Gangsta and Trap. Cloud rap. Since the late 1970s, hip-hop has given birth to countless sub-genres. We present you the main ones.
If there’s one thing hip-hop fans love more than listening to it, it’s to discuss it – and especially about what characterizes it. As KRS One of Boogie Down Productions once said: “Rap is something you do, while hip-hop is something you live”, a useful philosophy not lose sight of. Hip-hop and its sub-genres can be defined by the artist’s journey and lifestyle – as much as by the sound and the issues he addresses.
The “backpackers” were those who, at the end of the 90s, opposed the smooth and polished style, not very provocative and rather conventional. This name evokes the cliché of the fans who always carry with them in their backpacks their course books, Rhyme Pad, spray paint and vinyls.
Rawkus was one of the most popular labels among backpackers. He released classic albums from artists like Mos Def and Company Flow before committing capital sin and being bought by Interscope. However, almost everything Company Flow produced and released under Def Jux, the label of Run star Jewls El-P , was essential for this sub-genre – not to mention the early work of Californian producer Madlib .
The term boom-bap refers to the kick of the bass drum (“boom”) followed by the dry “bap” of the snare drum, generally at a moderate tempo and mixed with so much treble that it is practically impossible to listen songs without it bouncing in your head. We can say that, especially at the beginning, any piece of hip-hop could have been called a boom-bap, even if the term was not introduced until 1984 with T La Rock’s outro on “It’s Yours”. The sound described here constitutes, so to speak, the heart of hip-hop – from the first breakbeats, including Marley Mal’s innovations in sampling, to the golden age of New York rap, where artists such as Ike Mann, Large Professor and Pete Rock defined the boom-bap.
“Cloud rap” is a term that became popular in 2010 with the self-proclaimed “Based God” Lil B which attempts to describe the dreamlike sound of this sub-genre. Since then, he has designated a whole wave of artists who focus on abstract soundscapes, charged with atmosphere, which rather encourage meditative introspection in his room and which therefore have little in common with traditional hip-hop. Its famous representatives are Clams Casino, Main Attractions and AP Rocky.
Conscious Hip Hop
The whole genre includes all the rap songs that consciously incorporate the standards of their time – from Miss Mel’s vision of urban poverty, to The Message from Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five , to reflections by J Cole on addiction in “KOD”. We often speak of “conscious hip-hop” for artists who focus on socio-political problems. Just think of Akala, Dead Prez, Talib Kweli and Boots Riley of The Coup, who are considered as much activists as artists. In a narrower sense, the genre also includes rappers who draw attention to racial political thought, such as Public Enemy, Paris and X-Clan in the early 90s. Since 2010, Kendrick Lamar has also followed this same line.
For a long time in the 90s, the word “crunk” was nothing more than a derivative of southern slang just to be electrified and excited. He appears here and there on various albums, for example on the first Out kast album “Player’s Ball” or on “Getting Crunk” by Tommy Wright III. In 1997, Lil ‘Jon & The Eastside Boyz appropriated the word with the release of “Get Crunch Who You Wit”. Drill
You have to go to Chicago in 2011 to find the roots of the drill, while the genre received worldwide attention the following year with the revolutionary anthem of Chief Keeve “I Don’t Like”. For those who are not passionate fans, it is difficult to recognize drill and trap – at least musically. The difference is in the attitude. While the trap deals with the end of the narcotics industry, the drill covers the topics of gun violence and gang warfare.
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