The Top Selling Singles And Albums Of 2022: 8 Trends We’ve Noticed
27 Jan 2023
2022 was another huge year for UK Rap, with the top 200 selling tracks producing over 3.5 billion streams combined. We saw break out years from a multitude of stars, as well as the heavyweights of the genre consolidating their place at the top of the Rap game. We at Mixtape Madness have crunched the numbers from last year’s best selling singles and albums, and picked out 8 trends that shaped – and will continue to shape – the landscape of UK Rap music.
‘Sample Drill’ Led To Instant Success
Sampling has been a major part of production in Rap music for many years now, but the term ‘Sample Drill’ came into parlance last year and dominated the charts in 2022. Of the top 15 selling songs last year, 8 featured sample heavy beats. In decades past production was often driven by Soul and R&B samples, but last year saw an influx of sampling led by Pop songs from the 00’s and early 10’s.
This helped a multitude of artists break through in 2022 by having instantly recognisable tracks as their first hit. We can see how sampling has propelled the likes of SwitchOTR and Benzz to stardom, whilst also strengthening the successes of Aitch and Arrdee. Having a track that harks on nostalgia whilst spanning multiple genres makes sense when trying to appeal to as large an audience as possible.
This trend could well be borne out of the pandemic, with a lack of in person studio sessions forcing a necessity for a more simplified style. There is also an undoubted social media influence, as the sampling gives audiences an easy jumping off point into the music that will increase virality across different platforms. While it may not necessarily be the most creative way of making music, the use of sample-heavy production had an undoubted impact last year and we may well see more artists jumping on this trend going forward.
Central Cee Sets Pace With Hit-Making Ability
Central Cee excelled and flourished in 2022 – potentially becoming one of the most consistent artists the UK has ever seen. Corresponding with the TikTok trend, Cench has utilised social media to the maximum and is wired differently when it comes to making hits so effortlessly. Before any track in this chart had been released, the 24 year old had seen huge numbers on social media platforms through teasers, all boosting engagement and anticipation for the current and future releases. Remaining fully independent as well where humanly possible, Cee has not only mastered his sound, he has mastered creative and marketing intelligence – an inspirational and motivating figure within the UK industry.
Featuring 9 times in the top 100 selling UK Rap list with only one collaboration, Central Cee has all the evidence to support a claim that he is easily one of the best the UK has ever produced. With more than 31 million monthly listeners and currently sat in the Top 100 artists in the world on Spotify; some of his top hits charting this year such as ‘Obsessed With You’, ‘Loading’ and ‘Doja’ have now accumulated almost 800 million streams on the platform alone.
With his album ’23’, achieving almost 100,000 sales in 2022 as well, the Shepherd’s Bush native has done nothing but good things from the UK music industry, building a bridge with the US specifically with his Lyrical Lemonade collaboration.
Alternative UK Rap Is On The Rise
Recently we have seen the emergence of a new, more alternative scene in the world of UK Rap. Rap music in this country has been traditionally dominated by movements. In the early 00’s we saw the emergence of Grime, which was then taken over by Road Rap before a Grime renaissance in the early to mid 2010’s. This was then taken over by Drill, which became the most prolific genre in the late 2010’s and early 20’s. However, as Rap music has continued to grow out of the underground and make its way into the charts and the mainstream, this has allowed a new set of artists to carve out their own lane within the genre.
Knucks had a breakout year in 2022, with his critically acclaimed album ‘Alpha Place’ reaching the top 15 in album sales. He also managed to find his way onto the top selling singles list with ‘Los Pollos Hermanos’ and ‘Nice & Good’, featuring SL. Little Simz also made the top 25 biggest selling albums list with ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’, which came out in 2021 but continued to deliver last year off the back of her award winning successes at the Brits and the Mercury Prize. Simz followed this up with a surprise drop just before Christmas, which will be sure to find itself on the top selling albums list of this year. There was further success for Loyle Carner, and Kojey Radical who made it into the top best selling albums list with ‘Hugo’ and ‘Reason To Smile’.
Both Knucks and Simz are independent artists, while all four have managed to curate a core fanbase that supports their every release. It was somewhat ironic that Little Simz won Best New Artist at the Brits, as she has been putting in work for many years previously. What this does show however is that there is a growing appetite for more Alternative artists in the mainstream of UK Rap. With fresh talent in the form of KAM-BU, Jordy, and Sainte amongst others coming through, it seems like there is a growing eco-system of independent and non-conforming artists who can create opportunities and establish themselves with the backing of a loyal following.
JBEE Punches Above His Weight
JBEE is an exceptional example of how trends can be combined to their full effect to see growth. Making his mark on the Top 100 best selling rap records of 2022 in 56th place with his ‘Next Up’ on Mixtape Madness, the young talent is a fine example of how marketing should be combined with talent. The viral ‘Next Up’ in question happens to sample a huge Billie Eilish track in ‘Lovely’, which instantly sparked recognition from a creative aspect.
This was also a huge milestone for those creating music within the lo-fi music genre as it helped to pave the way for more artists to come through and spit their truth. Having built up a following through many viral TikTok previews and clips, JBEE now boasts more than 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify, and his growth has been exponential this year having managed to successfully channel his TT traction onto DSP’s.
The end of the year saw the North London native reach out to a foreign audience with the German remix of hit single ‘24s’ – drafting in a whole different dynamic of audience to add to his fanbase. This amongst the use of the other trends shows how JBEE picked up on all the rising trends last year and used them to his advantage – a great young industry name to shadow for those who are trying to make it in music.
The Influence Of TikTok Is Undeniable
2022 was filled with great music – and an overview of the statistical charting from last year proves that longevity created by social media platforms has definitely led to continued growth on the single release timeline. TikTok has become a dominant force in the music industry, and it is debatable whether that force is a positive or negative.
There is no doubt that the platform is useful in generating free promotion. Its extensive and enhanced algorithm has contributed to many of the tracks that find themselves in the top UK Rap tracks of 2022 – distributing them far and wide over the world organically at no cost, revolutionising the music scene worldwide. Identifying trends can sometimes be testing; it was no hard task identifying that artists who have achieved accumulative traction through TikTok have found themselves high on this list.
Amongst the Top 10 best selling UK Rap tunes, more than half of them had gone viral before release, with the others building significant traction from release campaigns. The official sound for ‘Starlight’, which came in at the number one spot, currently has more than 230,000 videos made to it, with ‘Baby’ by Aitch & Ashanti having 90,000 videos made to it. With the sheer frequency of videos being posted to these sounds, the promotional aspect and quality is almost unbelievable, with thousands of new people discovering or rediscovering tracks. TikTok is now a major influence on sound and industrial marketing in music – and I’d like to think that for independent musicians especially, the positives outweigh the negatives.
Dave Continues To Dominate Despite Lack Of Releases
For a man that only dropped two tracks last year, Dave still has a chokehold on the UK Rap game when it comes to both single and album sales. This is testament to the longevity of his music, as Dave’s discography remains relevant even in his more dormant years.
Of the 80 highest selling UK Rap singles of 2022, Dave makes up 15% of the list. ‘Starlight’, one of his only releases last year, took the top spot, selling close to 900,000 units. He also had two other appearances in the top 10 with ‘Location’ and ‘Clash’ coming in at number 7 and number 10.
‘We’re All Alone In This Together’ was also the highest selling UK Rap album of 2022, while ‘Psychodrama’ came in at number 5. These numbers are sensational when considering that neither dropped in 2022, and they speak to the quality and replay value of both projects. Dave also does not have a particularly heavy social media presence, letting his musical output speak for itself and showing there are different ways to maintain relevancy. Santan might well go on to be the biggest rapper this country has ever produced, and it feels like he will continue to dominate these lists for many years to come.
Collaborations Give Artists Crossover Opportunities
As discussed earlier, an impressive number of tracks in the chart have included samples – but not only samples, collaborations as well. In a heavily lucrative industry, features can at times be difficult to construct and organise, however the chart shows that when executed effectively the success available to reap is extensive. Out of the top ten selling UK rap songs, eight of these fell under the collaboration category – the only ones within the top ten solo were Dave, Central Cee and Arrdee. ‘Clash’ saw Dave draft in Stormzy for a huge link up and Tion Wayne sampled an old La Roux track in ‘IFTK’ which sparked memories of charts more than a decade ago.
Through music collaborations, or having featured artists on their tracks, artists are able to mix their audiences. Working with other artists also conveys activity and engagement, which also allows for double the promotional content being pushed out to two different audiences, fast tracking the traction in many cases.
In terms of the top ten selling albums in 2022, only one album didn’t feature a collaboration which was ‘Wild West’ from Central Cee. Many collaborations within this bracket were for International audience purposes, for example Dave tapped in a Nigerian audience through his collaboration with Wizkid on ‘We’re All Alone In This Together’, and D Block Europe drafted in Offset for a collaboration on their project ‘Home Alone 2’ to expand to an American audience. This, in the grand scheme of things, has definitely contributed to the sale success of most songs and albums within the top ten.
K-Trap Makes The Ascent To Superstardom
K-Trap had a massive 2022, establishing himself as an elite artist and building on the foundations of his successes in previous years. While always popular with the core UK Rap fanbase, he hadn’t necessarily found mainstream success until last year. This is encapsulated by the fact that ‘Warm’, a song from 2021, reached number 17 in the charts more than a year after it came out.
The emergence of this track came predominantly through social media, achieving viral success through TikTok trends, as well as promotion from stars such as Yung Filly. This was also consolidated by a remix featuring Skepta, a household name whose presence thrusted Trapo into the upper echelons of the UK Rap game. ‘Warm’ can now be viewed as an undisputed anthem of the genre that is set to maintain its longevity, and it will be no surprise if the track makes an appearance on the top selling singles for 2023.
K-Trap also made an impact in the album charts, with two top 20 hits in 2022. ‘The Last Whip II’ almost found its way into the top 10, while his project with Blade Brown, ‘Joints’, set the tone for the year after charting at number 18 in March. Collaborative projects make sense in order to appeal to a wider fanbase, and it feels as if Trapo and Blade were ahead of the game with their efforts last year. There is no doubt that K-Trap has established a core following across his years in the game, but his output last year should set himself on the same path as the likes of Dave, Stormzy, and Central Cee.
2022 therefore saw progress for UK Rap as the genre continues to cross over into the mainstream and make waves in the UK Singles and Album Charts. An honourable mention should go to D-Block Europe, who continue to dominate in their own lane, with four albums in the top 20 highest sellers and two singles in the top 10. As independent artists, DBE have followed a blueprint that has given them longevity in the industry, using collaborations and features whilst also having a unique style that attempts to appeal to both sexes and sets them apart from their competition. It is no surprise that they find continued success and sell out huge venues across the continent as they have established a loyal fanbase who give their projects repeat listens. Of the fresh crop of artists who made this list, it will be interesting to see who has the staying power of a DBE, Dave, or Stormzy when we revisit this next year.