NEW YORK • A new generation of rappers with anarchic approaches to social media and free digital distribution on platforms such as SoundCloud is riding the streaming wave into the mainstream.
On the Billboard album chart this week, two auspicious debuts from leading figures of that movement - Lil Uzi Vert, 23, and XXXTentacion, 19 - marked their commercial arrival by outpacing more traditional releases.
Luv Is Rage 2 (Generation Now/Atlantic), by breakout hip-hop experimentalist Lil Uzi, hit No. 1 in its first week, totalling 135,000 album equivalent units, according to Nielsen, with just 28,000 in traditional album sales and a load-bearing 151 million streams. That was good enough for the third-largest streaming debut this year after Drake's More Life and Kendrick Lamar's DAMN.
XXXTentacion, a controversial figure who is awaiting trial on charges of beating a pregnant woman, came in at No. 2. His 17 (Bad Vibes Forever/Empire), which mixes rap with depressive folk music, sold 18,000 copies in addition to its 100 million streams for 87,000 units by the industry's formula, which combines album sales, streams and track downloads.
Under those two releases were albums by Queens Of The Stone Age (Villains) and Fifth Harmony (selftitled), which beat Luv Is Rage 2 and 17 in sales, but faltered in streams.
Villains (Matador) added just six million streams to its 69,000 in sales, landing at No. 3, while Fifth Harmony (Epic/Syco) had 32,000 albums sold and 17 million streams. Lamar's DAMN. (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope) came in at No. 5 with another 43 million streams almost five months after its debut.
Taylor Swift is also making her presence felt.
Look What You Made Me Do, the lead single from her coming album Reputation, finished its first week with a staggering 81 million streams and 353,000 downloads as it aims to unseat the Despacito remix, by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, and featuring Justin Bieber, which has spent 16 consecutive weeks at No. 1.