By Opheli Garcia Lawler
The “Crossover” artist is what is used to describe the success of an artist outside of his genre of music. Most commonly, this is title is given to rappers who make a song that goes and makes it big on the mainstream pop charts. Drake is probably one of the most popular cases of this happening. His music may as well be considered pop for how often it appears on the Billboard Top 200. Another great example is Fetty Wap who took trap music and turned it into a platinum sound. Ever Future, who before his album DS2 was a niche artist for the most part.
Now, rap seems to be establishing itself in mainstream music, if not taking it over. Even when there aren’t major hits, rappers and their music have become a buzzworthy topic. But examining those who are seen as cross over artists, and those whose fame remains, at least for the most part, within the genre.
Take Kendrick Lamar, who’s album “To Pimp A Butterfly “had record setting sales, and was critically acclaimed by many yet, even the two upbeat songs off the album, “I” and “King Kunta” never made it chart topping hits. J. Cole, with Forest Hills Drive, never had a major mainstream radio single. Vince Staples, with “Summertime ‘06,” gave one of rap’s best break out performances this past year. All three rappers have immense talent, with critically acclaimed work and a strong fan base. So why is this not some of the music played on air, alongside Drake, Future and Fetty Wap?
Some could argue that the mainstream taste just doesn’t cater to rap, and that Drake and the others who have had success like him cater to a mainstream sound, one that can be classified as “Pop” but that leaves a major part of the analysis out. But I think it can also be argued that the content of the music that makes it to the top of Billboard lists, that is ultra popular, and meme’d to near death, is music that is easily digestible.
Much of the content of the album of “TPAB” deals with deep rooted issues in American society. J. Cole addresses similar issues on Forest Hills Drive. It is content that would make those who don’t relate to it uncomfortable, and that is why, despite it being great music, it will never make chart topping singles and number one song on the radio. The only time Kendrick made the number one song on Youtube or on the radio is when he rapped on a Taylor Swift song, and maybe that’s okay for now. Maybe we can be content with simply a space for music with intent is created and consumed. But it would be nice to see a mainstream desire for something more than dance hits and “Bad Blood.”
Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Highlighter Staff Columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org