Sep 9, 2010

Answer to last question of the day: Rap versus Hip-hop

Well, I'm back. After a very long, laborious Labor Day weekend and a day-or-two under the weather, it is time to pick up right where we left off.

I asked what the difference between hip-hop and rap was, a deviation from the normally political tone of this blog only tangentally related due to the tendency of many rappers to evoke political thought in their rhymes.

My dear friend Nick and I were discussing what this difference could be. There are acts that we associate with the term "rap" - Eminem, Jay Z, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nas, 50 Cent, Beastie Boys, Ludacris. There are other acts that we deem "hip-hop" - Brother Ali, Jurassic 5, Blackalicious, Atmosphere, Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan.

What is the difference between these groups of artists? Both include white and black acts. Both include lyrical styles that run the spectrum from dark and violent to concious and educated, and often blur the two. Both use a mixture of complex and minimalist production styles.

The reality is that there is no difference between rap and hip-hop as far as the musical style is concerned. We call underground rappers hip-hop artists because they are more closely tied to the hip-hop cultural movement. Rap is just one element of that movement.

The 4 original elements of hip-hop were DJing (mixing both live and in the studio), breakdancing, MCing, and graffiti. With mainstream rap, record producers strip MCing away from it's base culture and package it for mass consumption.

Underground rap feels like hip-hop because it still has a stronger connection to its urban roots, when the youth involved in the subculture still breakdanced, beatboxed and tagged graffiti.

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Keep it civil and pg-13, please.