It’s pretty obvious that Italian rap is going through a special moment. 2016 was the year of the “earthquake” in which rappers that weren’t well know to the general public started to chart very well and the shockwaves ran through the whole music business. In January 2016 nobody would have considered Ghali one of Italy’s best rappers, but now, if we are to consider his following and the amount of streams he generates, he’s definitely number one: Tedua, Rkomi, Lazza and the very controversial Dark Polo Gang are other big names to check out. The sound has changed, but also what we expect from a rapper has changed too: before they had to be credible and poetic, now they have to have style and be creative to really capture the public’s imagination.
This is because rap in Italy has only one outlet, the web, where only a certain type of content seems to work: it’s either aggressive or carefree or it won’t work very well. The biggest amount of shares and views is generated by students, the only ones that have the patience and crucially the time to really discover the new talents and so they are definitely the demographic that we can consider the “gatekeepers” of Italian rap. In other countries there are also tv and radio that help curate the music that’s successful and that can balance with quality projects what gets pushed by the world wide web, but Italy doesn’t have a media that really supports urban music and we pay the price of the genre being 100% democratic. So if we may be lacking the “quality” side of rap, we definitely have some very strong “popular” acts and they are are dominating the charts. With the EDM bubble exploding and with the more experimental parts of electronic music becoming slightly more “gentrified” and less intriguing, Italian rap is becoming more and more popular among very different crowds, like the indie music fans that were snobbing it before: so 2017 might just be remembered one of the biggest years in Italian rap history.
Text by Olly Dawson