In January 2019, an album sold 823 copies and still topped the charts. 

Aside from a few novelty headlines, the news didn’t faze mainstream rap listeners; everyone was too busy streaming A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s Hoodie SZN. But the record-breaking moment served as a symbol for one of the most important music storylines of the 2010s: By 2019, every aspect of rap, from the business to the creation of music itself, had been reshaped by the rise of streaming. 

Traditionally static concepts like genre labels, project lengths, and even what counts as an album sale have shifted dramatically in the post-streaming landscape. Independent artists have unprecedented ability to reach audiences without label assistance, and a hot track can turn an unknown into a household name in the span of a few weeks. Young musicians are growing up with a world of music inspirations at their fingertips, and making genre-defying records that would have been considered wildly unconventional a few years ago. Meanwhile, A-list stars have revamped their approaches to align with the new economic and creative realities, and increased numbers of international acts are finally breaking through in the States. 

Most changes in the streaming era have been undeniably positive, but others, particularly those driven by the revamped commercial landscape, are less so. There are new ways to game the charts, resulting in albums that sometimes swell to exhausting lengths; the influx of streaming money into the industry doesn’t always make it into the hands of the musicians themselves; and some of the artists who are thrust into the spotlight from a viral streaming hit don’t have the infrastructure around them to support a lengthy career, so they disappear as quickly as they emerged.

From Kanye West and Drake’s post-release tweaking to the rise of the SoundCloud rap scene, here’s a sweeping look at how streaming shaped the 2010s, and where things might head in the next decade.