Kenyan Hip-Hop In Numbers: Unveiling Spotify’s Insights On Listenership In The Country

Hip hop, the heartbeat of urban culture and the soul of countless narratives, has celebrated its 50th birthday globally, and in Kenya as well. As we unpack the data released by Spotify KE, the echoes of this global phenomenon resonate powerfully in the heart of Nairobi and beyond. In the latest data released by the streamer, we’ve got three major findings: One is that Wakadinali are the only Kenyan acts to be in the top five most streamed hip-hop artists by Kenyan fans who love the genre. Secondly, the genre is popular among Gen Z of the age group 18-24. A large percentage, up to three-fourths of this group are male listeners.

A Closer Look At The Data

The top 5 most streamed hip hop artists on Spotify in Kenya are Drake, Burna Boy, 21 Savage, Metro Boomin, and Wakadinali.
This is the respective order. Other notable local acts with a huge listenership on the platform include Nyashinski Khaligraph Jones Octopizzo, Boutrouss, BrurklynBoyz, Maandy, and Wangechi. Each of these artists brings something unique to the Kenyan rap game, be it their lyricism, instrumentalization, or cadence. All of them together make up Kenya’s hip-hop story, showing its change and growth over time.

Wakadinali’s Victims of Madness album is a modern classic with back-to-back hits that are a social commentary addressing police harassment and brutality, among other issues urban youth face, is a catalog that in and by itself has large replay value. Besides the 2020 project, their discography from the earlier years, as well as their 2022 mixtape Ndani Ya Cockpit 3 has given other beloved songs, useful for a variety or even multiplicity of occasions; they are gems and playlist fodder.

The data also reveals that the genre is loved among the youth, with Gen Z of ages 18-24 comprising 55% of their listenership. These are closely followed by the age group of 25-29 year olds who comprise of 19 percent. This is no surprise at all as the East African Editor for Spotify explains: “Hip hop has always appealed to the younger generation, with its freestyles and rhythms even in the pre-streaming era. It feels like a full circle moment that 50 years later, when so much has changed about the music industry, the influence and allure of Hip hop with the younger generation has not changed.”

The gender disparity within these numbers is very large. Hip hop, often associated with grit and toughness, has historically been a male-dominated realm. With 75% of active engagement coming from male listeners, it’s a reminder of the culture’s roots, rooted in the struggles of underprivileged communities. Yet, the 24% female listenership underscores that hip hop’s message of empowerment and self-expression transcends gender lines. Kenyan women, too, find solace and strength in these beats and rhymes.

Bridging The Demographic Divide In Kenyan Hip Hop on Spotify

While Spotify’s 254Flow is a long-standing playlist that promotes the hottest bars in Kenyan rap…They have unveiled a newer playlist as well-Drillaz, to promote Kenyan drill championed by the likes of Wakadinali whom I have mentioned, as well as Buruklyn Boyz, 8th Street Gang, GTA, Jodye Faneto, just to name a few others. To build on this, Spotify KE could create specialized playlists that cater to different age groups within the Kenyan hip-hop scene. For instance, they can introduce “Kenyan Hip Hop Classics” for the older generation, featuring iconic tracks from the past. Better yet they can dedicate a playlist that focuses on highlighting songs where legends have worked with newcomers. This would ensure that the genre appeals to both the veterans and the newcomers. An all-female playlist could also be created like ‘Kenyan Queens of Hip Hop’ featuring artists like Femi One, Bey T, and Muthoni Drummer Queen to amplify female voices within the genre.

To that effect, the streaming giant could use its resources to actively encourage collaborations between established Kenyan hip-hop legends and rising stars can help bridge the age gap. These collaborations can produce tracks that blend the wisdom of experience with the energy of youth. Imagine Wakadinali teaming up with Nazizi for example.

Another way for Spotify to bridge this divide is to sponsor culture actors who are holding Hip hop workshops, seminars, and music history sessions,and other such activities to promote cross generational collaboration and understanding. Supporting these events,and especially those that are female-led can create spaces where women feel more empowered and encouraged to participate.

For far too long, the airwaves and playlists of Kenya have resonated more with foreign tunes than the rich sounds of our own musical tapestry. Our local artists have toiled, hustled, and poured their hearts into their craft, only to find themselves overshadowed by international hits. The struggle of Kenyan music is a battle that’s been well-documented, but there’s a group that has never given up the fight: the Kenyan hip hop heads. They’ve been at the forefront of the #playKE conversation, demanding that our homegrown talent gets the recognition it deserves.

By implementing some of the ideas discussed here, the standing of the genre and the streaming numbers the local rappers receive will definitely improve. Kenyan hip-hop is more than just music; it’s a movement, a culture, and an identity. Spotify has the power to amplify this movement and give it the recognition it truly deserves. By shining a spotlight on emerging talent, supporting collaborations, and enhancing music discovery, Spotify can help Kenyan hip-hop break into the top 5 most streamed acts, cementing its place in the hearts and playlists of the nation. It’s time for the world to groove to the rhythm of Kenyan hip hop.