Ten years ago, rappers 50 Cent and Nelly were topping the charts alongside pop icons like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Hip hop and pop music were thriving, and while the two genres commonly had singles dominating Billboard’s Top 100 separately, some of the leading artists were blending their sounds to create fresh, “urban meets suburban” collaborations.
Jennifer Lopez rose to fame as a pop artist collaborating with various rappers. Who could forget the 2002 hits “All I Have” featuring LL Cool J or “Jenny From the Block” featuring Styles and Jadakiss? Britney Spears and ‘N Sync reached pop eminence and released songs like “I got That Boom Boom” featuring The Ying Yang Twins and “Girlfriend” featuring Nelly in the early 2000s.
Fast forward to 2013 and it’s undeniable that hip hop and pop music have only grown in popularity. Both genres still have singles that flood the charts, but the prevalence of collaborations with some of the biggest names in these two categories of music is something the industry can’t miss.
Whether they are criticizing or praising her, Miley Cyrus and her eccentric behavior seem to have everyone talking about her lately. Cyrus’ latest album, “Bangerz”, peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 since its October 4 release and sold 270,000 copies in its first week, according to Billboard.com. Billboard also reports that “Bangerz” has snagged the artist “the year’s largest sales week for a solo woman, and the second-largest for a pop album.” Miley’s music has noticeably taken on a more urban, hip-hop influence. “Bangerz” is loaded with rappers featuring Nelly, Big Sean, Future, French Montana and Ludacris and was executively produced by hit-maker Mike WiLL Made It. Miley is just one of pop’s front-runners on this trend.
Katy Perry released her third album, “Prism”, last week on Oct. 23. The album’s only featured artist, Juicy J, lends a verse to the promoted single “Dark House.” Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia is known for trap music and having helped grow the genre’s popularity. The song makes for a perfect fusion of pop and trap music as Perry sings softly over its base-heavy, 808 beat and snaps.
While she’s never one to shy away from standing out from the crowd with her music and persona, Lady Gaga appears to be giving the people what they want too. Her upcoming album, “ARTPOP”, is scheduled for release on Nov. 11 and voted the most anticipated album of 2013 in Billboard’s 2012 Readers Poll. Much like her prevailing pop-star peers, Gaga’s album has some notable rap features. The album’s second single “Do What U Want” was released last week on Oct. 21 and features the soulful skills of R. Kelly. While the song has more of an R&B vibe, fans can also look forward to a track on the album called “Jewels N’ Drugs” that features T.I, Too $hort and Twista.
It’s not just female artists that are perpetuating the trend, Justin Beiber is currently one of the biggest pop sensations, and seems to be in search of swag in the past year. His latest album, “Believe”, dropped last year with songs featuring Big Sean, Drake and Nicki Minaj. He recently released a single with Tyga, “Wait a minute”, and was featured on the Bei Major single “Lolly” with Juicy J.
Urban hip hop and rap is catering to a new mainstream audience. The genres have noticbly become heavily integrated with pop music to broaden their mainstream popularity. Much of the current mainstream audience has grown up with more relatable rap music. In it’s early years, rap music had groups like Public Enemy producing music that blatantly referenced racism like “Fight the Power.” Now, rap consistantly promotes lavish lifestyles and partying that the white audience can relate to and embrace. Cyrus is a prime example of this, being a 20 year old pop star singing recent lyrics like “In the club, high on purp, with some Js on”
By no means is the collaboration of hip hop and pop artists something new, it’s a promotional strategy that’s been done for years and creates an avenue for great, new music. However, we are definitely experiencing a current trend where these collaborations are ubiquitous with many of the music industry’s leading pop artists.