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Rap music’s popularity in the UK has soared since 2000, industry body says

Keiran Southern
·2 min read
Stormzy
Stormzy is among the British rappers who have contributed to the genre’s success in the UK, the BPI said (Ian West/PA)

The popularity of rap and hip hop music in the UK has soared since the turn of the millennium and accounted for more than a fifth of all singles listened to last year, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has said.

Homegrown stars including S1mba, AJ Tracey, Dave and Headie One have all contributed to the genre’s success, according to the BPI, with each achieving over 50 million plays in the UK in 2020.

The BPI found titles classified as rap and hip hop made up 22% of all singles consumed last year, including streamed tracks, while across albums the market share was 12.2%.

Both figures represent all-time highs for the genre, the BPI, the UK record labels association, said.

Rap and hip hop’s market share is now over six times greater than it was in 2000, according to the BPI’s analysis.

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The BPI started its annual genre analysis in the late 1990s and in the decade’s final year rap and hip hop’s share of the singles market was 3.6%.

Across albums, the genre accounted for 2% of music listened to in 1999.

The popularity of rap and hip hop in the UK has increased for six consecutive years in terms of singles streams and sales, the BPI said.

In 2020, seven of the year’s 21 number one singles were classified as rap and hip hop, including tracks by British superstar Stormzy and US artists Eminem and Cardi B.

Aitch
Rapper Aitch enjoyed a bumper year in 2020 as rap music continued to prove immensely popular in the UK (Ian West/PA)

And, according to the BPI, it was a bumper year for domestic talent.

British stars accounted for just over a third of all rap and hip hop singles listened to in 2020, with songs by Aitch, Tion Wayne, Dutchavelli and DigDat making the UK top 10.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of BPI and the Brit Awards, said: “A glimpse of this year’s Brits nominees shows the extent to which rap and hip hop now occupies music’s centre ground.

“The genre has exploded in recent years, propelled by artists such as Stormzy, Dave and Little Simz, who are creating a new narrative for British music and are leading a rising wave of British talent that is harnessing the power of streaming to achieve chart success.”

The data was taken from the BPI’s recently published All About the Music 2021, the industry annual that evaluates UK music consumption and trends from 2020.

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