A Transformative Decade
Hip Hop has recently seen one of its most transformative decades where gender and sexuality are concerned, with Lil Nas X coming out as gay in 2019, Young Thug’s controversially gender-bending “Jeffery” mixtape cover art, and the absolute chart domination of both Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion with global sensations “WAP” and “Body”, among numerous others.
But beyond the thin and sensational veneer of the press, what can an analysis of the Global Spotify Top 200 charts tell us about the state of gender representation in Hip Hop at the very top?
From July 2019 to July 2021, there were a total of 104 Weekly Global Spotify Top 200 Charts, which featured 200 songs each, for a total of 20800 songs.
Of these songs, just 1806 were unique (everything else was a repeat/duplicate).
We tagged all of these with Musiio’s Tag API. Every song received between 1-4 individual Genre tags. For this study, we isolated songs that received the Hip Hop tag.
We found that 753 songs, or 41.7% of the whole set, received the Hip Hop tag, either in isolation or in combination with other Genre tags. From this point onward, we used our Vocal Gender classifier to analyze the songs in this set to determine the representation of voice types.
A caveat – our Vocal Gender classifier may occasionally classify a Male-identifying singer as Female and vice versa. It does this because the classifier (which is trained on massive datasets) most likely classifies voices based on timbral and range characteristics that are historically more closely associated with one gender or another.
Hip Hop Songs In 2019 to 2021 Were Overwhelmingly Male
Out of 753 Top 200 songs that received Hip Hop tags, 593 songs were tagged as being Male-only, in comparison to 31 songs that were tagged as being Female-only. Female-only songs represented just 4% of the whole Genre. It is important to note that this may not be representative of the whole Hip Hop world, just the chart-toppers.
Male-Only Hip Hop Songs Received More Streams On Average
Male-only Hip Hop songs in the Top 200 charts received 22% more streams than Female-only songs on average. While Mixed Vocal Gender songs performed slightly better than Female-only songs, they still trailed significantly behind Male-only songs.
A Glimmer Of Hope
To compare “billboard numbers” with songs that received more organic reach, we ran a similar analysis on 5200 songs from 104 weeks of Spotify Viral 50 songs from 2019-2021 and found that 1529 of them were unique. Of these, 541 songs received the Hip Hop tag.
We compared the Vocal Gender distribution of this set with the Top 200 and found the following:
Proportionally speaking, Viral music in the same time period had proportionally twice as many Female-only vocal songs than the Top 200 set. There was also a greater percentage of Mixed-vocal songs. Viral Male-only songs, however, showed a ~5.5% proportional drop in representation compared to the Top 200 charts.
This shows Vocal Gender representation is very slightly more equal in Viral songs than in Top 200 songs.
While great strides have been made in the last decade, this study shows that charting Hip Hop songs continue to be overwhelmingly male, and that Male-only vocals tend to receive more streams on average in comparison with the alternatives. This suggests that Hip Hop continues to be a man’s game – an unsurprising conclusion.
However, the fact that Female-only vocals are more than twice as proportionally represented in Viral music suggests that there may be an underlying trend pointing to increased opportunities for Female Hip Hop artists in the future.
I am a composer and run a small distributed music, voice, and audio production team comprised of experts in 3 countries. I have a deep interest in startups, business, venture capital, networking, and learning about new ideas. I love meeting founders, angels, and people in VC and private equity to talk shop and connect people that need each other. I've Served clients and brands including Ubisoft, Garena (SEA), IGG Games, Hogarth Worldwide, We Are Social, Moving Bits, Playstudios, Ferrero, Samsung, GSK, Pernod Ricard, Pan Pacific Hotels etc. I’ve also worked with Wang Leehom, Joanna Dong, Derrick Hoh, Luke Slott, and a number of other artists. Founded and ran a professional orchestra in Boston for 5 years.