Rap Music: History and Genres

Posted by Nick Niesen on October 26th, 2010

Those who are young or relatively new to the HipHop culture don't realize that Rap Music has many different genres:

East Coast: The East Coast, most notably New York City, was the genesis for rap music hitting the mainstream. Run-D.M.C. led the pack, with Rakim and Big Daddy Kane also breaking through to make rap emerge as a national phenomenon.

West Coast: While HipHop was cooking in the East, West Coast rap music gained national recognition in the mid-1980s with performers like Ice T and Too $hort.

Dirty South: While most of the music world's attention focused on rap coming from New York and Los Angeles, HipHop artists in the South were turning to independent music labels to release their work. Geographically, the Dirty South genre encompassed places as diverse as Houston, Birmingham, and Miami, and was greatly influenced by Ghetto Mafia in the mid-1990s. Musically, Dirty South rap is known for is danceabilty and rhythmic delivery.

Gangsta Rap: Some say Gangsta Rap first emerged on the West Coast with N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" release, while others credit Ice T with taking Gangsta Rap to national acclaim. Characterized by lyrics glamorizing elements of a criminal lifestyle, violence, promiscuity, misogyny, and materialism, Gangsta Rap's controversy came to a head with the murder of the West Coast Tupcac Shakur in 1996, and the subsequent murder of the East Coast's The Notorious B.I.G. in 1997.

Pop Rap: Known for its widespread, mainstream appeal, Pop Rap's first breakout star was LL Cool J. The Fresh Prince and MC Hammer quickly rose to the top of the Pop Rap scene and the music charts with lyrics that were less controversial than those of the Gangsta Rap genre, and thus were more likely to receive radio airplay.

Christian Rap: While HipHop was garnering a reputation for less than savory lyrics and artists for questionable activities, other artists were expressing their faith through HipHop. Christian Rap took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s with rap groups like P.I.D. and S.F.C.

Jazz Rap: Although Jazz Rap has never enjoyed mainstream commercial success, the genre often incorporates Afrocentric and political themes. Gang Starr and Gil Scott-Heron are often cited as two of the first Jazz rappers.

Conscious HipHop: Similar to Jazz Rap, Conscious HipHop has never enjoyed mass commercial success. With an emphasis on social issues, Conscious HipHop isn't overtly political, but rather deals with issues such as poverty and religion.

Electro HipHop: A combination of dance music and rap, Electro HipHop first emerged in the 1980s on the West Coast from artists like Arabian Prince and Egyptian Lover. By the mid-1990s, Electro HipHop had pretty much run its course.


Nick Niesen

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Nick Niesen
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