Over the years, rap and hip hop have been synonymous, but are rap and hip hop the same? What's the difference?
One of the reasons many people believe rap and hip-hop are the same or are interchangeable is that the theme and the overall concept are the same or very similar. Hip-hop and rap are not the same. Although they share the same cultural mindset, norms, and values, there are differences. Hip-hop represents the culture, and includes dance, clothing, music and more. Rap is one part of that culture, the music side of it.
Let's break down rap vs hip hop further.
Similarities Between Rap And Hip Hop
- Rap music and hip hop developed from the urban, inner cities of America
- Rap music and hip hop are subcategories of Urban Music
- Both rap and hip-hop are influenced by R&B, Soul, and Funkadelic music
- Both have influenced other contemporary music genres like Club R&B and Electro
- Both rap and hip-hop were considered outcasts in their early beginnings
- Both use the same styles, dances, and lingos
What is Hip Hop? As stated before, hip hop isn't a form of music, it's a culture, a way of life, and rap is part of this way of life. Hip hop includes not only rap music but dance styles, clothes, language, experiences, and many things related to inner city life. Some will refute that hip hop has its fundamental foundation in the inner city.
However, the hip-hop culture did not become popular or even recognized until after rap music exploded on the music scene. And rap music has its roots in the inner city. The music style began in the inner city of the Bronx, New York. Out of rap music came the advent of the hip-hop cultural movement in the 1980s.
Why do some consider Rap and Hip Hop the same? Most rap music depicts hip-hop life. It tells us about inner city troubles and triumphs, and most rappers from the 1980s and 1990s came from the inner city and told of their troubled lives in their raps.
Rap is just one component of hip hop, which focuses mainly on the music style in hip-hop culture. One of the leading rap founders, KRS-One said, “rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live.” His statement explains the difference perfectly. Rap is the music played or performed, and hip hop is the lifestyle or cultural style behind it.
Hip-hop is a subculture that represents and expresses inner city life. There have been rappers or those who rap going back to the 1940s. Some rappers come from suburbia and affluent backgrounds.
They may rap or use the technique in their music, but they don't represent hip hop. There have been musical artists in bebop and Jazz who have demonstrated the ability to rap, but obviously, they didn't represent the culture of hip hop.
Many rap founders of the 1980s will tell you that many contemporary rappers today don't represent hip hop – they don't represent the culture because their background and experiences don't line up with true hip-hop.
Those of us who go back to the 1980s when rap and its hip-hop culture began will tell you the same thing – most of the contemporary rappers of today – rap but don't represent the hip-hop culture as those “old school” rappers of the 1980s and 1990s.
What is Rap? Rap is music. First, rap music is not just about inner city life. It's not just about violence, sex, drugs, and profanity that many associate with the music. Again, Blues, Jazz, Funk, Rock n Roll, and Country artists have incorporated rap into their songs.
However, in our contemporary world, rap has become known as the musical style of hip hop. It's poetic in its form. The music focuses on the spoken word in rhymes with specific, coordinated beats. Although rap music can be incorporated into any form of music, it's most common or popular among hip-hop circles.
Rap music goes back to West African roots, but it began in the United States in the Bronx, New York, in the early 1980s/late 1970s, where its popularity grew from there. Rap music that came out in the late 1970s is what capitulated the hip-hop culture to the mainstream influence that it has today.
The first successful rap group that would represent rap music in hip-hop culture is the Sugarhill Gang. Three young men from New Jersey. Their debut hit “The Rapper’s Delight” in 1979 put rap music on the American music scene.
The song is a typical rap style with an MC, DJ, coordinated Beat, and Poetry rhyme. Unlike many musical groups, as seen with the Sugarhill Gang, rap groups often have each member (1-3) rapping to the tune.
Although the Sugarhill Gang had the first rap hit, the first rap group that put hip-hop and rap on the map and made it popular among many young Black and Latino people was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Afrika Bambaataa.
The two groups' sound and rap styles represented the hip-hop culture of many in the inner cities, where rap music and hip-hop blossomed. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five hailed from the South Bronx, NY. They got their start in 1978.
Unlike most rap groups, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was designed more like a band with one lead rapper and the others comprising musicians and dancers. The group's hit “The Message” was the epitome of hip-hop culture.
Unlike the Sugarhill Gang's song “Rapper's Delight,” which was a dance tune, “The Message” was a serious message about life in the inner city, politics, and social commentary. The rap song put hip-hop culture on the map.
Another rapper that was very popular among the hip-hop community was Afrika Bambaataa. He also was born in the South Bronx, NY to Jamaican and Barbadian parents. His song “Planet Rock ” was another main stable in the hip hop community, propelling the culture into the limelight.
Like the other two mentioned, “Planet Rock” is one of the most popular rap songs in history. Just like “The Rapper's Delight,” the song is a dance tune. The type of dancing mainly done to the son was breakdancing and pop-locking. Both dances were very popular and part of hip-hop culture.
Some other rap artists associated with and attributed to the rise and influence of the hip-hop culture:
- LL Cool J
- Kurtis Blow
- The Fat Boys
- Roxanne Shante
- MC Lyte
- Eric B & Rakim
- Beastie Boys
- Public Enemy
- Heavy D & The Boys
- Kool Moe Dee
Some popular rap artists in other cities include:
- Ice Cube
- Dr. Dre
- Master P
- Ghetto Boys
- Snoop Dogg
- Notorious BIG
Most of these rap artists can be called hip hop artists because of their influence and lifestyle closely related to hip hop.
Rap music, and hip-hop culture, were born in New York City. Most rap and hip-hop artists, except one or two that came out in the 1980s, hailed from New York City. The hip hop culture – the styles, dances, lingo/language – began on the streets of New York City.
Both hip hop and rap music quickly spread to other inner cities across the country, mainly Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia, eventually making their way into every community.
Hip Hop Breakdown
Read on for information on hip-hop culture.
- Baggy or Loose pants or clothing
- Tennis Shoes
- Baseball caps
- Rhythmic dancing
- Harlem Shake
- Slang/Street talk
Rap Music Breakdown
- MC is known as the master of ceremony or the main rapper. He, or she, is the one that does all the lyrics. Some rap groups comprise multiple rappers.
- DJ – known as the DJ of the roundtable. This is the person that operates the roundtable or the sound system. They place records on a record player. Some “scratch” the record or LP. They move the LP back and forth quickly to make a scratching sound. The DJ may also use percussion or other musical instruments.
- Beatbox – this is a person who makes beat sounds or instruments with their vocal cords.
- 808 Beat – 808 is a popular hip-hop term. It's a type of beat used in most of the early rap songs of the 1980s and 1990s. It's a strong bass beat.
- Flow – This is the poetic rhythm or style of how the rapper raps or flows to the beat or music.
- Delivery – This is how the rapper or MC brings forth the spoken word or poetry.
You can hear all these elements in Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five's song, “The Message.”
Examples Of Rap Artists
Below are singers who could be considered rap artists but not hip hop artists
Although this could be disputed because of their influence in the hip-hop world, the Beastie Boys incorporated rap in their music, which was a combination of rap and rock.
Vanilla Ice is a prime example of being a rap artist but not representing hip-hop culture in a way most would agree.
Examples Of Hip-Hop Artists
MC Hammer is a popular hip-hop artist. Similar to Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer's music embraced and incorporated the hip hop world, but he would not be considered a rap artist to many people.
Will Smith was part of a duo called DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince back in the 1990s. They released a song called “Summertime.” It incorporated all that hip hop is, but Will Smith would not be considered a rap artist. The entire song describes hip-hop culture perfectly.
Hip Hop And Rap Culture And Their Influence
Unfortunately, rap and the hip hop culture experienced similarities in the areas of sexism and racism. In the beginning stages of both, females were not widely accepted in either genre. But female rap artists such as Roxanne Shante, MC Lyte, and Salt N Pepa made their way to the front of the rap and hip hop notoriety and gained respect among many of their male counterparts.
The Beastie Boys were an all-white (Jewish) rap group that blasted on the scene in the 1980s. Although most believed rap and hip hop belonged to the Black community, this group broke that barrier. Due to their rapping ability, lyrics, and beats, the group was widely accepted by most rap and hip hop fans.
Both rap and hip hop have spread beyond the urban areas of America. Nowadays, you can see the influence of both suburbia and affluent communities. You can see their influence across the world. Not only will you hear rap music played in Middle East countries, South America, and Australia, but you will also see the influence of hip-hop culture.
It was pretty difficult to list examples of rap artists that weren't hip-hop artists and vice versa. Because although there are differences between hip hop and rap, the two are intertwined. It's a fine line, especially in today's society. Rap came from hip-hop culture and remains part of it.
Is Rap And Hip Hop The Same? Final Thoughts
So that's hip hop vs rap.
It can be hard to separate rap from hip hop. It's like separating bone and marrow – there are differences – but they are closely related, interwoven, and difficult to separate. The two exist because of each other, and both have made an indelible mark in the music industry and societies across the world.
Even though many think rap and hip are the same, one thing we can say is that both are here to stay.