New study: Hip-hop, not Brit rock, is the most influential genre since 1960

hip hop most influential music last 50 years salt n pepa
Randy Miramontez / Shutterstock.com

Think the Beatles-born British invasion is the most influential musical genre in the last 50 years? Think again. According to a new scientific study, it’s hip-hop that has made the biggest imprint on music in the US since 1960.

Researchers at the University of London and Imperial College used music recognition technology to analyze variation in chords, instruments, and harmony in roughly 17,000 songs from the US Billboard Hot 100 charts from 1960 to 2010 in order to draw a picture of which genres had the most impact, according to an Associated Press report.

“For the first time we can measure musical properties in recordings on a large scale, explained lead author Matthias Mauch. “We can actually go beyond what the 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.”

The authors found three major “stylistic revolutions” in American pop music: rock and roll around 1964, new wave circa 1983, and hip hop in 1991. The study notes that the analysis doesn’t pinpoint the origins of musical styles, instead focusing on when the style infiltrates the Billboard charts.

The report certainly hits a tender spot in the pop music canon, noting that the Beatles and the Stones didn’t start the American rock revolution. “While the British may have contributed to this revolution, they could not have been entirely responsible for it,” said the report. “…they did exploit it and, to the degree that they were imitated by other artists, fanned its flames.” Of course, anyone who’s ever heard of a man named Chuck Berry could tell you that.

So, what did these researchers attribute as being the key to hip-hop’s significance? Its fundamental differences from other pop music including the lack of features like vocal melodies and harmony, as well as its overwhelming chart prominence that began to spike in 1991. “Hip-hop just sort of blasts out of nowhere,” explained co-author Armand Leroi to ABC Science Australia. “In retrospect it was there all along, it was there since the ’80s bubbling underneath the chart down there wherever hip-hop came from in the streets of New York and Los Angeles. And then suddenly it goes mainstream and it’s all over the charts.”

Hip-hops’s commercial popularity certainly spiked as artists like LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Tupac, and Salt ‘n Pepa rose to prominence in the late ’80s and early ’90s. And as the study focused in on how rising genres changed the pop music landscape, it’s not too surprising that hip-hop led the pack. Regardless of your opinions, the researchers certainly have faith in their findings. “I think that hip hop saved the charts,” said Mauch to the BBC.

Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Music

Spotify is the best streaming service, but its competitors aren’t far behind

It can be hard to decide which music streaming service is for you, so we've picked out the individual strengths of the most popular services, aiming to make your decision a little easier.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Music

Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ becomes the most-streamed 20th-century song

Queen's iconic Bohemian Rhapsody has become the most-streamed 20th-century song. Knocking Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit off the top spot, the British band's 1975 classic has now been streamed 1.6 billion times globally.
Music

From Jay Rock to Saba, these are the 50 best albums of 2018

We've spent the year listening to new albums, digging deep, and culling our master list into 50 favorites. From blockbuster releases to hidden gems, these are the best albums of 2018.
Music

Jam out in style with the 25 best playlists on Spotify

Music is the world's most potent drug, and the best playlists on Spotify will make you catch feelings. We've scoured the service for its top collections, and brought them together in one place -- for you.
Music

Tune in to the best internet radio stations for your listening pleasure

Even in the streaming era, radio stations get some of the best exclusives and curate some of the finest handpicked playlists around. Here are the best internet radio stations, for your listening pleasure.
Home Theater

Radiohead, The Cure, and more to join Rock Hall of Fame. Listen to their hits

Radiohead, The Cure, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, and more have been selected to join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. Here are our favorite songs from the four artists' hit-filled careers.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Music

The best new music this week: Bruce Springsteen, The Decemberists, and more

Are you looking for the best new music? Each week, we scour the internet to find the most compelling new releases just for you. On tap this week: Bruce Springsteen, The Decemberists, and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Photography

Grit and gear: How Chris Hershman went from retail clerk to music video director

How did Chris Hershman go from working a music retail job to working with bands like NEEDTOBREATHE and Switchfoot? The music video director and filmmaker talks to us about video, tech, and Nikon's new mirrorless.