Last September, TikTok announced it had collaborated with Billboard to launch its first-ever Top 50 Chart, and Sexyy Red had debuted at No. 1. The announcement confirmed what many saw as inevitable: TikTok was taking over the music industry. Prior to the Billboard TikTok 50 chart, songs from rappers were blowing up on the app, leading to chart domination. Now, as the U.S. House of Representatives gives the Chinese-based app six months to find a U.S. buyer or face stateside exile, it remains to be seen what impact this will have on the music industry as a whole. The conversation around whether or not it will affect hip-hop is ongoing, especially rappers who rely on the platform to share their music. Will hip-hop survive without TikTok if it gets banned? Of course it will.

When Billboard debuted its TikTok Billboard Top 50 in 2023, rap was having far from a stellar year on the more traditional Billboard charts. The first rap-related entry on the Billboard 200 was Lil Uzi Vert's Pink Tape last July, followed by Jungkook's song "Seven" featuring Latto that hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 in the same month. Doja Cat's "Paint The Town Red" emerged as the first solo No. 1 rap track of the year, but didn't hit that spot until September. Meanwhile, on the app, the genre was actually thriving.

Rappers Take Over Billboard TikTok Chart

Sexyy Redd claimed the first-ever No. 1 spot on the TikTok Billboard Top 50 chart with her smash hit "SkeeYee." Doja followed close behind at No. 2 with "Paint The Town Red." Sexyy also appeared two more times in the top 50, with her songs "Looking For The H*es (Ain't My Fault)" and "Mad At Me" debuting at No. 19 and No. 50, respectively.

Elsewhere, Ice Spice's "Deli" and NLE Choppa's "It's Getting Hot" also debuted in the chart's top 10 and No. 6 and No. 8. While Charlie Wilson's "I'm Blessed" featuring T.I. additionally debuted at No. 9, Young Thug and Drake's "Oh U Went" debuted at No. 14 and Young Nudy's "Peaches & Eggplant" featuring 21 Savage debuted at No. 16. Gunna, Tee Grizzley, Kaliiii, Toosii, Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj and J. Cole also debuted within the top 50.

That trend has so far continued into March of 2024. Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign's "Carnival" comfortably sits at No. 1, 21 Savage's "Redrum" is at No. 8, Bossman Dlow's "Get In With Me" is at No. 10. Elsewhere, Jack Harlow, Flo Milli, Rich Amiri, Dej Loaf, G-Eazy and 4Batz are just a few of the rappers scattered throughout the top 50.

Read More: Sexyy Red Admits She's Shocked By Her Success

TikTok's Relationship With Hip-Hop

It's impossible to ignore TikTok's star-making power, as the app has kickstarted the careers of dozens of rappers such as Sexyy Red, Lil Nas X and Armani White. There are a few reasons for this, one of which is that a 2021 study by MRC Data showed 64 percent of the reported app's user base were teenagers, who historically have always been more hungry for new trendy music than adults. Additionally, a behavioral poll conducted by Midia Research in 2021 showed that 40 percent of active TikTok users had a monthly paid subscription service for music, compared to just 25 percent of the general population. This means it was much more likely for a TikTok fan to switch to their streaming platform of choice and stream a new track discovered on the app.

But as time has gone on, artists have criticized major labels for funneling TikTok's star power to their clients and choking off indie success.

"If a song is going viral on TikTok, and the artist is unsigned, and as a result, it’s getting a million streams on Spotify, the labels are scrambling to sign that song or that artist,” Tatiana Cirisano, a music industry analyst and consultant at Midia Research, told CNBC in 2022. "They’re obsessed with expanding their market share and making sure they don’t lose any market share to independent artists."

TikTok is also showing that it may not know how to compensate artists reliant on their platform. Universal Music Group pulled the plug on TikTok in January, and said it would remove its signees' music from the app entirely in part because of "how little TikTok compensates artists and songwriters." The label's roster includes Drake, Nicki Minaj, The Weeknd and many other of the biggest artists in the world. In an open letter, UMG said, "Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music."

Would a TikTok Ban Hurt Hip-Hop?

So, would a TikTok cancelation be detrimental to rap? Considering the messy stumbles mentioned above, all signs at this moment point to no. Not to mention the correlation between rap's dominance on TikTok versus its tepid presence on the Billboard charts is in line with the genre's history. Trendsetting is in hip-hop's blood, dating back to when New York's word-of-mouth "block parties" of the 1970s kickstarted the genre. So, it makes sense that in 2024, the place to find the hottest hip-hop records isn't always on the charts or TikTok. It's on streaming platforms, many other apps, internet message boards, YouTube, in the streets, on the radio and by good old word of mouth.

While sifting through TikTok can't remotely be compared to crate-digging through a pile of records, the point is that rap will always be whereever the kids are. Regardless of where that is, even without TikTok, wherever the kids go next, rap will be sure to follow.

Not to mention, the artists don't appear to be stressing that much, since there are so many avenues for them to get their music out. Coi Leray, whose song "No More Parties" earned a big surge in popularity in 2022 thanks to TikTok, knows the benefits of the platform. It's benefitted her career significantly. However, it doesn't make or break her as a artist.

"Tiktok is not a streaming platform," Coi tweeted on March 13. "And I never looked at it as one. I’m not worried. As long as you don’t take away Apple Music, Spotify, Soundcloud, Tidal, Audio Mac, YouTube music, Amazon music, I’m good. Music and the love I have for it, is forever."

Can't argue with that.

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