Dark Polo Gang

Can Italian rappers break outside of Italy?

Radio airplay suggests that there is an increasing interest in Italian-language music outside of Italy. Urban acts like Fabri Fibra and Dark Polo Gang are leading the way.

Streaming technology has made it an extremely interesting time to be a music fan. The huge amount of music available at our fingertips has opened our ears and broadened our minds and across the world, people are listening to a more diverse range of music than ever before.

One amazing aspect of this is that songs no longer have to be performed in English in order to become worldwide hits. Genres like South Korean K-Pop and various Latin American styles have led the way in showing that language is no longer an obstacle for global music success. This is also true when it comes to radio airplay.

So could other countries be next in line to shine on the international stage? Like, say, Italy?

Fabri Fibra

While that may sound a bit unlikely at first, a couple of Italian acts have started getting radio airplay outside of their home country which indicates that there could be a growing market for Italian music despite the relatively small number of Italian-speakers worldwide compared to people who speak English, French or Spanish.

Unsurprisingly, since urban music is at the forefront of music's new globalised age, the artists in question are both hip hop acts.

Fabri Fibra is a veteran Italian rapper who has been releasing music since the 1990s. He's had huge success in Italy over the past two decades and is currently one of the biggest rap stars in the country.  His latest album Fenomeno from 2017 features the track ‘Pamplona’ which has gotten an impressive amount of airplay outside of Italy. 

We recently pointed out that Fabri Fibra was getting more airplay in Italy then American hip hop superstar Travis Scott, but throughout 2019 the track has also gotten airplay in an impressive total of 16 different countries across four continents. 

Radio airplay evolution of Fabri Fibra's song "Pamplona"

Pamplona’ has had over 13.000 radio spins in 2019. As an Italian artist who raps in his native language, unsurprisingly, the vast majority of those have been in Italy but, interestingly, it has also been getting radio play across Europe, South America, Australia, and Asia. 

In Germany, it has mostly been supported by independent radio stations like 88vier in Berlin and Radio Blau in Leipzig and the same is true in France where indie stations like Radio Zones in Ferney-Voltaire and Castel FM in Châteaubriant have had it in rotation several times.

In Eastern Europe, however, several major radio stations like Radio Slovenija 1  in Slovenia, PR Radio Dla Ciebie in Poland, and HR Radio Zadar and Radio Istra in Croatia have been spinning the track. 

Outside of Europe, 'Pamplona' has had spins on established stations like Radio Alfaomega in Chile and LU9 in Argentina. It has even reached as far away as Thailand where 103.5 Number One Radio in Pattaya has played it several times.

But it’s not just the established acts like Fabri Fibra who are getting attention outside of Italy. Younger Italian artists are also starting to break the language barrier.

Dark Polo Gang

Dark Polo Gang is a trap music group from Rome who, after releasing music independently on their own label Triplosette Entertainment for a number of years, is now signed to Universal Music Italy. They released their third studio album Trap Lovers in 2018 which features the single ‘Cambiare Adesso’. This song is also performing quite well on international radio.

Since its release in September 2018, it has gathered an impressive +35.000 spins. Like Fibre’s ‘Pamplona’, most of these have been on Italian radio, but it has also crossed over to a total of eleven other markets.

Interestingly, Dark Polo Gang has been supported quite well by American college radio stations. Stations to play 'Cambiare Adesso' include WPTS 92.1 FM at the University of Pittsburgh, WUSC-FM at the University of South Carolina, WSPN 91.1 FM in Saratoga Springs, NY. 

In Europe, they have also had lots of spins in Belgium on Radio Prima 107.4 FM in Liege as well as in Austria on Radio Agora 105,5 and on Flash-Radio in Stuttgart. Both 'Pamplona' and 'Cambiare Adesso' have also gotten spins in Australia and Canada on stations like Radio Stonata and Rete Italia 1539 AM that focus on Italian music and culture and who both have large followings.

Radio airplay evolution of Dark Polo Gang's song "Cambiare Adesso"

So does this mean that we are about to see an Italian hip hop explosion that will take over the airwaves and top the charts? Probably not just yet. It's still early days and the amount of international airplay still isn't huge, but the fact that so many radio stations outside of Italy are becoming more receptive to Italian-language music should be an encouraging sign to the Italian music industry.

It shows that there is a foundation to build on and artists and their teams should definitely consider doing more to target these markets.  After all, if Korean language K-pop can top the charts internationally, who's to say that the same can't be true for Italian hip hop?

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