How to read: Studio albums are plotted over time. Each ring around an album represents a track which features Beyoncé rapping. Ex. 2 Rings = 2 rap features. Music notes represent singles.
How to interact: Select a metric to compare Beyoncé albums/songs over time. Hover for additional details. Click a track or single to play a 30-second sample (courtesy of Spotify). To stop playback, click again, or use audio controls (which will scroll as you do).
Sources: Spotify Web API, GRAMMY.com.
Notes: The spotify popularity of a track is a value between 0 and 100, with 100 being the most popular. The popularity is calculated by algorithm and is based on the total number of plays the track has had and how recent those plays are. Album popularity is derived mathematically from track popularity. Percent Rap of the album is found by dividing the number of tracks featuring Beyoncé rapping by the total number of tracks on the album.
With over 65% of the songs on her latest two albums featuring rap elements, it's hard to deny that Beyoncé has crossed over into the realm of rap. However, to leave no stone unturned, I decided to dig deeper and explore songs outside of her studio albums that showcase her rapping skills. Here's what I discovered.
Sources: Spotify Web API, GRAMMY.com.
To take this investigation a step further, I wondered if there was a discrepancy in popularity between rapped and non-rapped songs in Beyoncé's discography. Do rapped songs truly dominate any period of her career? To answer this question, I utilized Spotify's speechiness* metric (indicated on the chart when speechiness is selected). By examining both metrics, we may gain a clearer understanding of which songs truly reign supreme in different parts of the Queen's career.
Source: Spotify Web API
Note: Spotify speechiness detects the presence of spoken words in a track. The more exclusively speech-like the recording (e.g. talk show, audio book, poetry), the closer to 1.0 the attribute value. Values above 0.66 describe tracks that are probably made entirely of spoken words. Values between 0.33 (Rap Threshold) and 0.66 describe tracks that may contain both music and speech, either in sections or layered, including such cases as rap music. Values below 0.33 most likely represent music and other non-speech-like tracks.
Spotify's popularity metric takes into account the recency of a stream, which means that more recent albums tend to be ranked higher in popularity. While this metric is useful in determining whether music stands the test of time, I wanted to explore another measure of popularity to answer my questions. To do so, I turned to Billboard Hot 100 data and posed the same questions: Is Beyoncé a rapper, and are her rap songs more or less popular? By examining this data, I hoped to gain a better understanding of how Beyoncé's rap music is perceived in the broader music landscape.
Sources: Spotify Web API, HipsterVizNinja's Billboard Hot 100 List
It's apparent that Beyoncé is out here rapping, a fact that has been hiding in plain sight for some time now. So, the next time someone asks you to name your favorite rapper, don't hesitate to mention Beyoncé and show the receipts.
While she's had plenty of success on the Billboard charts and at the GRAMMYs, her rap contributions seem to be slightly lesser known/popular. This may be because the composition of many of her songs still leans on her singing talent or that she released many of her rap features outside of studio albums. Regardless, Beyoncé is bound to continue to surprise us, whether she's showcasing her gorgeous singing voice or dropping sneaky bars.
As we reflect on the past 20 years of her artistry and look forward to many more, let's take a moment to appreciate what a privilege it is to be alive in a time where Beyoncé is Beyoncé-ing this hard.