Hip hop has come a long way since its birth in the Bronx during the late 1970s.
As a dynamic and ever-evolving genre, hip hop has given birth to numerous subgenres that have shaped and revolutionized the music industry.
Today, we’re going to dive deep into 17 influential hip hop subgenres that have all made their mark on music history.
From the OGs and pioneers who laid the groundwork for hip hop to the modern artists pushing the boundaries of the genre, we’ll cover it all.
So, come join us as we take a fascinating journey through the diverse and captivating world of hip hop subgenres.
Table of Contents
- #1. Old School Hip Hop
- #2. Conscious Hip Hop
- #3. Rap Rock
- #4. Gangsta Rap
- #5. Southern Hip Hop
- #6. Lo-Fi Hip Hop
- #7. Jazz Rap
- #8. Alternative Hip Hop
- #9. Boom Bap
- #10. East Coast Rap and West Coast Rap
- #11. Trap Music
- #12. Grime
- #13. Mumble Rap
- #14. Emo Rap
- #15. Drill
- #16. Latin Trap
- #17. G-Funk
- Hip Hop Subgenres: Final Thoughts
#1. Old School Hip Hop
Old School Hip Hop, the genre that laid the foundation for everything that followed, originated in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
This subgenre marked the beginnings of hip hop music and culture, with pioneers like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa leading the way.
What sets Old School Hip Hop apart from its successors is its focus on live performances and block parties, where DJs would spin records and MCs would rap over the beats.
The sound of Old School Hip Hop is characterized by its simple, danceable beats, and the use of turntables for scratching and mixing music.
Breakdancing and graffiti art also played a significant role in shaping the hip hop culture during this era.
The lyrics often revolved around everyday life, social issues, and having a good time, making the music relatable and easy to connect with.
DJ Kool Herc, one of the founding fathers of Old School Hip Hop, is credited with inventing the “breakbeat” technique, where he would loop the instrumental breaks of funk records to create a continuous beat for dancers.
This innovative approach laid the groundwork for modern hip hop songs and hip hop production techniques.
#2. Conscious Hip Hop
Conscious Hip Hop emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a reaction to the materialism and violence often associated with other hip hop subgenres.
This hip hop subgenres focus is on thought-provoking lyrics that address social issues, political commentary, and personal reflection.
Conscious Hip Hop aims to raise awareness and promote positive change, challenging listeners to think critically about the world around them.
Some of the defining characteristics of Conscious Hip Hop include complex wordplay, intricate storytelling, and the use of diverse musical influences such as jazz, funk, and soul.
This subgenre also tends to emphasize live instrumentation and a more organic sound, as opposed to heavily synthesized beats.
Conscious Hip Hop has played a significant role in shaping the intellectual and creative side of the genre, demonstrating that rap music can be both entertaining and educational.
Conscious Hip Hop kicked off a wave of socially and politically engaged artists, with groups like Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest paving the way for future generations of conscious rappers.
#3. Rap Rock
Rap Rock emerged in the late 1980s as a fusion of hip hop and rock music, blending the aggressive energy of rock with the lyrical prowess and rhythm of rap.
This subgenre often features powerful guitar riffs, heavy drums, and rap vocals, creating a unique and high-energy sound that appeals to fans of both genres.
Rap Rock has evolved over the years, incorporating elements of alternative rock, punk, and metal to diversify its sound.
Some of the key Rap Rock artists include Run-D.M.C., who were among the first to experiment with this fusion, as well as later acts like Rage Against the Machine and Linkin Park.
This hip hop subgenres had a lasting impact on the music industry, with many modern artists drawing inspiration from Rap Rock’s innovative blend of styles.
Run-D.M.C.’s collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” is considered a groundbreaking moment in Rap Rock history.
It introduced rap and hip hop to a wider audience and helped break down barriers between different hip hop genres.
#4. Gangsta Rap
Gangsta Rap, which originated in the late 1980s, is a subgenre that focuses on the harsh realities of street life, crime, and violence.
It often features explicit lyrics and aggressive beats, reflecting the struggles faced by those living in disadvantaged urban areas.
Gangsta Rap has been both influential and controversial, with critics arguing that it promotes negative stereotypes and glorifies criminal behavior.
Some of the most iconic Gangsta Rap artists include Ice-T, N.W.A., and Tupac Shakur.
These artists used their music as a platform to address social and political issues, giving a voice to those who felt marginalized and disenfranchised.
Despite its controversial nature, this hip hop subgenres left an indelible mark on hip hop music and culture, influencing countless artists and shaping the genre’s evolution.
Ice-T’s 1986 song “6 in the Mornin'” is often credited as the first Gangsta Rap track, laying the foundation for the subgenre’s development and popularization in the years to come.
#5. Southern Hip Hop
Southern Hip Hop emerged in the early 1990s as a distinct regional style within the hip hop genre.
With its roots in states like Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana, Southern Hip Hop incorporates elements of Southern cultures, such as blues, gospel, and soul music.
This subgenre is characterized by its slower tempos, heavy basslines, and a focus on regional pride and identity.
Some of the most influential Southern artists include OutKast, UGK, and Master P.
These acts not only put the South on the hip hop map but also contributed to the diversification of the genre as a whole.
Today, it remains a significant force in the music industry, with many of its key characteristics and sounds influencing artists from all corners of the hip hop spectrum.
OutKast’s 1994 debut album, “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik,” is considered a landmark release in Southern history.
It introduced the world to the unique sounds (like screwed hip hop) and styles of the Dirty South.
#6. Lo-Fi Hip Hop
Lo-Fi, which emerged in the late 1990s and gained popularity in the 2010s, is a subgenre characterized by its low-fidelity sound and a focus on creating a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere.
The production techniques used in Lo-Fi often involve the use of vintage equipment, such as analog tape machines and samplers.
As well as the intentional inclusion of imperfections, like background noise and tape hiss.
This hip hop subgenres signature is simple, loop-based beats, smooth melodies, and heavy use of sampling from various sources, including soul, classical, and jazz music.
Lo-Fi has gained a dedicated following, with many listeners using it as background music for relaxation, study, and other low-key activities.
Lo Fi Hip Hop has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the rise of “study beats” playlists.
As well as live streaming channels on platforms like YouTube, where fans can tune in to continuous loops of laid-back, instrumental hip hop tracks.
#7. Jazz Rap
Jazz Rap, a subgenre that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, fuses the sophisticated rhythms and melodies of jazz music with the lyrical prowess and storytelling of hip hop.
This hip hop subgenres live instrumentation, such as brass and woodwind sections, as well as jazz-inspired piano and basslines truly shine.
Jazz Rap showcases the intellectual and artistic side of hip hop, with artists often exploring complex themes and incorporating poetic, introspective lyrics.
Notable Jazz Rap artists include A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Guru’s Jazzmatazz project.
These acts not only pushed the boundaries of hip hop music but also introduced a new generation of listeners to the rich history and tradition of jazz.
The jazz rap style drums used in many Jazz Rap music songs are often sampled from classic jazz records, further solidifying the connection between the two genres.
#8. Alternative Hip Hop
Alternative Hip Hop emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a response to the commercialization and mainstream success of hip hop music.
This hip hop subgenres experimental approach to production and lyrical content, with artists often exploring unconventional themes is what it’s known for.
As well as incorporating influences from other genres, such as rock, electronic, and world music.
Some of the most influential Alternative Hip Hop artists include The Pharcyde, Beastie Boys, and MF DOOM.
By pushing the creative boundaries of hip hop, these artists have made significant contributions to the genre’s evolution and helped to expand its appeal to a wider audience.
Alternative Hip Hop has often served as a platform for artists to express their individuality and challenge the status quo.
Legends like OutKast and Missy Elliott incorporate elements of funk, soul, and electronica into their groundbreaking sound.
#9. Boom Bap
Boom Bap, a subgenre that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is characterized by its hard-hitting, sample-based beats and gritty, street-smart lyrics.
The term “Boom Bap” refers to the drum sounds typically used in the production of these tracks, with the “boom” representing the kick drum and the “bap” representing the snare.
This hip hop subgenres heavily associated with East Coast hip hop and played a crucial role in shaping the sound and style of the New York rap scene.
Iconic Boom Bap artists include Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, and Big L, who are known for their complex wordplay, storytelling, and unapologetic portrayal of urban life.
Boom Bap remains a beloved and influential subgenre, with many modern artists incorporating elements of its sound into their own music.
Boom Bap inspired beats have seen a resurgence in recent years, with artists like Joey Bada$$ and Kendrick Lamar paying homage to the subgenre’s classic sound and aesthetic.
#10. East Coast Rap and West Coast Rap
East Coast Rap and West Coast Rap, two of the most significant regional subgenres within hip hop, emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
East Coast Rap, which originated in New York City, is known for its hard-hitting beats, intricate lyricism, and focus on storytelling.
West Coast Rap, on the other hand, hails from cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco and is characterized by its laid-back, funky beats, and smooth, melodic flows.
The two hip hop subgenres have played a crucial role in shaping the sound and direction of hip hop music and have often been pitted against each other in the media.
Particularly during the infamous East Coast-West Coast rivalry of the 1990s, of course.
Some of the most iconic East Coast Rap artists include The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Nas, while West Coast Rap boasts legends such as Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg.
Both of these hip hop subgenres have made significant contributions to the development of hip hop and continue to influence artists today.
The East Coast-West Coast rivalry reached its peak in the mid-1990s, with the tragic murders of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., both of whom became symbols of their respective regional styles.
#11. Trap Music
Trap Music, which emerged in the early 2000s, is a subgenre of hip hop that originated in the Southern United States, particularly in Atlanta, Georgia.
Trap Music is characterized by its aggressive, bass-heavy beats, rapid hi-hat patterns, and dark, often menacing lyrics that focus on themes of drug dealing, street life, and violence.
Key players in the Trap Music scene include T.I., Gucci Mane, and Migos.
Over the years, Trap Music has evolved and expanded beyond its regional origins, with artists like Future and Travis Scott incorporating elements of the subgenre into their own unique styles.
The term “trap” refers to a place where drugs are sold, and the music often provides a soundtrack to the harsh realities faced by those living in these environments.
Grime is a subgenre of hip hop that originated in London, England, in the early 2000s.
This high-energy, fast-paced style combines elements of UK Garage, Drum and Bass, and Dancehall with aggressive, often confrontational lyrics.
Grime is characterized by its rapid-fire flows, syncopated rhythms, and heavy use of electronic production techniques, such as sampling and digital instrumentation.
Some of the most notable Grime artists include Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, and Skepta.
While initially a predominantly UK-based subgenre, Grime has gained international recognition and influence, with artists from around the world incorporating elements of its sound into their own music.
Grime has its roots in the UK’s pirate radio scene, where early pioneers would broadcast their music illegally to reach a wider audience.
#13. Mumble Rap
Mumble Rap, a controversial subgenre that emerged in the mid-2010s, is characterized by its repetitive, often simplistic lyrics and heavy use of Auto-Tune.
Mumble Rap artists prioritize melody and flow over lyrical content, resulting in a more accessible and catchy sound.
Critics argue that Mumble Rap sacrifices substance for style, while supporters claim it represents a natural evolution of hip hop music.
Notable Mumble Rap artists include Future, Lil Uzi Vert, and Lil Yachty.
Their popularity has helped to redefine the modern hip hop soundscape, with many artists now incorporating elements of Mumble Rap into their own music.
Mumble Rap is often associated with Soundcloud rap, as many of its most prominent artists gained initial fame through the platform.
#14. Emo Rap
Emo Rap is a fusion of hip hop and emo music that emerged in the late 2010s.
This hip hop subgenre is characterized by its introspective lyrics, which often explore themes of mental health, depression, and personal struggles.
Emo Rap music artists typically employ melodic, sing-rap vocal styles and utilize emo-inspired guitar riffs and trap-influenced beats.
Super popular Emo Rap artists include Lil Peep, Juice WRLD, and XXXTentacion.
Their vulnerability and raw emotion have struck a chord with younger audiences, helping to propel Emo Rap music into mainstream success.
Many Emo Rap music artists, such as Lil Peep, have cited alternative rock bands like Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance as major influences on their sound and aesthetic.
Drill, a subgenre that originated in Chicago in the early 2010s, is characterized by its dark, aggressive beats and violent, often nihilistic lyrics.
Drill music is heavily influenced by the experiences and realities of life in inner-city Chicago, with many artists addressing themes of gang violence, drug dealing, and poverty.
Prominent Drill artists include Chief Keef, Lil Durk, and G Herbo.
This hip hop subgenre has since spread beyond Chicago, with the UK Drill scene gaining significant traction in recent years.
The term “drill” is derived from a slang term for shooting, reflecting the subgenre’s gritty and violent subject matter.
#16. Latin Trap
Latin Trap is a fusion of hip hop and Latin music that emerged in the mid-2010s.
This subgenre is characterized by its use of Spanish-language lyrics, reggaeton-inspired rhythms, and trap-influenced beats.
Latin Trap has helped to diversify the hip hop landscape, showcasing the talents of Latinx artists and introducing new audiences to the genre.
Key Latin Trap artists include Bad Bunny, Anuel AA, and Ozuna.
Their success has not only helped to elevate Latin Hip Hop and Latin Trap but also contributed to the broader resurgence of Latin music on the global stage.
Latin Trap is often associated with reggaeton and trap music, as it blends elements of both styles to create its unique sound.
G-Funk, a subgenre that emerged in the early 1990s, is characterized by its smooth, melodic beats and heavy use of funk samples.
G-Funk originated on the West Coast and played a major role in defining the sound of the region during its golden age of hip hop.
Pioneered by artists like Dr. Dre and Warren G, this hip hop subgenres known for its laid-back grooves, catchy hooks, and feel-good vibes.
Key G-Funk artists include Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, and Ice Cube, whose music helped shape the West Coast hip hop scene during its most influential period.
G-Funk is heavily influenced by 1970s funk music, with artists frequently sampling tracks by legendary acts like Parliament-Funkadelic and Zapp.
Hip Hop Subgenres: Final Thoughts
Hip hop’s incredible diversity and adaptability are showcased through these 17 hip hop subgenres, each bringing its own unique flavor and perspective to the genre.
From the social consciousness of Old School Hip Hop and Conscious Hip Hop to the raw emotion of Emo Rap and the hard-hitting beats of Drill, hip-hop continues to evolve and inspire artists and listeners around the world.
Speaking of different genres, inside the Unison Beatmaker Blueprint pack, you’ll find over 9,000 hit-worthy melody loops, drum loops, individual samples, 808s, one-shots, fx, atmospheres, and more.
They’re all spread across the top 11 beat-making genres in the world and are guaranteed to blow the minds of anyone who hears them.
Who knows, you may even invent a brand new subgenre altogether.
As hip-hop music and culture continue to expand and innovate, it’s exciting to see what new subgenres and styles will emerge to shape the future of the genre.
Until next time…
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