by Quinton Ligad
Pop music changes with every generation. For our grandparents it was Elvis, for our parents it was Madonna, and for us it’s Ariana Grande. Whether it be rock and roll or boy bands, or both in the Beatles’ case, pop music is constantly changing. Today the “Now That’s What I Call Music” CDs represent modern pop music. Each album is packed with hits from the world’s biggest pop stars from the past 20 years but now more and more rappers have started to find places on not only these compilation albums. But it doesn’t stop these. Hip-hop artists are finding themselves alongside a lot of their pop counterparts on the hot 100 charts, on radio stations, and on stage at award shows. Hip-hop has quickly risen to become the most popular genre in America and as a result pop stars are trying to piggyback off this success. Every established pop singer has a guest feature from the top rappers and the rest have Pharrell produce their album. Pop music is shifting towards hip-hop but it is not hip-hop artists who are leading the charge.
Hip-hop has found its way onto every music library in the world influencing millions of people along the way. Rap is bigger today than it ever has been making artists like Drake and Kanye West as big as any other pop star alive. Rappers have all the big accolades that any true pop star should have: diamond plaques, sold out arenas, fans climbing over each other for a picture. Hip-hop is the most popular music of today and with popularity comes commercialization. Rappers are in every other commercial, their songs in every ad, and their faces on every major magazine. These big companies and labels see the cultural shift that is happening and they are trying to find a way to cash in while it’s hot. And when one person wants in everyone wants in. Now established pop stars are using rappers and hip-hop producers in their music in order to appeal to the audiences that they have started to lose. Singers like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift consistently use rappers as featured artists using their fame to make themselves look diverse and transformative. It isn’t anything new for an artist to shift their sound as they grow older or become bored with their old sound but it rarely is as drastic as what we have seen with pop and for so many pop stars to all change their sounds and start using rappers in their songs all at the same time seems too much of a coincidence.
Like any shift in pop music it is started with a marginalized people or small time band and then it was taken by some studio and given to their established star to profit from. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone though, white musicians have been using black music to maintain their popularity for generations. Acts like Elvis Presley and producers like Phil Spector have used black music and black musicians to make themselves successful in turn hurting the people they were stealing from. Though today things are not as malicious but the act is the same. White musicians are stealing the sound of hip-hop to keep their relevance. They cut a check to these rappers to add a new wrinkle to their discography and once they profit they move on to the next big name.