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Rap Slips to 28%

Two recent stories in the Wall Street Journal and Billboard on the decline of rap music's overall market share have generated some concern in industry circles. "Last year, its market share through mid-September dipped to 29%. This year, it's 28%," writes Neil Shah in the WSJ story. That's down from a peak of 30% in 2020. Never mind that the genre still commands a larger percentage than the next largest slice, rock, by eight percentage points. "My concern is that the magic is gone," Spotify executive Carl Chery tells Billboard's Insanul Ahmed, adding that there aren't as many "hot prospects" as in years past, thanks to the atomizing effects of streaming and TikTok. To be sure, rap culture is afflicted by innumerable problems, like media outlets more interested in toxic headlines and misinformation than informing their readers, too many musicians murdered in their prime, and the continued marginalization of women, LGBTQ+ and non-binary performers. Given the latter set of issues, mainstream rap's modest slippage in the pop Zeitgeist seems like a low priority.

Two recent stories in the Wall Street Journal and Billboard on the decline of rap music’s overall market share have generated some concern in industry circles. “Last year, its market share through mid-September dipped to 29%. This year, it’s 28%,” writes Neil Shah in the WSJ story. That’s down from a peak of 30% in 2020. Never mind that the genre still commands a larger percentage than the next largest slice, rock, by eight percentage points. “My concern is that the magic is gone,” Spotify executive Carl Chery tells Billboard’s Insanul Ahmed, adding that there aren’t as many “hot prospects” as in years past, thanks to the atomizing effects of streaming and TikTok. To be sure, rap culture is afflicted by innumerable problems, like media outlets more interested in toxic headlines and misinformation than informing their readers, too many musicians murdered in their prime, and the continued marginalization of women, LGBTQ+ and non-binary performers. Given the latter set of issues, mainstream rap’s modest slippage in the pop Zeitgeist seems like a low priority.

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BLU Magazine

Freedom Archives, an online database focused on progressive and radical historical movements, has documentation on BLU magazine, which was published between 1998 and 2001. While most press at the time limited their coverage of politically minded rap to dead prez and Black Star, the New York magazine threaded between overlapping scenes like spoken word and Afro-Cuban sounds, featured interviews with activists like Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt and Yuri Kochiyama, and dedicated issues to the Puerto Rico independence movement and women’s right. Each issue includes a CD from major names like Tony Touch as well as lesser-known acts like Rico Pabon. All together, BLU’s 14 issues depict a complex hip-hop movement that’s often omitted from histories of the period.

Tame One and “Haagen-Dazs”

When Tame One passed away on November 5, obituaries summarily focused on his reputation as a graffiti writer, his longtime participation in 90s duo the Artifacts, his subsequent wanderings in New York’s rap underground and participation in collectives like the Weathermen. Then there’s “Haagen-Dazs,” a track he and Artifacts partner El Da Sensei recorded with Dutch production team The Boulevard Connection for the latter’s highly-regarded Fondle ‘Em 12-inch EP. With its dusty piano loop and sharp turntable cuts by DJ Kaos, the 1998 song captures the essence of an era. El’s “fact not fiction” diction serves as a setup for Tame One’s unconventional flow. “I’m too bugged out to thug out,” he begins, stop-starting between boasts, homage to cannabis, and “talking to God, I feel odd.” True, Tame One was an unusually rare bird.

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