24 Types of Rap and Hip-Hop Music

Rap and Hip-Hop are more than genres but lifestyles for most, as they have their unique subcultures. Since its birth around 40 years ago, rap and hip-hop have separated into many different branches, giving birth to more than 20 sub-genres from underground New York hip-hop to UK Drill.

Today, all these sub-genres have their narrative, beats, subculture, and styles, making the rap and hip-hop scene richer than ever. So, let’s dive into this fascinating world to get to know the different approaches and sounds of hip-hop and rap music.

1. Old School Hip-Hop

The first examples of hip-hop came from New York in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Although they were categorized with different sub-genres later, most hip-hop tunes from this era are called old-school hip-hop. The most famous artists were Tupac, Hill Gang, and Slick Rick. 

The genre features the first use of samples, turntable-based production, and melodies, simple yet effective rhythmic patterns in a duple meter. The narrative was more about the lives of the artists and their struggles. While there were many different approaches and styles in the era, they had a similar origin which is why they are called Old School Hip-Hop.

2. Boom-Bap

Named after the drum production style of drum boom and snare bap, Boom-Bap is a famous rap style from the 90s. It features soul and funk influences, a moderate tempo, and rhyming with the hard-hitting drums. Having inspired other sub-genres, it is still one of the most loved rap styles.

In the days of old-school hip-hop, most rap music featured a boom-bap production style. As the heart of hip-hop, the songs had punchy and powerful beats to a hypnotic degree, with M.C.s rapping in line with the beats.

The production style affected many later sub-genres as well as other genres, which heavily helped the progression of mainstream music. Nas, Mobb Deep, and Tang Clan are some of the famous names in the sub-genre.

3. Gangsta Rap

Rap music is heavily shaped by gangster life and victims of gangsterism. Gangsta Rap takes the gangsta and street life as its narrative and Boom-Bap rap style as its base. As one of the most significant and famous rap styles, Gangsta Rap is considered an honest document of street life.

Gangsta Rap is very similar to Boom-Bap in its music and production style but uses many samples from classical and jazz music. But, the main role is the narrative which talks about gangsta life in the streets. It was born in the mid-80s and is still popular today.

The first artists to come to mind in the Gangsta Rap scene are Jedi Mind Tricks and Geto Boys, but many famous artists like Tupac, Nas, Jay-Z, and Scarface, have contributed to the sub-genre.

4. Jazz Rap

A step forward from the Boom-Bap is Jazz Rap, which uses many samples from jazz and soul music. In the 2000’s hip-hop artists pushed the limits of samples and production styles with complex rhyme schemes, creating a hip-hop/jazz fusion.

A Tribe Called Quest is the most successful artist of the sub-genre, but Karriem Riggins, Knxwledge, and MF DOOM are other names to come to mind. All these artists use complex rhythms and off-kilter drum production styles.

5. Trap

The most popular hip-hop style since the 2010s is Trap, which influenced almost all mainstream genres with its unique trap beat style. With punchy bass and fast hi-hat use with triplets, it is a modern hip-hop style that originated in Atlanta with artists Metro Boomin and Zaytoven.

The Trap has many sub-genres, and the trap beat is used in many other genres, from pop to country music these days. It uses many modern sampling technologies. Each artist has a different rhyming approach to trap songs which creates distinct styles.

The main trap artists to check are Gucci Mane and Future.

6. Drill

Born in Chicago during the early 2010s, Drill is a sub-genre of Trap music. The music is very similar to trap with speedy hi-hat triplet grooves, synth pads, and horns samples, but the attitude and narrative are highly different. With violent lyrics, Drill talks about guns and gangsta street life.

The main Drill artists are Chief Keef and Young Chop, but the sub-genre also has many fans and artists in the United Kingdom, which is often called UK Drill. 

7. UK Drill

UK Drill combines the UK Grime lyrics with the Chicago-originated Drill’s trap music, creating a synthesis of genres. UK Drill was born in the late 2010s, and the main artists of the genre are Stickz and Skribz. The most distinctive aspect of the genre is, again, the lyrics about violent crime.

8. Grime

Born in the U.K. during the early 2000s, Grime is a combination of electronic dance music and beat-driven hip-hop music production. In Grime songs, British slang from London is used with a unique lyrical style. The music features a synth-and-pads-focused groove with influences from U.K. garage music.

Grime can be described as harsh and uptempo beat-driven hip-hop music from East London. Many people do not think it is actually hip-hop as it sits somewhere between E.D.M. and hip-hop.

Skepta, J.M.E. are the first artists to be named when talking about Grime music.

9. Country Trap

As the synthesis of Nashville pop-country and Atlanta trap, Country Trap is a relatively new genre. With trap grooves and hats combined with 808 claps from party-style pop-country music, the sub-genre has a unique combination. The first hit of the genre is considered Lil Nas X with Old Town Road.

Another significant member of the sub-genre is Nelly with Florida Georgia Line. Along with Lil Nas, Nelly put the foundations of Country Trap. The aesthetics and the lyrical content of the genre greatly combine the good old country figures and metaphors with modern trap music beats and melodies. 

10. Latin Trap

Latin Trap is a relatively new subgenre which born from the marriage of reggaeton and trap music. It features a classic Dembow of reggaeton combined with fast trap hats. The lyrics are in Spanish and have both rapped and sung parts. The genre is highly popular in Latin countries.

The main artists of the Latin trap are the Spanish singer Rosalia, Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny and Cardi B. These artists are all reggaeton singers as Latin Trap is very similar to reggaeton but with slight influences from trap music.

11. Cloud Rap

Characterized by airy-sounding abstract sounds and atmospheric tones with more introspective melodies, Cloud Rap differs heavily from traditional hip-hop’s dancy percussive grooves. The main artists of the genre are Clams Casino, Oakland duo Main Attrakionz, and A$AP Rocky.

Although the term Cloud Rap does not have distinct limits, all the abstract-sounding hip-hop styles without the percussive and dancy grooves of hip-hop are considered in this category. The first examples, such as Based God of Lil B, were created in the early 2010s.

12. Lo-Fi Hip-Hop

One of the rare instrumental hip-hop styles is Lo-Fi Hip-Hop, which got highly popular thanks to the YouTube streaming playlists. It features jazz-rap style drums, moody and low-key samples, and eccentric melodies with boom-bap inspired beats.

The sub-genre is highly inspired by jazz-rap and artists like J Dilla. Today it is the most popular instrumental hip-hop style and is used as ambient music on many occasions.

13. Rap Rock

Rooted in the 90s, rap-rock gets the high energy and sound of rock music with rapping style together. The genre has rock bands like Linkin Park incorporating rapping next to their singing, as well as hip-hop artists like Jay-Z sampling rock songs for their rapping.

Rap Rock dates back to the ’90s with Beastie Boys and Run D.M.C.’s rap-rock fusion songs, but the sub-genre got its fame in the 2000s with bands like Linkin Park. Rap rock follows the tradition of rock songs but allows for rapping in some parts with hip-hop grooves and drum n bass lines.

Also, artists like Jay-Z and rappers from Run D.M.C. used heavy metal and rock samples for their rapping and created a new style of rapping by adapting their flows to the rock sounds.

14. Frat Rap

Frat Rap is a more casual rap style that focuses on the party lifestyle of mainly U.S.A. college fraternities, which is the origin of the style’s name. The songs are carefree and uplifting, which are pretty different from the rest of hip-hop culture.

The most famous artists of frat rap are Asher Roth, Mac Miller, Hoodie Allen, and Sammy Adams. Although the sub-genre does not have a significant role in hip-hop culture, some songs got highly popular, especially during the early 2010s.

15. G-Funk

One of the most famous subgenres of hip-hop is G-Funk, with globally famous names like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. G-Funk was created in the late 90s with the fusion of hip-hop electronic drum beats with funky grooves. Dr. Dre was the pioneer of the style.

Dr. Dre got highly popular with his new hip-hop sound called G-Funk, and almost everybody in the California hip-hop scene worked with him to get into the G-Funk scene. Dr. Dre used lots of funk guitar samples, synths, and electronic drum grooves to get the funk and hip-hop together.

The most famous artists of the genre after Dr. Dre are considered to be Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg.

16. Hyphy

Mainly known for its strong influence on other subgenres like G-Funk, Hyphy was the main player on the west coast in the 90s. It is a fun music style with funky rhythms and a laid-back feel. Hyphy inspired Dr. Dre significantly, who created G-Funk, one of the most popular hip-hop styles.

Hyphy has an electronic bounce music characteristic with lots of humor and fun. It was born in the early 90s around California and when New York was the base of hip-hop music. The name comes from the word hyperactive, which amazingly summarizes the characteristics of the sub-genre in a single word.

The most famous hyphy artists were Mac Dre, The Federation, Too $hort, and E-40.

17. Footwork

Footwork is a unique hip-hop subgenre, which shines with its peculiar grooves and melodies in very high B.P.M.s. The style is similar to trap but with a faster and more groovy feel. The drums and rhythm are the main players, along with jazzy and soul samples.

Footwork features quick transitions between duplets and triplets, triplet kick feels as well as lightning-fast hi-hats and greatly melodic jazz and soul samples. Main Footwork artists are DJs such as D.J. Paypal, D.J. Taye, and D.J. Spinn. It is a modern hip-hop subgenre that was born in the 2010s in the U.S.A.

18. Horrorcore

One of the darkest sub-genres of hip-hop is Horrorcore, transgressive and dark gangsta rap with occult imagery and graphic lyrics. The genre has southern roots from Memphis and Houston, while the music features a unique trap style and is an inspiration for trap music.

The gothic metaphors, theatrical horror, and an occult narrative with a unique trap style of music are good descriptions of Horrorcore. Some horrorcore artists are Geto Boys, Bushwick Bill, Three 6 Mafia, Gravediggaz, The Insane Clown Posse, and Necro. 

Horrorcore sounds pretty different from other hip-hop subgenres, and the lyrical content is darkly transgressive. Artists like Eminem and Tech N9ne also had some horrorcore songs and inspirations.

19. Bounce

In the early ’90s, the south had a different hip-hop scene in New Orleans called Bounce. It was a more fun-sounding sub-genre compared to the gritty and harsh tone of New York rap. It had a fusion of soul and R&B sounds along with a dancy groove. Bounce was famous for its women M.C.s.

The south had a different way of hip-hop with a dancy nature, lots of call-and-response style partitions that made the songs catchy and fun to sing along with. Its soul and R&B style approach allowed many women M.C.s to rap and sing.

Most famous Bounce artists included Magnolia Shorty, D.J. Jubilee, and Juvenile.

20. Conscious Hip-Hop

Conscious Hip-Hop is the response of hip-hop to police brutality against African-Americans. Born with the boom-bap during the 90s, conscious hip-hop is more characterized by the lyrical content that shows the anger of the black communities and politically speaks the truth.

Groups like N.W.A., The Roots, Public Enemy, and A Tribe Called Quest were the pioneers of the sub-genre.

The riots in Los Angeles during the early 1990s heavily affected the black communities and hip-hop singers, which led to the creation of conscious hip-hop with the boom-bap features but this time with a political focus that screamed the anger towards police brutality against Afro-Americans.

21. Crunk

Came to life during the early 1990s in the southwest U.S.A, Crunk is one of the unique sub-genre of hip-hop. Crunk means getting excited and hyped in the south slang. With its unique gnarly vocals, fast hi-hat use, and punchy bass lines, Crunk is one of the most distinct-sounding hip-hop styles.

The most famous Crunk artist is Lil John, who is famous for his amazing vocal lines. Crunk artists like to almost scream slogans in the choruses of their songs, which Lil Jon is well-known with. The music has mid-tempo trap-like club beats, from which the Trap genre got its influences.

22. Backpack

In the late 90s, a new wave of rap was born called Backpack, which rejected the polished mainstream rap, creating an underground hip hop scene with Afrocentric and conscious rap origins. The artists and fans had backpacks with books, rhyme pads, spray paint, or vinyl inside. 

The genre was inspired by Native Tongues and Public Enemy in the mid-80s, who were more concerned about having a message rather than getting mainstream and popular. The sub-genre had thought-provoking lyrics, which was the main character of backpack rap.

The indie label Rawkus Records was the source of the sub-genre. The label had many famous faces like Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, Skillz, and even a young Eminem.

23. Emo Rap

Emo Rap peculiarly combines nihilistic lyrics, melancholy melodies of the emo world, and neo-R&B grooves and production styles. The main characteristics of the genre are the lyrics about pain and the aesthetics of emo and grunge costumes.

It was born in the mid-2010s when rappers started rhyming toward classic beats with nihilistic lyrical themes. The instrument samples were also always melancholy-oriented, like the melodies in emo music. Juice Wrld, Lil Peep, and Lil Uzi Vert are some of the most famous artists of the sub-genre.

24. Mumble Rap

Mumble rap is a direct approach to rap with trap-style beats and very fast rhyming with absurd words that mainly do not mean anything. That is where the name is derived from and the most important characteristic of the genre. It is more important to rhyme fast than the lyrical content.

Artists like 645AR, Young Thug, and Lil Yachty are the most notable artists of Mumble Rap, and they are some of the fastest rappers in the hip-hop world. Instead of the slow and heavy rhymes of trap artists, Mumble Rap combines trap beats with lightning-fast rhyming with sometimes made-up words.

Conclusion

Rap and hip-hop music are now among the most popular genres in the world, thanks to their gigantic subculture, famous rappers, great lyrical content, and sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes uplifting, and sometimes dark narratives. From it’s roots in the 70s, hip-hop and rap gave birth to many different sub-genres that enriched the scene.

While there are many other minor sub-genres and ways to categorize the different approaches in the hip-hop and rap world, these are 24 of the most notable and significant sub-genres that are highly popular today or decided the course of the genre in the past.

Berk Öztuna is a handpan player, percussionist, and guitarist. He has been playing multiple instruments over the last 10 years. He started his music career as a guitarist, playing with several bands before putting his main focus into playing the handpan.

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