Whenever I go to a music store or website, I always see Hip hop and Rap in the same section, and many times the terms are used interchangeably.
When you bring up this subject to people, there are many different responses. Most of the time people equate Hip hop to being the older of the two, as the real foundation for the genre. People also say that Hip hop has more of a Jazzy, upbeat feel. Rap, according to most people, is anything made after 1994. Most of what came before is considered Old School Hip Hop.
Some people say Hip hop is Dead. “Rapper” Nas claimed this a while back. I disagree..and I also don’t consider Nas a “Rapper,” though he is commonly referred to as one.
I’m an independent artist myself. I actually happen to be a lyricist that mostly writes hip hop lyrics, but I also do some electronic music and R&B. I would never classify myself as a rapper though, simply because of the bad associations that the word has. I’m talking about the subject matter that is in the songs I classify as rap.
The REAL difference between the two categories is lyrical content. Rap, I classify, as being a genre that focuses on particular concepts over and over again. The subject matter never really changes very much. It is almost like Rap is a mass produced form of music, and the artistic dynamic to the music is often lost.
However Hip hop on the other hand, which is still very much alive (overshadowed, but alive), has a greater value to the listener. It offers poetic and often insightful lyrics that give you a second reason to want to listen again. Take a look at one of my favorite Hip hop lyricists, Emmanuel Jackson in the video below. He’s unknown right now, but look out for him in the next couple years. Hip hop will be making a huge comeback. His style is also the closest to my own that I have ever seen and I have tremendous respect for his art.
I hope this post cleared this issue up for a lot of people. Rap is a mainstream pop genre that goes through fads faster than an elementary school, and Hip Hop is a fundamentally pure art form who’s roots are so deep that it will never really die. In fact, I think Rap may be in danger pretty soon, especially with people like Emmanuel Jackson emerging, who happens to feel the exact same way as me on the subject. The REAL difference is all about the REAL.
It’s been a while since I wrote this so I felt I’d update it. Plus there was a good comment today from cola that brings up a good point:
“sorry, after reading this i still don’t feel educated about what hip hop is vs. rap. it sounds subjective. if you think it’s good, it’s hip hop. if you think it’s commercial and shallow, it’s rap. i need a meatier and more objective answer. thanks, though.”
That’s just the thing about hip hop though. It’s about the lyrical content.
Hip Hop is all about heart. Heart is the essence of Hip Hop. Listen to the name..Hip Hop..it sounds like a heart beat. Then listen to the name rap..it sounds like….crap.
But this is where the subjectiveness is really made apparent. Somebody might be spitting about some nickel bags and some spinners, and some people might not feel it because they can’t relate. Then it’s not Hip Hop to that person. To other people, that same verse might strike them differently, paint a different picture for them, and so to them it might be Hip Hop. It’s really about making a connection from one person’s heart to another person’s. That’s Hip Hop, and if that’s the MC’s aim, usually the music will reflect that as well.
Take this song for example. This is my good friend Dot the One, with The World is not Enough, off his new mixtape Aviators and Bombers. The whole concept for the mixtape is emphasizing how people are so concerned with the shallower things in life, like a pair of sunglasses. To someone who doesn’t know that this is Dot’s intent, it might sound like he’s glorifying this stuff to the extreme, and that might be whack to some people, but if you know what he’s really trying to do, which is inherent in his flow if you listen carefully, then you feel it, and to me it’s pure Hip Hop.
I like to equate it to visual art. Some guy that just throws a bunch of paint splatters on a canvas, with no real technique, and calls it art might actually end up touching some people, and to them, that is art. But I feel like it all comes down to the motive of the “artist.” Are they just trying to make as much money as they can while putting in the least amount of effort possible, or is there actually a deeper method to their madness. I think that’s the definitions of trash and art, respectively.
Unless you really know what the person’s motives are, you may come out with a different definition, which is where the subjectivity of art comes in, since usually people don’t know the motives of an artist when they encounter a work. Art is intrinsically subjective because it has to be a personal thing to be considered art..it has to touch someone..not everyone, but someone. But, on the more objective side, there is, in actuality, 1 true motive behind the work, and that’s where subjectivity doesn’t really matter anymore. It either is, or it isn’t, worthy of the title of Art, based on real motive.
I think that Hip Hop is a similar title to that of Art. To me, and many other people who put a lot of time and effort into their rhymes, if the motives are to touch people in a particular way, for the purpose of communicating something somewhat important, or meaningful, from one person to another person, that’s worthy of the title of Hip Hop. If they’re just rapping about some hypocritical garbage to get attention and to get money, it can’t be hip hop..that’s rap. I would almost consider Tyler the Creator in this category, because he just says shit to create a reaction..but then again he puts a lot of effort into creating those visuals in your head, and I don’t really know him or his motives behind his work so I couldn’t really tell you for sure, only what I think about it, and that’ll be different for each person.
I find though, like almost everything in life, that’s it’s not always just black and white, but instead it’s more of a spectrum, with a million different possible points of variation in between. Hip Hop, and Rap are the two complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but in the end, if it gets through, for some people, the spectrum can seem to bend and even come full circle, and definitions can change..subjectivity = art.
I’m sticking to my belief that Hip Hop is all about heart, because that’s how it’s made me feel, and if it doesn’t have that, it’s not Hip Hop as far as I’m concerned. A lot of respected and proven hip hoppers agree with me. Notice how the title of the song is Phony Rappers, and Qtip makes a reference to the real as MC’s, not rappers. He obviously thinks there’s a difference too. I’m of course partial to Hip Hop..some people are partial to Rap, and that’s great. Then again, it also depends a lot on mood too. Once again, the real difference between Rap and Hip Hop has to be about the real – real motives, real feeling, real love, real hate, real heart, whatever the flavor. That’s the difference.
“Cause once you add the hip to the hop kid, it equals out to love”
– Phife Dawg
Written by: Dante Carmelo Cullari (aka ILL principe) Founder and CEO Beat-Play, LLC