Esoteric Research Methods #4: Youtube most viewed

You guys know I'm not overly fond of Youtube and its astoundingly annoying policy of blocking videos by country, but it is by far the biggest video site out there and a brilliant source for all sorts of video material. I think I've discovered more new stuff via the "what's related" link list on YouTube than any other method in the past year, and the site just keeps growing with new material.

Another interesting way to spot new YouTube videos (and consequently new music) is by looking at the various lists of most viewed videos available on the site. Obvious and not esoteric, you might say, but it's surprising how often you can come across music you've never heard before, seemingly randomly ascending to the heights of the day list or week list, pushed by a crowd you bear no regular relation to.

Here's just a few of the videos I've come across today (as a random sampling moment) from the recesses of the Rap & Hip Hop - Most Viewed list. The focus is definitely on stuff I would not usually access through other channels, ie. nothing American generally.

German hip-hop always features heavily on the list and I'm not overly fond of it - there's something a bit dour and formulaic about the beats and too strong a boom-bap emphasis to appeal to me immediately. One track that stood out a little bit though was Ghettobass by Azad (page 1, this month), which at least has some interesting drum machine programming now and then. French hip-hop is usually a bit more fresh and indeed something like Suis-Je Le Guardien De Mon Frere by Sefyu (page 3, this month) is considerably more exciting to me with a very engaging bass riff and atmospheric synth line.

And while we're eating off Europe's biggest countries, how about Spain? Emsis by Tr3s Monos (page 5, this month) is sample-based (which usually a no-no for me) but I like the way it's built up and the floating synth line. Italy is plenty represented on the list too, with 'U Tagghiamu 'Stu Palluni...?! by Combomastas (page 2, this week) a clear highlight - how much more gangsta does it get than Sicilian rap, especially stuff that feels this Sicilian?

The best of the big European countries is totally Poland though. With its minimalist synth-oriented sound something like W Aucie by Sokol feat. Pono & Franek Kimono (page 1, today) totally rocks my world. Sokols record company, Prosto, is well-represented on Youtube and practically all the material is killer, with a recognisable signature sound that's one of the most unique and interesting on the continent. Polish hip-hop outside this one company is not as strong but Warto Rozmawiac by CeHa (page 1, today) is also a pretty good track, I like the pitch-bent keyboard.

Of course, there are limitations to this sort of approach. All the countries I've picked out are European with a population of 40 million or more, and that's hardly a coincidence - there's bare representation on the lists somewhere from Libya, Hungary, Brazil, Holland, Denmark and Australia, but all with considerably weaker material. The genre limit means it's almost entirely straight hip-hop and that other genres don't get a look in. But even so, in just a few minutes I've picked out a whole set of songs that by all accounts are interesting and lead on to other equally fascinating threads of research. Tell me what other random sampling approach could possibly accomplish that?

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