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What is the Difference Between Rap and Hip-Hop?

If you have been moseying around life thinking Hip Hop and Rap are the same things, you’ve still got a lot of learning to do, my son. But haven’t we all? So, don’t feel so down about your lack of knowledge of urban culture and the finite differences in musical genres. You can’t know everything about everything.

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is the difference between Rap and Hip-Hop?” Trying to understand the importance and impact that Hip-Hop and rap have had on the evolution of music is quite overwhelming. But let’s start at the start because that’s what Big Daddy Kane would do. 

What is the Difference Between Rap and Hip-Hop?

Why is Hip-Hop Different from Rap?

Hip-hop is a culture, and Rap is a music style/genre within Hip-Hop. It’s that simple, folks. Hip-Hop is not music per se, but Rap is. The main components of Hip-Hop culture are MCing/rapping, DJing/turntablism, graffiti, and breakdancing. 

Those are the four elements of Hip-Hop. And anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t know their Cold Crush Brothers from their coke can crushers.

Where Did Hip-Hop Come From? 

Hip-Hop culture was born in the South Bronx area of New York City in the early 1980s. Although, some believe the roots of Hip Hop culture began in the late 1970s. The truth is that Hip-Hop was born from Disco, Soul, Funk, and rare Groove music from the mid-1970s. 

At the time, the US government removed music education funding for inner city schools across America. Because of the lack of new musical instruments in the schools, students started to use turntables as musical instruments. 

That gave birth to a new art form that used vinyl records and specific cuts and scratches to loop and mix the old Disco and Soul records. 

Who Invented Rap Music?

It’s largely believed that the inventor of modern-day Rap music as we know it is DJ Kool Herc. Back in the late 1970s, DJ Kool Herc performed his DJ routine at local house parties in projects across South Bronx. 

He mixed a wide genre of musical styles such as Funk, Soul, and Reggae. Herc used two turntables and a mixer to constantly keep the music playing at the parties without any breaks.

So, how did he do that?

Herc would take a short instrumental part of a Soul record that is referred to as a “break” and continue it as a loop by using two copies of the same record and looping the break part continuously between the turntables and mixer. 

This was the first ever “Rap beat” before samplers were even a spark in DJ Premier’s eye. Herc would keep the loop going for a minute or two while an MC (master of ceremonies) would go on the microphone and make nursery-style rhymes over the loop. 

And, Rap music was born… 

This is why many of the earlier raps from artists like the Sugarhill Gang and Run DMC would sound like nursery rhymes.

This was before rapping was delivered into multi-syllabic rhyme schemes by the likes of Casanova Fly. After this, the baton was passed onto “new school” rappers like LL Cool J, Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane.

What is Hip-Hop?

What is Hip-Hop

Although I have already confirmed that Hip-Hop is a culture, it’s so much more complicated than that. 

It’s more than music… 

B-boying, which is the art of breakdancing, was just as important as the Rap music aspect of it all. Dance battles using breakdancing and robotic body-popping were a massive thing in 1980s New York. It even propelled itself across the globe via movies such as Wild Style and Beat Street

People understood breakdancing before they did Rap music… 

Graffiti was the visual art element of Hip-Hop. Although it’s not as prominent today in the culture, at one time, it was just as important as Rap music and breakdancing. 

Over the years, it has become maligned due to it being seen as vandalism. But, back in the day, it was the ultimate in frontline urban art. Modern-day graffiti artists like Banksy have taken it to a new level and are now seen on the same level as all great contemporary artists. 

So, What is the Difference Between Rap and Hip-Hop?

The confusion is that many people, and even articles about the subject, refer to Hip-Hop as music. In this day and age, some people refer to rapping with a social conscience as Hip-Hop, and other forms as Rap music.

But, they are not true to the essence of the culture. One is a culture, and one is music within the culture, and the subject is not up for debate in my opinion and the forefathers of Hip-Hop.

The Evolution of Rap Music

Rap Music

From its humble beginnings, Rap music is now one of the leading musical genres in the world and has been since the end of the 1990s. The likes of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and Eminem took Rap to the mainstream heights it is today. 

But, many believe that modern-day Rap music lacks the Hip-Hop cultural elements that made the genre so special in the 1980s and 90s. As with any niche music genre, consumerism and commercialism have ruined their once true message and essence.

Want to Listen to Some Awesome Rap and Hip-Hop Influenced Music?

If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Hip Hop Songs Of All Time, the Best 90s Hip Hop Songs, the Best 2000s Rap Songs, the Best Sad Rap Songs, and the Best Birthday Hip Hop Songs for more great song selections.

Also, you need to hear those tunes. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Hip-Hop, the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Bass Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, and the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones you can buy in 2023.

What is the Difference Between Rap and Hip-Hop? – Final Thoughts

Money ruins most things, and that’s just a sad fact of life. As soon as the record companies realized they could massively profit from rap music, it became a watered-down version of its former self. But that happens to most music genres. 

It’s hard to separate Hip-Hop culture from Rap music because it all seems to have melded into one. But, those in the know and music connoisseurs still understand the differences between Rap and Hip Hop

Breakdancing and graffiti might not be what they were. But, Hip Hop culture has gone on to change the world. Starting from humble beginnings in the South Bronx to a trillion-dollar industry is truly mind-boggling. Especially for those of us who were there from the start.

Until next time, drop a beat, and happy listening.

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