Rap Vs Hip Hop: Know Your Genre
Both rap and hip-hop have become the defining sounds of a whole generation. Both have become so popular, in fact, that we hear their defining rhythms everywhere, from song collaborations to ad music and royalty-free music. The lines between both of these genres, however, are often blurred- do you know how to tell your rap from your hip-hop? Today we break down the genres and bring you up-to-speed on everything you need to know.
Shared Roots, but Not the Same
While it is true that rap and hip-hop share the same roots, both being defining facets of the black music movement, it’s a mistake to assume they’re one and the same. Both stem from the Bronx in the 1970s, and Jamaican DJ Kool Herc is believed to have been the progenitor of both. He was known for laying down cool rhymes over compelling beats, and the genres he created pulled in further inspiration from West African folk poets.
The 80s added compelling electro-funk vibes and heavy synthesizer use, mostly thanks to the pioneering efforts of Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force. These sounds spread first to US minority populations, then to the wider world as they started getting music video playtime globally.
Not Just A Sound, But A Movement
There’s a saying, commonly attributed to rap icon KRS-1, that ‘rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live’
This idea isn’t far off the truth, either. Hip-hop fast became a cultural movement. First adopted by street gangs in the Bronx, it became another way to sort the hierarchy, on-up your enemies, and gain street cred. Hip-hop incorporates dance (through breaking and hip-hop), DJing, street art and graffiti culture, and a general attitude that feeds into a whole lifestyle. Hip-hop is best seen as an entire culture of its own.
In fact, this is why many hip-hop aficionados feel that modern contemporary rap tracks, no matter the traction they get on the charts, can’t qualify for inclusion under the hip-hop banner at all. They argue that it lacks true connection and authenticity with the underlying cultural movement. They also dislike the continuous modern rap image of black life in the US revolving around violence and partying, instead of connecting with the lived experience of so many.
The Textbook Definition
All of that is, of course, a very nuanced approach to both genres. At the core, however, the key difference between hip-hop and rap lies in the rhythmic vocals that define rap, where hip-hop embraces a wider variety of music, instruments, and styles.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that music is ever-evolving. Where rap and hip-hop are at now is not where they will be in a year, let alone in another decade. Rap styles are evolving at a speedy rate, and we’ve seen some subtle shifts recently in the nuances of hip-hop, too. It’s a constant flux that keeps both genres fresh, fun, and engaging.
Whether you lean more to rap or embrace the wider hip-hop movement, one thing is for certain- these epic genres pack a punch that speaks to a global audience, and remain two of the top music genres on the market today.