No matter which way you slice it, the Kardashians have had a hand in shaping every facet of popular culture over the last decade. Whether it's fashion, social media, beauty or the nitty-gritty of marketing, advertising and endorsements, the royal family of Calabasas has influenced an entire generation for better or for worse. However, their influence in music often goes unnoticed. While none of the siblings has their own stake in music, their proximity to hip-hop artists and their unparalleled social media engagement in and of itself has proved more compelling than any publicist or PR team.
It all began with Kim Kardashian, whose rise to prominence broke every rule in the pop culture playbook. But it was her decade-long flirtation with Kanye West that inspired a slew of frustrated and longing hits from the Chicago rapper. Meeting in 2002, Kanye cites having a "magnetic attraction" to Kim, yet they didn't start dating till 2012.
It all began in 2008 with 88 Keys' Stay Up! (Viagra). "Try imagining/Something passionate/Between you, Cassie and Kim Kardashian/Maybe that’ll work when you get to hit that ass again," was the first of many Kardashian references in his music. The following year, a sly reference to Kim popped up on Keri Hilson's Knock You Down during his verse. "You was always the cheerleader of my dreams/And seemed to only date the head of football teams/And I was the class clown that always kept you laughing/We were never meant to be, baby we just happened," West rapped in reference to Kim and her then footballer boyfriend, Reggie Bush.
Things slowly began to come together when Kim made her first - and only - foray into music, working with The-Dream on Jam (Turn It Up) in 2010. The song was a flop, though it wasn't in vain as half the proceeds from sales were donated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. Following the release of Jam, rumours of a steamy video featuring Kanye began to swirl. While it never saw the light of day, Kim released photos of the shoot a month later. She later told MTV News, "he's a musical genius, so I would be honoured to work with Kanye."
Besides being hip-hop's most iconoclastic rapper's muse, Kim has been lauded over on tracks by Rae Sremmurd (No Type), Big Sean (Jit/Juke), Tink (Kardashian), Soulja Boy (Kim Kardashian) as well as Ray J's regrettable and very bitter speculative song, I Hit It First.
Around the time Kim and Kanye married, in 2015 Kylie Jenner's Snapchat was causing a stir. The commotion wasn't about what she was posting, (which were usually nothing more than opulent snapshots of her cars, nails and luxury mansion) but rather what she was soundtracking her life to. Like most teenagers, Kylie enjoyed donning the ubiquitous Snapchat dog filter as she lipsynced her favourite songs while driving around Los Angeles. Playing songs by Ella Mai, Russ and GOOD Music signee, 070 Shake it seemed that the youngest sister had a penchant for hot up-and-coming hip-hop artists and musicians started to take notice.
Be it a ploy for attention or a genuine shoutout, references to Kylie's pouty lips, her burgeoning rise to fame and her lip kits began making the rounds. MadeinTYO's 2016 hit, Uber Everywhere, which mentions her by name - "Shorty bad as hell, yeah, with them Kylie Jenner lips" got a 345% bump on Genius' lyric search after she played the song on her Snapchat. While Brooklyn rapper, DonMonique whose languid trap hit, Pilates (Kendall, Kylie, Miley) which shouted out both Jenner sisters, saw the video's view count double after a feature in Kylie's snap.
But there were no prerequisites for what would and wouldn't make it onto her endless feed. The HUCCI-produced single, Panic Cord by G FrSh released in 2014 experienced a 319% boost by Kylie in 2015, peaking its popularity on Google as well as sparking 400 views a day on Genius following the week of her posting. Then there's Mickey Shiloh, whose song, Drunk On The Mic got passed on to Kylie through her friend and Roc Nation signee, Justine Skye. After a single post on her Snapchat, a social media storm ensued and Shiloh admits the success of the song was "spearheaded" by Kylie.
From here on in, Kylie's social media presence became a melting pot of Kanye releases and Tyga singles, until she declared on Twitter that Snapchat was dead. “Soo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad,” she tweeted. Fortune reports that as soon as a few hours later, the app's stock fell as much as 7%, resulting in a loss of over $1 billion in market value.
As she transferred her doe-eyed singing clips to Instagram, Kylie began dating Houston rapper Travis Scott in 2017. A year into their relationship, her astronomical reach and influence were called into question by none other than Nicki Minaj.
On August 19, 2018, when Scott's third studio album, Astroworld took the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 from Minaj's album, Queen the Trinidadian rapper was none too pleased. Upset at Kylie for promoting her then-fiancé's tour packages, which included the album, Minaj argued that any sales that came from the Jenner's 113 million fans shouldn't count because they were sold on the presumption they could catch a glimpse of their newborn, Stormi at the concert.
“I put my blood sweat & tears in writing a dope album only for Travis Scott to have Kylie Jenner post a tour pass telling ppl to come see her & Stormi,” Minaj tweeted. “lol. I’m actually laughing.”
This coincided with bubbling animosity between Kanye and Drake. Following the release of the Toronto rapper's hit single, In My Feelings, a Twitter thread popped up claiming there were multiple clues hidden in Drake's album, Scorpion, as well as verses on Travis Scott's SICKO MODE that hinted at an affair between him and Kim. After the conspiracy went viral, it reached all the parties involved, culminating in a Twitter spat that involved Drake, Kim, Kanye and Ariana Grande, a few sneak disses (I'm Upset) and of course Pusha T exposing Drake's illegitimate child to the rest of the world. While the dust has since settled, few amends have been made.
It isn't just Kim and Kylie who have found their way into the hearts, songs and minds of hip-hop's elite. Matriarch, Kris Jenner, who put Calabasas on the map enjoys her own place in hip-hop history on Drake's 4 PM In Calabasas ("See Kris Jenner, I beep twice and I wave") while The Game claims to have slept with both Kim and Khloe Kardashian on Migos track, What You Expect. Even Kourtney, who often remains on the sidelines, has had her fair share of shoutouts, from Hoodie Allen's Eighteen Cool ("Your girl is cashing in, Kourtney Kardashian") to Nicki Minaj's Girls Fall Like Dominoes.
The Kardashian Dynasty is an all-encompassing promotional machine with the ability to propel anyone into an overnight success. Though their irrefutable influence has surpassed even what they had likely hoped and dreamed for early on. Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kylie and Kendall may not be musicians but they've found one hell of a way of influencing an entire decade of music.