Culture of Hip Hop

Hip hop is a genre of music that not only encompasses rap but ethnicity, art, politics, fashion, technology and urban life. It has kept its original fan base since its creation, but it has since become a multinational phenomenon with the mainstream users, more specifically the suburban youth.  Some believe that as commercial and “gangsta” rap emerged, so did lyrics that glorify drugs, violence, women, and money. Though this is true it does not define hip hop as there are many other parts to the genre or “culture” if you will. Many artists such as Common or Talib Kweli are considered socially conscious rappers and make their music with socially conscious and politically oriented lyrics.



Originally, as old school rapper Big Daddy Kane put it, freestyle was “a written rhyme on non-specific subject matter”. Nowadays freestyle is reffered to as “off the dome” or “off the top of the head” which means its rapping with no preparation. This improvisational rhyming skill is one that is acquired over time and can be very difficult. The practice of freestyle can create very impressive rappers and makes their flow and word selection a lot better. Games can be developed from this style of rapping like rap battles where two different people reply to each other with brief raps over a simple beat that “diss” or make fun of one another. A prime example of this is in the movie “8-Mile” starring Eminem and chronicles his come up to stardom with one of the more well known scenes of him rap battling a well known rapper in the area and Eminem beats him which puts Eminem into the mix of popular rappers in Detroit. Whoever runs out of material for raps first loses the battle proving that the more skilled rapper is the one who lasted the longest in “8-Mile”s case, Eminem.

Drug influence

Drugs and alcohol play a major role in music and especially in the hip hop world. “Swimming Pools” by Kendrick Lamar speaks about the influence and abuse of alcohol he has seen in his life. When Dr. Dre released two albums “The Chronic” and “The Chronic 2001” he had the West Coast hooked on the marijuana buzz. Many rappers are well know for their weed inspired raps like Wiz Khalifa or Snoop Dogg and that inspiration has created its culture in and of itself. One of the more well know go to drugs in the hip hop world is lean. A mixture of promethazine and codiene (high strength cough syrup) and Sprite soda rappers are often know to “sip” on this concoction out of foam cups and call it names like “sizzurp”. The ode to this drug would be Three Six Mafia’s “Sippin on Some Sizzurp”. Molly is another drug that has taken over the minds of todays hip hop artists. Molly is the purest form of ecstesy MDMA and has come about as the party drug in the hip hop world. With such a large drug influenced culture and mixed with such a popular genre in this country it begs the question of how much rap and hip hop is promoting these lifestyles.

Trap revival

It has nothing to do with the huge Fetty Wap hit “Trap Queen”. Trap music is a style of music that has been around since the early 90’s but has recently made a revival in the hip hop world. Its stlyle has aggressive lyrical content and sound, and the instrumentals are brought by 808 kick drums or heavy extended sub-bass lines, double-time, triple-time and other faster time division hi-hats, layered synthesizers, and “cinematic” strings. As Laymens puts it, trap could be described as a recipe.

1/3 hip hop (tempo and song structure similar) – however vocals are usually pitched lower or higher
1/3 dubstep (similar drum arrangements, different builds and drops)
1/3 dub (Low frequency focus and strong emphasis on repetitiveness throughout a song)