How Hip-Hop Found a Home on Daytime TV

Ellen Hip Hop and Daytime TV
Courtesy of Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

“Performing for the first time on daytime television … ” is an introduction Ellen DeGeneres uses often on her syndicated talk show. And in the past two years, the phrase has preceded appearances by such hip-hop heavyweights as Kendrick Lamar, Future, Migos, Travis Scott and Chance the Rapper, among others. Like many a TV marriage, it may be unlikely, but it works.

“Other shows put on music to fill a hole,” says co-executive producer Jonathan Norman, who oversees music bookings (season 15 premieres Sept. 5, with Pink appearing the next day). But DeGeneres targeted big stars. “When we launched ‘Ellen,’ she wanted Eminem, Bono and Justin Timberlake.” (Timberlake would appear on the show’s second episode in 2003.) The rise in hip-hop bookings, he adds, “stems, first and foremost, from Ellen’s love of the genre and those artists.” Second, “hip-hop is ever-present.”

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Indeed, according to the 2017 mid-year report by music analytics firm BuzzAngle, hip-hop/rap is the top genre in overall song consumption, accounting for 21% of listening (pop is a distant second, at 14.3%), and has grown 48.6% compared with the same six-month period in 2016. And as acts like Lamar, Scott, French Montana, Big Sean, and DJ Khaled cross over to pop on terrestrial and satellite radio and via popular streaming playlists, it would stand to reason that mainstream programs, even those that air when the sun is out, would embrace the genre too.

Yet “Ellen,” which averaged 2.9 million viewers in its 14th season in 2016-17, seems to be the outlier — or the trailblazer — on daytime. That’s partly due to the sheer volume of music on the show per season. Norman cites that number at between 100 and 110 performances annually, and adds, “Nobody on daytime has that many.”

“Moms are getting hipper to the music earlier.”
Joie Manda, Interscope Geffen A&M

That is true. Though MTV’s upcoming “TRL” reboot could be a game changer for hip-hop’s afternoon presence, shows like ABC’s “The View,” CBS’ “The Talk” use music performance segments rarely. Wendy Williams lies somewhere between, while the syndicated young- and urban-leaning “The Real” often opts for hip-hop stars as panel guests when a performance budget becomes an issue.

“Gospel also rates really high for us,” says “The Real” booker Steven Schillaci, who notes that the talk show was Andra Day’s first ever TV appearance, and has also featured Fetty Wap, Wiz Khalifa, and Ty Dolla Sign in “drop in” segments that feel more organic to a hip-hop artist than a traditional interview setting. “The Real” also promoted one musical guest — rapper Remy Ma — to co-host for a stint.

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Joie Manda, exec VP for Interscope Geffen A&M, suggests the dearth of hip-hop segments on talk shows doesn’t give viewers — predominantly women 25-54 — enough credit. “Moms are getting hipper to the music earlier,” he says. “They’re driving to soccer practice with kids in the car plugging in their phones and pulling up their playlists. Parents always want to be cool and know what their kids are listening to so they can reference it in casual conversation, as embarrassing and horrifying as that is for children everywhere.”

But parents’ interest in their kids’ music can get lost in translation. The label veteran points to the viral hit-turned-Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song “Black Beatles” by Atlanta duo Rae Sremmurd. “We had this moment when it seemed like everyone under 30 knew [the band] as Rae Sremmurd, but anyone over that age was calling them the Black Beatles,” he says with a laugh. “I was getting emails like ‘Hey, are the Black Beatles on Interscope?’” (Rae Sremmurd, it’s worth noting, performed “Black Beatles” on “Ellen,” a sign that the song “had penetrated,” Manda adds.)

Just a few years ago, the exec, who has worked with Rick Ross, Common and Gucci Mane, admits to being skeptical in booking his rap acts on daytime. The label was concerned that the daypart might not be a good fit for the genre. “Would it be too commercial?” Manda speculates. “Or look weird and uncomfortable?” These are issues the shows have to contend with as well, and it’s an area where “Ellen” shines, investing in club-like production touches to give “a late-night feel in daytime,” says Norman. “We’re very proud of that.”

Late-night talk shows are also the competition when it comes to booking music acts that have limited availability — and travel budgets — on each coast. But while it’s common that shows like “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” lose 25% of the viewing audience during music segments, late-night has a key advantage, says one longtime music booker. “When the music comes on, [the viewer] can just go to sleep. On daytime, they may change the channel.”  (James Corden, by way of “Carpool Karaoke,” is the exception.)

“Late night is still important,” Manda maintains. “But for that blow-the-roof-off, pop-culture-explosion moment, it’s daytime TV.”

Top 10 Hip-Hop/Rap Tracks (Jan. 1 to Aug. 17, 2017)

1. “HUMBLE.” – Kendrick Lamar
Project units: 3.7 million
Label: Interscope

2. “Mask Off” – Future
Project units: 3.1 million
Label: Epic Records

3. “Congratulations” – Post Malone
Project units: 2.8 million
Label: Republic

4. “I’m the One” – DJ Khaled
Project units: 2.8 million
Label: Epic Records

5. “Bad and Boujee” – Migos
Project units: 2.7 million
Label: Quality Control Music

6. “iSpy” – Kyle
Project units: 2.6 million
Label: MAJOR-G LTD

7. “XO Tour Llif3” – Lil Uzi Vert
Project units: 2.5 million
Label: Atlantic Records

8. “Location” – Khalid
Project units: 2.2 million
Label: RCA Records

9. “Fake Love” – Drake
Project units: 2 million
Label: Republic/Cash Money

10. “Bounce Back” – Big Sean
Project units: 1.9 million
Label: Def Jam

SOURCE: BuzzAngle

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