Hip-Hop Passes Rock As the Most Popular Genre in the U.S

The Nielsen numbers are in, and hip-hop and R&B now make up just over a quarter of America's music consumption.

Jay Z

Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated

Jay Z

When it comes to mid-term lists, Nielsen Music’s reports are the most comprehensive measures of audio consumption in the United States. Breaking down everything from streaming’s steady growth to the top songs per quarter, the report’s most notable finding is that for the first time in Nielsen’s history, hip-hop and R&B have overtaken rock as the most consumed genre in the country.

Hip-hop and R&B come in at 25.1%, while Rock now only comprises 23% of America’s listening habits. We’re talking total song consumption here (or “digital song sales with streaming equivalent on-demand audio”) because rock albums purchases still make up over 40% of album sales in the US.

Physicals aside, these numbers should not come as a surprise to anyone when we look at Nielsen’s top tracks of the mid-year: “The top streaming on-demand song (audio and video combined) is Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You,’ followed by Migos’ (feat. Lil Uzi Vert) ‘Bad and Boujee’ and Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee’s (feat. Justin Bieber) ‘Despacito.’”

Nielsen notes that “on-demand audio streams have reached over 184 billion streams so far in 2017, a considerable 62.4% increase over the same time period in 2016.” Pair that with the aforementioned top streaming songs all having a direct connection to hip-hop and R&B, and everything seamlessly comes together for the tides to change in hip-hop’s direction.

Other victories for hip-hop include a mention that “Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. is the leading album in total volume this year with total activity of more than 1.77 million units (albums, track equivalent albums and audio on-demand streaming equivalent albums combined)” and Drake’s More Life moved 1.69 million units. Following his big win at the Grammy’s, “Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book led all album on-demand streams with a unit increase of over 15 million.”

The full Nielsen Music Report can be downloaded here.