Scientists conclude hip-hop is the most influential genre of music…ever: Here’s why

By Evette D. Champion

When you look back through music’s history, the public seems to be naturally drawn to certain sounds. For some, it was the Beatles; for others, it was Michael Jackson or Led Zeppelin. These iconic acts helped shaped music into what it is today. With that in mind, according to a scientific study about the pinnacle of popular music, it claims the rise of hip-hop is considered to be the most important event in popular music.

In 1991, hip-hop moved out of the streets and became mainstream, which marked the biggest revolution in musical chart culture.

The research was conducted by teams from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Imperial College. The teams found chart diversity was at a standstill during the mid-80s, thanks to the widespread use of drum machines, synthesizers, and samplers. It wasn’t until the early 90s that a new sound emerged that would bring new life into popular music from then on, and that sound was birthed by hip-hop.

With the assistance of the music website, Last.fm, the research teams analyzed segments of 17,000 songs that were on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1960 and 2010. The computer software that was used took the 30-second clips of the songs and categorized them according to musical properties, incorporation of the musical instruments that were used, chord patterns, tonal character, and of course genre.

The study concluded there were three distinct music revolutions:

  • 1964; the Beatles and the Rolling Stones led the British Invasion of America
  • 1983 marked the blend of synth-based pop and post-punk rock
  • 1991 ushered in hip-hop

Of these three revolutions, hip-hop made quite the impression when it jumped onto the charts, as it was said to be the “most far-reaching,” although scientists found it surprising that punk rock was not considered a major change in music.

Dr. Matthias Mauch, from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at QMUL, was the lead author of the study. He said, “For the first time we can measure musical properties in recordings on a large scale. We can actually go beyond what music experts tell us, or what we know ourselves about them, by looking directly into the songs, measuring their make-up, and understanding how they have changed.

“No doubt, some will disagree with our scientific approach and think it’s too limited for such an emotional subject but I think we can add to the wonder of music by learning more about it,” he adds. “We want to analyze more music from more periods in more countries and build a comprehensive picture of how music evolves.”

 

 

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