Rap singles have been on top of the Hot 100 for the past 26 weeks, and hip-hop has been the most consumed genre of music in the U.S. for 18 straight months. But these victories have not been mirrored in the world of Top 40 radio — even Drake, who routinely breaks streaming records, still faces a tough slog over the airwaves. “God’s Plan” had to spend 10 weeks as the Number One hit on the Hot 100 before it became a top 10 record at pop radio, and follow-up single “Nice for What” never made it into pop radio’s top 10 despite eight weeks as the biggest record in the nation.
But Drake appears to have crushed that resistance with his latest single, “In My Feelings.” The key has been a viral dance challenge, which has made the record so ubiquitous across such a wide swath of listeners that pop radio cannot help but throw its considerable weight behind the single: 70 different stations recently added the song into rotation, according to Nielsen. “All of the mediums, regardless of what format, are looking for the thing that everybody’s talking about,” says Terri Thomas, a programming director for The Box, Houston’s mainstream R&B/hip-hop station. “The total virality of it – ‘In My Feelings’ made its way into all aspects of popular culture.”
That’s not easy for a rap record to do. Though streaming takes up the lion’s share of the headlines, radio still reaches corners of the country that streaming does not. Nielsen reported in April that, “on a weekly basis, 93% of all adults tune in to radio, the most of any platform, and radio has 243 million listeners in a given month.” Listeners are still roughly twice as likely to discover new music on the radio as they are on streaming services, according to Nielsen, and in 2017 the pop format still had the largest audience share in the 12 to 17, 18 to 34 and 25 to 54-year-old age brackets. But pop radio doesn’t play much rap.
“Nice for What” enjoyed some Top 40 play, but it didn’t become a mega-hit, despite its soothing, hyper-melodic Lauryn Hill sample and star-studded video. “In My Feelings” can be seen as a companion piece — like “Nice for What,” it’s co-produced by the veteran Blaqnmild, who is presumably partially responsible for the kinetic percussive breakdowns inspired by the New Orleans subgenre known as bounce music. On paper, “In My Feelings” might be considered the less pop-radio friendly of the two singles. The second half of the song includes a melange of staccato samples — Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop;” a famous bounce snippet known as the Triggerman beat — that have a history for rap listeners but no currency at pop radio.
Perhaps that’s why Drake’s team did not promote “In My Feelings” to pop radio at first. Instead, they led with “Don’t Matter to Me,” which features snippets of an unreleased Michael Jackson demo — potential points on the pop radio scorecard – but also comes off as a gloomy, post-break-up tour through a romantic wasteland. Pop programmers respected Drake’s wishes: The week after Scorpion came out, they played “Don’t Matter to Me” 102 times, according to Mediabase, which tracks radio play. They spun “In My Feelings” just once.
This article was original published by: Rolling Stone