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The rise and fall of hip-hop's greatest record labels since 1989, in one incredible GIF

It wouldn't be a history of hip-hop without the rise of Young Money Entertainment. Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne in 2011.
It wouldn't be a history of hip-hop without the rise of Young Money Entertainment. Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne in 2011.

Polygraph's latest digital interactive visualizes the historic rise and fall of more than 600 hip-hop record labels in the US since 1989.

Polygraph founder Matt Daniels worked with Rhymesayers, a Minneapolis-based hip-hop label, to create the project just for fun. The result is, in fact, fun. The GIF of the project's map, below, shows the labels that garnered the most Billboard hits each year.

Southern labels kick in not long after LA labels drop off the map, literally

Polygraph's "The Most Successful Labels in Hip-Hop" map indicates labels by bubbles, which change in size based on how many Billboard hits their artists collected for them.


Polygraph shared data-driven insights, too, like the distribution of hits across labels. You can compare years to see how many labels collected top Billboard hits.

In 2004, more record labels enjoyed spending time on the top of the charts than in 2014

More labels reached the top of the Billboard charts in 2004 than in 2014.


In an email, Daniels provided insight into the trend by noting, "Tracks chart for longer. ... This means that success is typically coming from a handful of labels, compared to the past."

The top 10 labels based on how many weeks they led Billboard:

Def Jam wins the race for most weeks spend on the Billboard charts.


For hip-hop fans dying to listen to music and enjoy the research, the interactive is an audio experience, too — just click on any bubble on the map to hear a clip of a song from that label.

I'm more than happy to partake in any opportunity to enjoy the song "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," which helped Bad Boy become one of the most popular labels in 1997. It would also be cool to see this research expanded to visualize the social graph of artists, since personal connections are an important part of hip-hop history. For example, Bad Boy's founder, Sean Combs, began his career at Uptown Records, where he first signed Notorious B.I.G. before launching his own label. These bubbles, at the end of the day, represent history-making people as much as companies.

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