5 Years of RapCaviar: Spotify's Carl Chery Breaks Down the Power of the Playlist

“It’s not only become the most influential hip-hop playlist, but one of the most influential outlets in hip-hop, period.”

Spotify didn’t know they would stumble upon a goldmine back in 2015 when they rolled out their RapCaviar playlist to showcase a mesh of emerging and superstar MCs, as the trendsetting playlist has become the most sought-after real estate in all of hip-hop.

Before joining Spotify as the head of curation in 2018, Carl Chery describes the ubiquitous nature of what was bubbling with the seminal playlist as “inescapable” at times. Between its catchy roll off the tongue name becoming the go-to soundtrack to parties he’d attend, Chery was knocking on the doors of his Apple Music executives’ offices knowing they had to up their game.

“It’s not only become the most influential hip-hop playlist, but one of the most influential outlets in hip-hop, period,” he says of carrying the torch since joining the Spotify team. “It’s an aspirational platform. The same way in the 2000s you really aspired to have your song played on Hot 97, you want your song featured on the RapCaviar playlist.”

Monday (May 11) marks the fifth anniversary since the launch of RapCaviar. More than 7 billion streams later, the rest of the streaming world is attempting to play catch-up and mimic Spotify’s avant-garde blueprint.

I was always of the mindset that curation was one piece of the puzzle, and you really needed to tap into an entire ecosystem to properly support artists,” Chery states while explaining that it takes a village to execute the company’s vision. ” I think [RapCaviar] has to be a reflection of what’s happening culturally. A little bit of forecasting — of course we’re in a streaming era and trying to stay one step ahead of the curve.”

Rap luminaries such as Cardi B, Lil Uzi Vert, Drake, Travis Scott and Migos all own mansions on RapCaviar Avenue, but the top five most-streamed songs from the playlist’s history might surprise you:

5. Kodak Black – “Zeze” Featuring Offset and Travis Scott (35 million)

4. Gunna and Lil Baby – “Drip Too Hard” (39.8 million)

3. Travis Scott – “Sicko Mode” (39.9 million)

2. Metro Boomin’ and Offset – “Ric Flair Drip” (40 million)

1. Meek Mill – “Going Bad” featuring Drake (44 million)

Instead of partially taking credit for the explosion of streaming-friendly artists like DaBaby or Roddy Ricch, Chery boasts that every rapper who has made the quantum leap from emerging rhymer to bonafide superstar in the past five years has been propelled thanks to exposure garnered from RapCaviar placements.

But one rise he’s particularly proud of: Megan Thee Stallion. The “Hot Girl Summer” rapper was originally put on Spotify subscribers’ radars when she was playlisted back in 2017 with “Pull Up Late,” as she would then organically navigate the streaming service’s “feeder system,” which included her first RapCaviar placement with “Big Ole Freak” in 2019 and headlining the brand’s RapCaviar Live concert in Miami. “This is an example of the entire ecosystem (editorial, marketing, social, studios) all coming together to support someone from day one,” he adds.

When it comes to the future, Chery expects more of the same, as he works to keep the glowing patina of RapCaviar from wearing off for years to come. “It’s really become an aspirational platform, so I think the goal is to maintain that and keep making sure it’s regarded that way,” the Spotify head of curation relays. “When you think how incredible Hot 97 was, going back to The Source five-mics, or the peak of the XXL Freshman list, if you’re lucky enough to have a platform that really resonates with the culture, I feel like that should be part of your goal to be regarded in that light.”

Celebrate the fifth anniversary by putting your hip-hop knowledge to the test with Spotify’s quiz on For the Record.