What is Hip Hop Music?

What defines hip hop music and what hip hop music has come to represent in culture are two very different phenomena. Hip hop can be instantly recognisable by the canter of rapid-fire vocals and familiar patterns of the 808s. However, hip hop transcends sonic style to embrace an artistic edge that is solely synonymous with the genre.

Since hip hop music was born in the Bronx in the 70s, it has become a way to celebrate, confront and narrate the highs and lows of existence.

Hip hop became a way of seeing the world that resonated in minds across the globe. The popularity of hip hop had plenty to do with how it exposed wealth equality and disparity in 1970s America and offered compassion to everyone that found themselves on the wrong side of the rich-poor divide. Perhaps most importantly, hip hop offered an alternative to apathy for marginalised groups in society, resistance.

The genre has a rich past, but the future looks even brighter. Hip hop surpassed rock as the most popular genre in 2017 for the first time. For many, the genre became a lifeline during 2020, with the ten most-viewed artists on YouTube in 2020 all being hip hop artists. Hip Hop and RnB artists accounted for over a third of all streams in the US last year, and the popularity trend is showing no signs of slowing down.

Lil Baby, Juice WRLD, Drake, Eminem and Kevin Gates are just a handful of the artists taking up their well-deserved space on the Billboard music charts in 2021. It is safe to say that the cultural influence that established in the 70s is just as essential now than it was back then. If you need any further convincing, look at the change-invoking art that transpired as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Hip hop became the soundtrack to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 as the artists paid ode to a tradition much earlier than the invention of hip hop music itself. Fighting oppression was a major theme in the James Brown era of blues music, taking the Isley Brothers and their single, Fight the Power, as a perfect example, but no one fought the power with the same fire as the early hip hop pioneers such as Tupac, Run DMC, De La Soul & Rakim.

A Short History of Hip Hop Music

DJ Kool Herc made history happen in August 1973 when he filled a dancefloor by isolating and extending percussion breaks while spinning the same dance record on twin turntables. The other big-name DJs in the Bronx were paying close attention and found inspiration in Herc’s experimental ethos that was later defined by two principles:

  1. Utilising talent and available resources to create something new.
  2. Emulating others but finding your own voice and groove.

The founding principles of hip hop music go a long way in explaining how the genre evolved so rapidly through the past few decades; it spoke to a growing movement of urban philosophers, poets and visual artists who all wanted to make their impact. Simply put, hip hop became a platform like no other.

The middle-classes did their best to ignore the hip hop revolution, but the pioneers persevered and kept pushing their messages that threatened to shake them out of complacency. Hip hop music attacked everything from urban poverty to racism to economic abandonment. The gangster rap group, N.W.A. shook the world with their iconic track, Fuck Tha Police, in 1988 before the Sugar Hill Gang proved that there was plenty more to hip hop than just aggressive narratives.

Over the years, many things became synonymous with hip hop, from the spoken-word style to the self-awareness of the artists keen to share their social and moral principles with the world. Today, hip hop encompasses a multitude of sub-genres, including, but not limited to, drill, grime, cloud rap, trap, jazz hip hop, boom bap, lo-fi hip hop, hardcore hip hop, mumble rap, nerdcore, breakbeat, ghetto house and emo rap. With artists such as Yungblud, Kae Tempest and Niki Minaj on the airwaves, we probably don’t need to point out that hip hop culture is more diverse than ever.

Submit Hip Hop Music

A&R Factory has been championing hip hop artists since 2012. Since then, we have become lauded and recognised as one of the best hip hop blogs to submit music to for artists looking to expand their reach to an international audience.

We especially want to hear from artists covering experimental ground with their sound, artists paying ode to the old school with their own lyrical flair and those looking to shift perceptions with their introspection. Submit hip hop music to our award-winning blog here.

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