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Types of Rap Music

Types of Rap Music

Rap as a music genre is complex with many layers and nuances that separate artists and albums into different subcategories. From gangsta rap of the West Coast to trap music of the South, and all the types of rap and regions in between, there are noticeable differences that make each unique. Each decade popularizes a certain style of rap that has resulted in various mashups of genres that make rap music more accessible to all. Here are a few of the main different types of rap and the artists that perform them.

Gangsta Rap

As a subgenre of the overall rap category, gangsta rap started taking shape in the mid-1980s before becoming part of the cultural norm in the 1990s. This style of music focuses mostly on lyrics that reflect street gang culture and activity happening around the country, though with a heavy focus on the West Coast.

N.W.A.

One of the most prolific faces of gangsta rap is N.W.A., the Compton, CA hip-hop group including Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre, is best known for their debut studio album, Straight Outta Compton which debuted in 1988. Known for their explicit and often controversial lyrics, N.W.A. spoke out against racism, police brutality, and other political and social issues of the era. They challenged censorship and paved the way for others in this subgenre to be forthcoming with their creative expression, whatever shape it may take.

Dr. Dre

For those whose love of rap and hip-hop came to fruition in the ‘90s, Dr. Dre is the standout artist that is most memorable from N.W.A. After success with his former group, he emerged as a solo artist in 1992 with his debut studio album, The Chronic. He’s known for an offshoot of the popular gangsta rap subgenre, referred to as G-funk, which is influenced by slow, heavy beats and synthesizer instrumentation similar to the funk era of the 1970s.

Snoop Dogg 

Another one of the greatest rappers of all time is gangsta rap artist Snoop Dogg. Often associated with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg emerged on his own career path in 1993 with his chart-topping album, Doggystyle. While his slower beats echo Dr. Dre’s style, Snoop Dogg created a subgenre of his own with dabblings into funk and reggae while still including the origination of the gangsta rap tone and approach. His signature laid-back style continues to draw in fans from all music genres and generations.

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Trap Music

One of the types of rap music to hail from the South is trap music or crunk. It’s also a subgenre that became popular in the 1990s and is notable for its synthesized drums and lyrical content focused on life in the South, as well as drug use and street violence. It has since worked its way to be combined with other types of music, including R&B, pop, and even country.

T.I. 

The genesis of trap music is often credited to Atlanta-based rapper, T.I., who coined the term on his 2003 album Trap Muzik, before reaching his greatest rap album success with Paper Trail in 2008, which became the certified gold. Known for his slow, Southern drawl, heavy hi-hat, snare, and bass drum elements, T.I. made trap music mainstream and delivered radio hits throughout the early 2000s.

Gucci Mane

Also known as a pioneer for this type of rap music, Gucci Mane released his first album, Trap House, independently, which eventually made its way into the Top 20 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. Known better as an underground artist more than his radio appeal, he has produced several mixtapes and has been featured on numerous tracks with his signature sound and style. 

Lil Jon

When it comes to crunk, a subgenre of trap music, no one rapped about it more than Lil Jon. He and his rap group, The East Side Boyz are best known for their party music collaborations, such as Yeah!, Get Low, and Goodies. One of his biggest crunk hits debuted in 2013 with a collaboration with DJ Snake for the single, Turn Down for What, which went multi-platinum and won Top Dance/Electronic Song at the Billboard Music Awards that year. 

Pop Rap

Pop rap is one of the tose types of rap music that covers a broad spectrum of artists and songs. From radio-friendly hit singles and dance club-type anthems, the pop-rap style often blends in singing with rapping with catchy verses and beats. Though it can fall into multiple categories, the defining measure is how mainstream and well-received the music is. 

Drake

Drake is arguably the king of the pop-rap subgenre, with multiple hits playing in regular rotation on the radio since he emerged onto the rap scene in 2006 with his debut mixtape. A few years later, he signed with Young Money Entertainment and debuted the studio album, Thank Me Later, at the number one spot on the U.S. Billboard 200 and the rest is history. Though a far cry from the 1990’s gangsta rap era, Drake continues to release hit after hit approved by critics and fans alike, making pop rap a relevant part of music history. 

Kanye West

Is rap poetry? Kanye might make you think so. Kanye West’s music falls under several different types of rap music, but pop rap encompasses the overall appeal of his style, especially with his earliest albums. His debut album, The College Dropout, involved unique lyrical storytelling fans appreciated, which he continued with his pop-heavy Late Registration and Graduation albums. Though he has experimented with various music styles, including techno and progressive rap, he continues to be a heavy influence on pop rap in particular.

Nelly

Another universally popular rap artist is St. Louis native, Nelly. He began his career with his hip hop group the St. Lunatics in 1993 and released his debut album, Country Grammar, in 2000, which featured several top ten hits and eventually reached number one on the Billboard 200. With catchy hooks, playful chants, and an homage to his Midwest roots, his playful approach to the rap genre allowed his music to become an instant mainstream success.

Chicago Hip-Hop

Chicago hip-hop deserves its own subcategory of rap music. Artists hailing from the Windy City often have a heavy lyrical element to their music, combining poetry with minimalistic beats and rapping about social issues, art, and other themes not often found in the general rap genre. When people think of Chicago hip-hop music, here are a few of the artists that immediately come to mind.

Chance the Rapper 

Mixtape artist Chance the Rapper has built a loyal following appreciative of his artistry and versatility as a rapper. He draws inspiration from other Chicago rappers, including Common and Lupe Fiasco, while also crediting gospel artist, Kirk Franklin as a heavy influence as well, which is reflected in his music. 

Common

Common is considered one of the best lyricists of a generation with an underground following the began in the 1990s. He later went mainstream with albums Like Water for Chocolate in 2000 and Be in 2005. Known for incorporating neo soul and jazz elements into his rap songs, his music often goes back and forth between spoken word poetry and lyrical music for a signature sound that’s instantly recognizable.

Lupe Fiasco

Like Chance the Rapper and Common, Lupe Fiasco also takes a poetic approach to rap music versus the vulgarity and violence the genre is often known for portraying. His lyrics often focus on social issues and cultural observations for what has been referred to as conscious hip-hop. The storytelling aspect to his lyrics has a natural, soulful flow many Chicago hip hop artists are known for.

Embracing the Different Types of Rap Music

Rap music continues to evolve and incorporate elements from other music styles to create subgenres that invite in new audiences. The heavy sounds of gangsta rap are not the same style as the soulful music of Chicago hip-hop. The intermingling of country music, like with artist Lil Nas X, also gives fans another entry point into rap music, or vice-versa. Like with any music genre, there are few limitations to the definition, as it depends on the artistry, trends, and sign of the times. 

Trends in music follow what’s happening culturally and socially as well as new technologies introduced to create and produce music. Those who grew up listening to rap music primarily on vinyl have a different experience than those who grew up in the digital era. The accessibility to music has increased and improved over time, creating overnight successes and seemingly endless subgenres of music styles and fans. 

The epitome of rap music can sound slightly different to everyone depending on the era and style they grew up with or enjoy since nostalgia plays a big part in the experience. To expand your own rap music experience, listening to artists on vinyl add another element to the genre. Check out the Victrola record store for your go-to albums and see if you can uncover some new favorites along the way.

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