|Cultural origins||New York City, late 1980s|
|Alternative hip hop|
Pop-rap (or hip pop) is a genre of music fusing the rhythm-based lyricism of hip hop music with pop music's preference for melodious vocals and catchy tunes, which gained mainstream popularity during the 1990s. The lyrics are often lighthearted, with choruses similar to those heard in pop music. The influences and roots of pop rap trace back to late 1980s hip hop artists, such as Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Beastie Boys.
Origins (late 1980s and 1990s)
In the 1980s, rap artists including Run DMC, Beastie Boys and LL Cool J set up the blueprints and origins of pop-rap as they suddenly broke into the mainstream. LL Cool J has been described as the very first "pop-rapper" in history, when he rose to prominence on his 1985 debut album Radio. When he joined Russell Simmons' Def Jam label and decided to try merging rap with pop and R&B influences, some people were skeptical that it would ever work. MTV has described LL Cool J's 1987 single "I Need Love," as "one of the first pop-rap crossover hits". Later, rap artists such as Tone Loc, Young MC, and Fresh Prince then made songs with lots of party tunes and storytelling abilities as they became very popular. During the 1990s, pop rap began to expand even more as hip hop music also began to connect strongly with dance music and R&B.
On 9 July 1990, Céline Dion released Unison as the second single for her first English-language album of the same name. The track was produced by Andy Goldmark. For the single release, "Unison" was remixed by Kevin Unger. He created four remixes, three of them feature rap by Frankie Fudge, the single was the first song released by a female singer to blend Pop with Hip-Hop and it's credited for introducing hip-hop collaborations into mainstream pop songs. One year after Unison, Tracie Spencer released "This Time Make It Funky" as the third single from her second album named Make the Difference, the song features Spencer singing the song and Sir Spence performing his rap, as stated in the title, the track samples many different hip-hop beats and rhythms as Spencer tells the DJ (Sir Spence) to "drop the bass...and make it funky".
In the early 1990s, MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice broke into the mainstream with songs like "U Can't Touch This" and "Ice Ice Baby". During the 1990s, smash-hit rappers such as MC Hammer caused pop-rap to be "derided (and, occasionally, taken to court) for its willingness to borrow" from well-known hit singles. By the end of the 1990s as rappers fused gangsta rap themes with 1980s pop and soul elements, pop-rap was dominated by many artists. In 1995, Mariah Carey's did a collaboration with ODB with the remix version of Fantasy.
Mainstream success (21st century)
During the early 2000s, pop-rap returned with a whole different style. It then went back into the mainstream with the success of The Black Eyed Peas who had smash singles such as "Where Is the Love?" which came off their Elephunk album. The album charted at number 14 on the American Billboard 200 albums chart and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and has gone on to sell more than 9 million copies worldwide, with 3.2 million in the United States alone. During the late 2000s, pop-rap had many artists such as Drake, Will.i.am, Nicki Minaj and Wiz Khalifa broke into the mainstream. For instance, Drake's Take Care album went at the very top of the Top 40. Also, his So Far Gone EP peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 chart with 73,000 units sold. It dropped in the second week down to number nine, with sales of 36,000, totaling 109,000 copies sold. Despite being an EP, it became the fifth-best-selling rap record of 2009. As of February 2012, the EP has sold 639,000 copies in the US. The EP was certified gold by the RIAA on July 4, 2010 for sales exceeding 500,000. Drake's single "I'm Goin' In" charted and peaked at number 40 the week after the EP was sold. It was later sent to urban radio as the album's third single on October 27, 2009. It managed to be on the Billboard Hot 100 for 17 weeks.
Japanese pop singer Namie Amuro is now recognized as "Queen of Hip-Pop" after releasing a successful album in 2005 using the title "Queen of Hip-Pop". Amuro experimented huge popularity in Japan when she broke into the music business in 1992 but her popularity and album and single sales started to decline in 2000. When Amuro released the singles "Girl Talk/The Speed Star" and "Want Me, Want Me", in 2004, which contains elements of hip hop mixed with pop music, her popularity started to grow up and she started gaining media attention again.
Drake's debut album Thank Me Later peaked at number 16 on the end of the year charts. It then went platinum in the United States. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 447,000 copies. It attained the third-highest first-week sales of 2010 in the United States. It also entered at number one on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Rap Albums chart. In its second week, the album dropped to number two on the Billboard 200 and sold 157,000 copies. It remained at number two and sold 105,000 copies in its third week on the chart. In its fourth week, the album sold 74,000 copies at the same chart position. By January 9, 2011, the album had sold 1,279,500 copies in the United States. As of February 2012, the album has sold 1,551,000 copies in the United States. The album was certified platinum in the United States.
Nicki Minaj also broke into the mainstream with her Pink Friday album, which gained Platinum certification in the United States a month after it was sold. On January 29, 2011, Nicki Minaj appeared on Saturday Night Live as the guest, performing "Right Thru Me" and "Moment 4 Life". On February 9, 2011, Pink Friday reached number one on the Billboard 200 in its eleventh week on the chart. Minaj turned down an offer to become a judge on The X Factor, as rapped on her song "Roman Reloaded", due to its salary.
In August, Nicki Minaj released "Your Love" as the first official single from her debut. The single peaked at 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, 7 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and topped the Rap Songs chart. Nicki Minaj became the first female artist to be included on MTV's Annual Hottest MC List and the first female artist to top the chart unaccompanied since 2002. In October 2010, Minaj became the first female solo artist to have seven songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart simultaneously. She released two singles in September 2010; one a joint single with The Black Eyed Peas frontman, will.i.am titled, "Check It Out," and the other "Right Thru Me." The music videos for both were released in late October. "Moment 4 Life" was released as the fourth single on December 7, 2010, featuring Drake, becoming a success on the Billboard Hot 100. The single peaked at number 5 on the Hot Rap Songs.
Another woman who has established shortly after Minaj at a popular level into pop-rap was DEV, who was initially affiliated to the group The Cataracs as the main vocalist, and topped the American charts with the Far East Movement single "Like A G6" and then gained focus in 2011 with her solo singles "Bass Down Low" and viral "In The Dark". She introduced a new wave hip-hop style which incorporates various elements of futuristic electronica, swag talking and gynoid talking.
With his first major label single, "Black and Yellow", Wiz Khalifa had significant commercial success in the US, peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and also peaking in the top ten of the Canadian singles charts. The song was later certified triple platinum by the RIAA for digital download shipments exceeding 3 million copies. "Black and Yellow" appeared on Khalifa's first studio album for Atlantic (and third overall), Rolling Papers, which peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the RIAA. Three further singles from Rolling Papers, "Roll Up", "On My Level" – a collaboration with fellow rapper Too Short – and "No Sleep" also charted in the United States. In 2011, Khalifa recorded many collaborations with other artists that proved to be commercially successful, including "5 O'Clock" with T-Pain and Lily Allen, and "Young, Wild & Free" with Snoop Dogg. Both of these songs reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.
In 2012, Wiz Khalifa's fourth studio album, O.N.I.F.C., was preceded by the release of the singles "Work Hard, Play Hard" and "Remember You", which both charted in the top 75 of the Billboard Hot 100. Following the release of "Work Hard, Play Hard", Wiz Khalifa collaborated with Maroon 5 on the single "Payphone", which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Following its release in the United States, O.N.I.F.C. charted at number two on the Billboard 200 and topped both the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Top Rap Albums charts. In 2013, Drake released his album Nothing Was the Same, an album that was certified 3x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. In 2014, Iggy Azalea became popular with her song "Fancy", which peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified 7x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Azalea's song "Black Widow" peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified 3x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's song "See You Again" peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. "See You Again" was certified 6x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Allmusic describes pop-rap as "a marriage of hip-hop beats and raps with strong melodic hooks, which are usually featured as part of the chorus section in a standard pop-song structure". Pop rap also tends to have less aggressive lyrics than street-level rap music. However, some artists from the 1990s fused pop-rap with a more aggressive attitude to defuse backlash on their own accessibility. Music journalist Wilson McBee strongly criticized pop-rap music and rejected it as hip hop music and described it by saying "A pop rapper is assumed to be a sellout -- someone who has compromised artistic principles in order to fit commercial expectations. Or worse, it’s someone who never had any artistic principles to begin with, who’s guilty of bastardizing rap’s social and political traditions just to make money." McBee also then went on saying "In labeling the likes of Flo Rida and others pop rappers, we blur the distinction between a “pop rapper” and a rapper who is just really popular. Not every rapper who has a hit is automatically a sellout or deserving of the pop rap tag." While some rappers from the 1990s with catchy hooks have been compared to pop music, McBee also said
Pop-rap lyrics often have lyrical content similar to that in pop music with themes such as love and relationships.
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