If you’ve been following along, we’ve explained the intricacies of electronic music, the melee that is metal, and the rolling that is rock, but now, we dive into the hip-hop genres! Is it mumble rap? Breakbeat? Gangster? We got you.
A few hip-hop genres are in the other three pieces, so we didn’t double up here. Make sure to read them all!
Notable Artists: Beastie Boys, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest
In the same way that alt-rock and alt-metal define it, alt-rap includes a wide range of styles of hip-hop that have not become identified as “mainstream.” It came about in the late ’80s, during the “golden age of hip-hop” and drew from everything from funk to jazz to soul to even rock.
Notable Artists: Afrika Bambaataa, 2 Live Crew, and FreQ Nasty
Breakbeat is almost more of a form of electronic than hip-hop, but it’s often found in hip-hop or strongly influencing it. The name comes from the beat being “broken” and not as predictive as most other beats.
Notable Artists: Kid Rock, Bubba Sparxxx, and Colt Ford
When you think of hip-hop, you usually don’t associate it with country music, but it rears its head here in a fusion genre. The style got its start in the late ’90s and many refer to Kid Rock’s song “Cowboy” as the first country rap song.
Notable Artists: Lil Jon, Three 6 Mafia, and Ying Yang Twins
Basically, crunk is the past tense of crank, and crank refers to “cranking it up.” It’s usually recognizable by a strong up-tempo and is one of the South’s more dance and club styles of hip-hop. It emerged in the early ’90s and you can’t say it without thinking of Lil Jon.
Notable Artists: Flo Rida, LMFAO, and The Beatmasters
This one is also referred to as hip-house and rap house. It’s a mixture of house music and hip-hop. A style that kicked off in the ’80s in Chicago and New York and had a resurgence in the mid to late 2000s.
Notable Artists: MC Lars, Kid Cudi, and Lil Peep
Emotional hip-hop, also referred to as sad rap. Often very emotional rap with influences from indie rock, punk, and metal. Topics often circle around depression, loneliness, anger, and drug use.
Notable Artists: Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Eminem
Is exactly what it sounds like, a form of rap with or without instrumentals that involves improvisation in lyrics. Often not pre-planned and off the top of the rapper’s head. Freestyle battles are a prominent part of this hip-hop culture.
Notable Artists: N.W.A., Ice-T, and Public Enemy
Most people are familiar with this one. It came out of the ’80s and embraced the gangster lifestyle and vernacular. The style often focuses on sex, gangs, drugs, violence, and crime. Most can’t think about the genre without thinking about Ice-T and N.W.A.
Notable Artists: Run DMC, Wu-Tang Clan, and Schoolly D
Often confused with gangsta rap, hardcore rap focuses on aggression, confrontation, and anger (which, oftentimes, overlaps).
Notable Artists: Smokepurpp, Lil Yachty, and 6ix9ine
Also known as “SoundCloud rap.” This one originated on SoundCloud and can often be described as focusing on repetition of (often mumbled) lyrics and melody more than the actual lyricism. Emotion also plays a strong part.
Notable Artists: LL Cool J, Coolio, and Vanilla Ice
Combining the pop sensibilities of rock with the lyrical delivery of rap, this is often a much more digestible version of rap for the general public. This style puts a strong emphasis on commercial success and accessibility.
Notable Artists: Outkast, Ghetto Mafia, and Master P
Trap is often found with a heavy layering of beats that range in tempos from 100 BPM to 176 BPM, but usually around 140 BPM. The lyrics usually focus around ominous, bleak, and gritty situations. Trap was first described as a place where drug deals went down.
Notable Artists: Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky
Starting up in the ’90s, this is a mix of hip-hop and electronica that fuses the two styles so well that neither is truly the strong arm of the style. It also often incorporates stylings from funk, dub, soul, psychedelic, and more.
Notable Artists: N/A
In the same way that alternative is outside of mainstream hip-hop, underground could be considered indie or unsigned rap. The styles of underground can come across all genres of rap, but notably, unless you’re in the know, you may not have heard of the artist or group. Artists are often found across streaming services like SoundCloud and Bandcamp.
And that’s it, you now have a basic understanding of what’s going on in the hip-hop world. But as any genre does, keep a lookout for the evolution of hip-hop and see where it goes.
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