This week, British rappers Dave and Fredo are on the verge of ushering in a new dawn for rap music in the UK with their collab single, "Funky Friday", set to land high on the charts.
Riding a tidal wave of streams, at present (according to midweek returns) it appears they're now vying for the top spot of this week's official singles chart, attempting to dethrone mainstays Sam Smith and Calvin Harris. As noted upon release last Friday—similar to Dave's AJ Tracey-featuring number "Thiago Silva"—the lack of chorus and structure on "Funky Friday" (co-producer, 169, says a hook was created out of Dave's verse intro) suggests this one to be a warm-up for more structured offerings to follow. In a matter of days, that the suggestion is obsolete in less than a week highlights the impact and changes undergoing our previously held ideas about the campaigns and impact of rap music.
Still within its first week, the independently-released single now approaches 4 million Spotify plays, whilst the visual (co-directed by Dave) has been viewed nearly 3 million times. Huge for several reasons, "Funky Friday" could also now become the first chart-topper since "Animals" by Martin Garrix in Nov. 2013, without a set-out chorus. As an instrumental EDM track—with entirely different composition rules—the radio-friendly elements of the melody and structure of "Animals" separates it greatly from the slang-laden, bouncy, back-to-back verses from the two London rappers.
Impacting the charts like a meteor, 2014 finally saw streaming data included in the official figures. After tweaks to conversation rates and recordings, earlier this year the charts switched up again, to include YouTube video streams, with The Official Charts' chief exec, Martin Talbot, saying: "The way that music fans are consuming music is changing by the month."
Not only an unclear time for the consumption of music, the way musicians commit to market is changing and assessing the landscape; in some ways, we still appear to be on trial and error. This summer, we saw Nicki Minaj retroactively insert platinum-selling single "FEFE", the 6ix9ine track she features on, to digital versions of her album Queen, aiming to capitalise on its sudden streaming impact. The same could be said for Kanye West, who has currently put his forthcoming album, Yandhi, on pause, supposedly to greater leverage the success of Lil Pump collab "I Love It"—his biggest hit since 2015. It's highly unlikely we'll do away with traditional song composition on account of all this (playlists, radio and sync slots still revolve around a hook-based economy) but in short time, the progressivist nature of streaming and its impact has already been felt across the UK charts.
Prior to 2018, lists of best rap tracks without choruses would bring you a list of fire intros, deep cuts and the odd freestyle; but in ten years' time, an update will no doubt include chart-toppers, award-winners, and record-breaking releases. Had such radical change been a reality much earlier, British rap anthems of yesteryear—like "Gash By Da Hour", Talking Da Hardest", "Touch Ah Button"—would most certainly have had their popularity more accurately reflected and weighed.
As the Migos picked up the award for Best Group in the Pop/Rock categories at the AMAs this week, restarting the debate of whether rap is pop (it is, and has been for a while), more interesting developments were afoot concerning the place of traditional pop in the streaming era. K-Pop group BTS' world tour rolled into London this month, selling out consecutive nights at the O2 Arena, off the back of over one billion streams for their Love Yourself LP. "Funky Friday"'s placing in the top spot come Friday evening (October 12) would further rubber-stamp the sweeping democratic changes streaming has introduced all over the globe.