gatekeeper. With former programming stints at Sean Combs’ Revolt TV, BET, and MTV, Basa arguably controls who becomes rap’s next superstars with a few clicks from his laptop.
From veterans like Lil Uzi Vert (13 previous playlist appearances) to newcomers like The Diplomats, you can check out this week’s 50 records on our Current Tracks menu. They usually rotate every Friday, but Basa will sometimes switch a handful of tracks during the week as he sees fit. Only 17% of total historical tracks have been placed outside of Friday, the most happening on Monday (44).
One metric to watch is the Position, as on the Spotify platform, one cannot sort by title/artist/album/date added like a normal playlist. This purposeful positioning by Basa, as users typically listen from top to bottom, and Basa rewards the best tracks with the top positions.
Another thing to note is the use of video: while these are not tracked by Chartmetric, it is likely going to play a large role for most of Spotify’s biggest playlists as well (e.g., Viva Latino). As The Verge’s Micah Singleton reports, Spotify is developing each as its own sub-brand, providing the platform with new sources of revenue.
For example, while RapCaviar is about to finish its six-city live concert series in conjunction with Live Nation, it also features editorial content (e.g., currently has a 21 Savage video clip picking out RnB songs with Keith Sweat) and vertical videos optimized for mobile viewing (e.g., Meechie & Toosi: The Race).
RapCaviar’s Hall of Fame
In the 736 historical tracks Chartmetric has collected from RapCaviar, we find familiar faces like Future (22 solo appearances) and list newcomers like breakout star Cardi B (1 solo appearance).
However, these instances are not necessarily track-specific and given the collaborative nature of rap, one easily can find an artist guesting on another’s hit (e.g., A$AP Rocky and Cardi B on G-Eazy’s “No Limit”) or as part of a whole group exchanging verses (e.g., seven distinct artists on August 2017’s “East Coast REMIX”). On top of this, Basa will sometimes remove and replace the same track several times (e.g., Drake’s “Do Not Disturb” placed twice in April 2017 and once in September 2017).
Eleven of the biggest rappers in the game had 10+ playlist appearances since March 2017, and an interesting dynamic we found among them is their “collaboration ratios”. This is simply the number of group appearances divided by the number of solo appearances each artist made on RapCaviar.
While J. Cole is the only rapper to have listed purely solo (17 times), the rest of the elite group (Gucci Mane listed 23 times in collaborations) showed a remarkable willingness to feature with other artists. This is a stark contrast to pop and rock music that only occasionally produces duets. Rap’s crew-oriented approach is a unique genre feature that cross-pollinates each artist’s audience and has likely helped grow its overall community so effectively over the years.
The dominance of the Big Three labels (~70% of all current and past tracks) is well evident in RapCaviar. One of its interesting dynamics is the neck and neck race between Warner Music Group (141 tracks) & Sony Music Group (139 tracks) for #2 most market share of RapCaviar, reflected in the tracks distribution by label groups.
While the corporate giants duke it out, four independent labels make strong showings (eight appearances each): 300 Entertainment, eOne Music, RNG/Empire, and Chance the Rapper. Their stories are varied: from Chance’s infamous independent rise to the 2017 Grammys to Lyor Cohen’s Google-backed 300 Entertainment, it provides evidence of the diverse and vibrant rap community working in the shadows of the majors.
Boom Bap: RapCaviar’s vibe
Spotify’s in-house music analytics team, The Echo Nest, creates Acoustic Characteristics for each track, which we deliver to all Chartmetric clients. They measure the emotional feel in six different metrics. For the current 50 RapCaviar tracks, Echo Nest confirms what we might expect: the songs are energetic, danceable, and mostly studio-produced.
But what might pique curiosity is the other two metrics: beats per minute and valence. BPM for many pop hits lays around 110–120, comfortable yet upbeat. But what we find in RapCaviar’s overall tempo is speed, and lots of it: 17 tracks between 140–160 BPM, with eight at 170+ BPM.
The unique feel of the sped-up Southern trap sound in today’s rap features the “double time” of the synthesized drum beat (with its rapid-fire hi-hats and booming 808 kick drums). With a beat going twice as fast, rappers can slow down and use syncopated triplet phrases (see Vox’s great article on it here) while still being danceable. We now recognize this sound in so much of RapCaviar’s repertoire- any of Migos or Gucci Mane’s work will provide ample evidence- and these BPM statistics show just how influential the sound is currently.
Valence is defined as the “musical positiveness” in the song, and 18 of RapCaviar’s tracks are currently below 50 on Echo Nest’s scale, suggesting negative feelings and emotion in the playlist. We saw this before in a recent evaluation of the Today’s Top Hits playlist.
Is being happy not cool nowadays, or is this more a reflection of the genre? Quite possibly the latter- in the cultural confusion between its rampant commercial success despite trap’s sobering origins from unforgiving city life, the genre hides dark topics like drug use in radio-ready formats. We’ll see how RapCaviar’s vibe will evolve with the times.
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Disclaimer: While best efforts are taken to provide truthful analysis and insight, there may be discrepancies embedded within the data received by Chartmetric.