MIA: Not One Black Act Made Billboard Hot 100 This Year

December 20, 2013  |  

With all the great African-American musicians — now and in the past — the most puzzling questions of the year in entertainment have to be: Why were there no black artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013? Or on the Billboard Hot 100 chart?

Among those who were passed over for induction into the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 (to many people’s dismay) was mega Disco group Chic. Among the other African-American artists nominated were ’70s funk band The Meters, pioneering rap group N.W.A., and hip hop icon LL Cool J. But not a one made the cut. That honors went to Kiss, Nirvana, Hall & Oates, Peter Gabriel, Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens.

“Not a single living person of color got into the Rock Hall this year. Among the Class of 2014, only the late Clarence Clemons—inducted as a sideman with the E Street Band—is black,” notes Slate. This has happened only once before in the Hall’s 28-year history, in  2003 when the late sideman Benny Benjamin of The Funk Brother was the only black inductee.

What’s ironic, says Slate is that for the Class of 2014 the Hall will induct Daryl Hall and John Oates — an act with a long history of soul-music appreciation that once even topped the R&B chart—so Rock Hall voters are honoring the sound of black music–not black people.

But it seems the Hall of Fame inductees reflect consumer appetite. In 2013, while the public seemed to love rhythmic music as much as ever, they didn’t buy it from black acts. Not one lead black act has topped the Hot 100 all year.

Amazingly, this has never happened before in the chart’s 55-year history, reports Slate. Go back to 2004 when every song that topped the Hot 100 was by a person of color. Fast forward to this year when black artists had only featured roles on those hits, such as rapper T.I., 2013 MVP Pharrell on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (among other songs), and Rihanna backing Eminem on the current No. 1, “The Monster.”  Notes Slate: “We should place an asterisk next to half-Filipino, half–Puerto Rican Bruno Mars, who topped the big chart twice this year, with ‘Locked Out of Heaven’ and ‘When I Was Your Man’—but neither one was an R&B/hip-hop radio hit.”

“Even the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart was topped by white acts 44 out of 52 weeks this year,” the article continues. In large part, that’s due to a controversial change Billboard made to the R&B/hip-hop chart at the end of 2012 that essentially makes it a condensed version of the Hot 100, rendering the chart near-useless to hardcore fans of black music,” reports Slate.

Perhaps Beyoncé new late-fourth-quarter blockbuster could alter the charts but still what happened to Kanye, Jay-Z, Drake, Wale, J. Cole, A$AP Rocky—all led the Billboard 200 this year? Most only landed on the chart for a single week apiece, except Jay’s Magna Carta Holy Grail  which had two.

For a song to reach Billboard’s Top 10 for more than a week, it’s got to become ubiquitous, booming from cars, circulating on social media, generally being in the ether for weeks on end, reports Slate. But so far in 2013 no black was able to do that.

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