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Rhythmic contemporary, also known as rhythmic top 40, rhythmic contemporary hit radio or rhythmic crossover, is a music radio format that includes a mix of dance, upbeat rhythmic pop, hip-hop and R&B hits. Rhythmic contemporary rarely ever use any rock music or country music in their airplay, but it may occasionally use a reggae, Latin, reggaeton, or a Christian/gospel hit.

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Format background

While most rhythmic stations' playlists comprised that mentioned above, some tend to lean very urban with current hip-hop, urban pop and R&B hits that gain mainstream appeal. Rhythmic contemporary is usually the music played at clubs and school dances. They will not play music with a harder rock sound or songs that sound too adult for their taste, leaving those songs to the conventional top 40 stations. This genre of music rarely uses any songs that included a significant amount of guitars and acoustic drums, making more exclusive electronic and digital instrumentation. The guitars that might be used is a semi-acoustic guitar or acoustic guitar.


Most of its core listeners makeup a multicultural mix of African-Americans, Hispanics, Caucasian Americans and Asian-Americans, that include a core group of teens, young adults (mostly 18-34) and young females in which most listeners live in or close to a major city or in some urban based town.

Format history

The origins of rhythmic top 40 can be traced back 1978 when WKTU on 92.3 FM New York City (now WXRK) became a disco based station. That station was classified as urban but played a blend of disco, dance music, and pop crossovers. At that time, stations playing strictly R&B materials were known as black stations. Stations such as WKTU were known as urban. In the 1980s many urban contemporary stations began to spring up. Most of these leaned R&B and away from a lot of dance music. These urban stations began sounding identical to so called black stations and by 1985 stations that played strictly R&B product were all known as urban stations. Still some urban outlets continued adding artists from outside the format onto their playlist. In most cases it was dance and rhythmic pop but in other cases they added a few rock songs. But it wasn't until January 11, 1986 that KPWR Los Angeles, a former struggling adult contemporary outlet, began to make its mark with this genre by adopting this approach. It would be known as crossover because of the musical mix and the avoidance of most rock at the time.

For years since its inception, the rhythmic name has been a source of confusion among music trades, especially in both Billboard (which used the Rhythmic Top 40 title) and Radio & Records (which use the CHR/rhythmic title for their official charts). In August 2006 Billboard dropped both the "top 40" and "CHR" name from the rhythmic title after its sister publication Billboard Radio Monitor merged with Radio & Records to become the "New" R&R as part of their realignment of format categories. The move also ended confusion among the radio stations who report to their panels, which was modified by the end of 2006 with the inclusion of non-monitored reporters that were holdovers from the "(Old) R&R" days.

Still, over the years since its inception, the genre has grown and evolved but not without criticism. Traditional R&B outlets claim that the rhythmic format does not target or serve the African-American community properly, while traditional top 40 stations claim that the format is too urban to be top 40. However, those claims have been all but silenced, with both R&B and mainstream top 40 stations taking cues from the format they criticized. Urban Contemporary/Mainstream Urban and Urban Adult Contemporary formatted station serve African-Americans and are mainly put in cities that have high/sizeable African-American populations.

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