|Typical instruments Rapping
|Stylistic origins Funk
rhythm and blues
Cultural origins 1970s, The Bronx, New York City
Derivative forms Electro breakbeat oldschool jungle drum and bass trip hop grime breakbeat hardcore neo soul big beat trap
Hip hop music, also called hip-hop or rap music, is a music genre formed in the United States in the 1970s which consists of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted. It developed as part of hip hop culture, a subculture defined by four key stylistic elements: MCing/rapping, DJing/scratching, break dancing, and graffiti writing. Other elements include sampling (or synthesis), and beatboxing.
- Origin of the term
- Introduction of rapping
- Influence of disco
- Transition to recording
- New school hip hop
- Golden age hip hop
- Gangsta rap and West Coast hip hop
- Mainstream breakthrough
- World hip hop
- East Coast hip hop
- West Coast hip hop
- Diversification of styles
- 2000s and 2010s
- World and national music
- Crunk and snap music
- Glitch hop and wonky music
- Decline in sales
- Hip hop on Broadway
- Innovation and revitalization
- Emergence of mumble rap
- Rap linguistics
While often used to refer to rapping, "hip hop" more properly denotes the practice of the entire subculture. The term hip hop music is sometimes used synonymously with the term rap music, though rapping is not a required component of hip hop music; the genre may also incorporate other elements of hip hop culture, including DJing, turntablism, and scratching, beatboxing, and instrumental tracks.
Hip hop as both a musical genre and a culture was formed during the 1970s when block parties became increasingly popular in New York City, particularly among African-American youth residing in the Bronx. At block parties DJs played percussive breaks of popular songs using two turntables to extend the breaks. Hip hop's early evolution occurred as sampling technology and drum-machines became widely available and affordable. Turntablist techniques developed along with the breaks and the Jamaican toasting vocal style was used. Rapping developed as a vocal style in which the artist speaks along with an instrumental or synthesized beat. Notable artists at this time include DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Fab Five Freddy, Marley Marl, Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Moe Dee, Kurtis Blow, Doug E. Fresh, Whodini, Warp 9, The Fat Boys, and Spoonie Gee. The Sugarhill Gang's 1979 song "Rapper's Delight" is widely regarded to be the first hip hop record to gain widespread popularity in the mainstream. The 1980s marked the diversification of hip hop as the genre developed more complex styles. Prior to the 1980s, hip hop music was largely confined within the United States. However, during the 1980s, it began its spread and became a part of the music scene in dozens of countries.
New school hip hop was the second wave of hip hop music, originating in 1983–84 with the early records of Run-D.M.C. and LL Cool J. The Golden age hip hop period was an innovative period between the mid-1980s and the early 1990s. Notable artists from this era include the Juice Crew, Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions and KRS-One, EPMD, Slick Rick, Beastie Boys, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Ultramagnetic MCs, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest.
Gangsta rap is a subgenre of hip hop that often focuses on the violent lifestyles and impoverished conditions of inner-city youths. Schoolly D, N.W.A, Ice-T, Ice Cube, and the Geto Boys are artists most frequently associated with the founding of gangsta rap. These artists were known for mixing the political and social commentary of political rap with the criminal elements and crime stories found in gangsta rap.
In the West Coast hip hop style, G-funk dominated mainstream hip hop for several years during the 1990s. East Coast hip hop in the early to mid 1990s was dominated by the Afrocentric jazz rap and alternative hip hop of the Native Tongues posse as well as the hardcore rap of artists such as Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, and Notorious B.I.G..
In the 1990s, hip hop began to diversify with other regional styles emerging on the national scene, such as Southern rap and Atlanta hip hop. At the same time, hip hop continued to be assimilated into other genres of popular music, an example being Neo soul. Hip hop became a best-selling music genre in the mid-1990s and the top selling music genre by 1999. The popularity of hip hop music continued through the 2000s, with hip hop influences also increasingly finding their way into mainstream pop. The United States also saw the success of styles such as crunk, a music that emphasized the beats and music more than the lyrics. Starting in 2005, sales of hip hop music in the United States began to severely wane. During the mid-2000s that alternative hip hop secured a place within the mainstream, due in part to the crossover success of artists such as OutKast and Kanye West.
Origin of the term
Creation of the term hip hop is often credited to Keith Cowboy, rapper with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. However, Lovebug Starski, Keith Cowboy, and DJ Hollywood used the term when the music was still known as disco rap. It is believed that Cowboy created the term while teasing a friend who had just joined the U.S. Army, by scat singing the words "hip/hop/hip/hop" in a way that mimicked the rhythmic cadence of soldiers marching. Cowboy later worked the "hip hop" cadence into a part of his stage performance, which was quickly used by other artists such as The Sugarhill Gang in "Rapper's Delight".
Universal Zulu Nation founder Afrika Bambaataa is credited with first using the term to describe the subculture in which the music belonged; although it is also suggested that it was a derogatory term to describe the type of music. The first use of the term in print was in The Village Voice, by Steven Hager, later author of a 1984 history of hip hop.
Hip hop as music and culture formed during the 1970s when block parties became increasingly popular in New York City, particularly among African-American youth residing in the Bronx. Block parties incorporated DJs, who played popular genres of music, especially funk and soul music. Due to the positive reception, DJs began isolating the percussive breaks of popular songs. This technique was then common in Jamaican dub music, and was largely introduced into New York by immigrants from Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean, including DJ Kool Herc, who has been called a "founding father of hip hop". Because the percussive breaks in funk, soul and disco records were generally short, Herc and other DJs began using two turntables to extend the breaks.
Hip hop's early evolution into a form distinct from R&B also, not coincidentally, occurred around the time that sampling technology and drum-machines became widely available to the general public at a cost that was affordable to the average consumer—not just professional studios. Drum-machines and samplers were combined in machines that came to be known as MPC's or 'Music Production Centers', early examples of which would include the Linn 9000. The first sampler that was broadly adopted to create this new kind of music was the Mellotron used in combination with the TR-808 drum machine. Mellotrons and Linn's were succeeded by the AKAI, in the late 1980s.
Turntablist techniques – such as scratching (attributed to Grand Wizzard Theodore), beat mixing and/or matching, and beat juggling – eventually developed along with the breaks, creating a base that could be rapped over, in a manner similar to signifying, as well as the art of toasting, another influence found in Jamaican dub music.
Boxer Muhammad Ali influenced several elements of hip hop music, as a "rhyming trickster" in the 1960s with "funky delivery, the boasts, the comical trash talk, the endless quotables". According to Rolling Stone, his "freestyle skills" and his "rhymes, flow, and braggadocio" would "one day become typical of old school MCs" like Run–D.M.C. and LL Cool J, the latter citing Ali as an influence.
Hip hop music in its infancy has been described as an outlet and a "voice" for the disenfranchised youth of low-economic areas, as the culture reflected the social, economic and political realities of their lives.
Introduction of rapping
Rapping, also referred to as MCing or emceeing, is a vocal style in which the artist speaks lyrically, in rhyme and verse, generally to an instrumental or synthesized beat. Beats, almost always in 4/4 time signature, can be created by sampling and/or sequencing portions of other songs by a producer. They also incorporate synthesizers, drum machines, and live bands. Rappers may write, memorize, or improvise their lyrics and perform their works a cappella or to a beat.
Hip hop music predates the introduction of rapping into hip hop culture, and rap vocals are absent from many hip hop tracks, such as "Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don't Stop)" by Man Parrish; "Chinese Arithmetic" by Eric B. & Rakim; "Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)" and "We're Rocking the Planet" by Hashim; and "Destination Earth" by Newcleus. However, the majority of the genre has been accompanied by rap vocals, such as the Sci-fi influenced electro hip hop group Warp 9. Female rappers appeared on the scene in the late 1970s and early 80s, including Bronx artist MC Sha Rock, member of the Funky Four Plus One, credited with being the first female MC and The Sequence, a hip hop trio signed to Sugar Hill Records, the first all female group to release a rap record, Funk You Up.
The roots of rapping are found in African-American music and ultimately African music, particularly that of the griots of West African culture. The African-American traditions of signifyin', the dozens, and jazz poetry all influence hip hop music, as well as the call and response patterns of African and African-American religious ceremonies. Soul singer James Brown, and musical 'comedy' acts such as Rudy Ray Moore and Blowfly are often considered "godfathers" of hip hop music.
Within New York City, performances of spoken-word poetry and music by artists such as The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron and Jalal Mansur Nuriddin had a significant impact on the post-civil rights era culture of the 1960s and 1970s, and thus the social environment in which hip hop music was created.
DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock provided an influence on the vocal style of rapping by delivering simple poetry verses over funk music breaks, after party-goers showed little interest in their previous attempts to integrate reggae-infused toasting into musical sets. DJs and MCs would often add call and response chants, often consisting of a basic chorus, to allow the performer to gather his thoughts (e.g. "one, two, three, y'all, to the beat").
Later, the MCs grew more varied in their vocal and rhythmic delivery, incorporating brief rhymes, often with a sexual or scatological theme, in an effort to differentiate themselves and to entertain the audience. These early raps incorporated the dozens, a product of African-American culture. Kool Herc & the Herculoids were the first hip hop group to gain recognition in New York, but the number of MC teams increased over time.
Often these were collaborations between former gangs, such as Afrikaa Bambaataa's Universal Zulu Nation—now an international organization. Melle Mel, a rapper with The Furious Five is often credited with being the first rap lyricist to call himself an "MC". During the early 1970s B-boying arose during block parties, as b-boys and b-girls got in front of the audience to dance in a distinctive and frenetic style. The style was documented for release to a worldwide audience for the first time in documentaries and movies such as Style Wars, Wild Style, and Beat Street. The term "B-boy" was coined by DJ Kool Herc to describe the people who would wait for the break section of the song, getting in front of the audience to dance in a distinctive, frenetic style.
Although there were many early MCs that recorded solo projects of note, such as DJ Hollywood, Kurtis Blow and Spoonie Gee, the frequency of solo artists did not increase until later with the rise of soloists with stage presence and drama, such as LL Cool J. Most early hip hop was dominated by groups where collaboration between the members was integral to the show. An example would be the early hip hop group Funky Four Plus One, who performed in such a manner on Saturday Night Live in 1981.
Influence of disco
Hip hop music was both influenced by disco music and a backlash against it. According to Kurtis Blow, the early days of hip hop were characterized by divisions between fans and detractors of disco music. Hip hop had largely emerged as "a direct response to the watered down, Europeanised, disco music that permeated the airwaves", and the earliest hip hop was mainly based on hard funk loops. However, by 1979, disco instrumental loops/tracks had become the basis of much hip hop music. This genre got the name of "disco rap". Ironically, hip hop music was also a proponent in the eventual decline in disco popularity.
DJ Pete Jones, Eddie Cheeba, DJ Hollywood, and Love Bug Starski were disco-influenced hip hop DJs. Their styles differed from other hip hop musicians who focused on rapid-fire rhymes and more complex rhythmic schemes. Afrika Bambaataa, Paul Winley, Grandmaster Flash, and Bobby Robinson were all members of this latter group.
In Washington, D.C. go-go emerged as a reaction against disco and eventually incorporated characteristics of hip hop during the early 1980s. The genre of electronic music behaved similarly, eventually evolving into what is known as house music in Chicago and techno in Detroit.
Transition to recording
Prior to 1979, recorded hip hop music consisted mainly of PA system recordings of parties and early hip hop mixtapes by DJs. Puerto Rican DJ Disco Wiz is credited as the first hip hop DJ to create a "mixed plate," or mixed dub recording, when, in 1977, he combined sound bites, special effects and paused beats to technically produce a sound recording.
The first hip hop record is widely regarded to be The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight", from 1979. However, much controversy surrounds this assertion as some regard "King Tim III (Personality Jock)" by The Fatback Band, which was released a few weeks before "Rapper's Delight", as a rap record. There are various other claimants for the title of first hip hop record.
By the early 1980s, all the major elements and techniques of the hip hop genre were in place, and by 1982, the electronic (electro) sound had become the trend on the street and in dance clubs. New York City radio station WKTU featured Warp 9's "Nunk," in a commercial to promote the station's signature sound of emerging hip hop Though not yet mainstream, hip hop had begun to permeate the music scene outside of New York City; it could be found in cities as diverse as Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, San Antonio, Miami, Seattle, St. Louis, New Orleans, Houston, and Toronto. Indeed, "Funk You Up" (1979), the first hip hop record released by a female group, and the second single released by Sugar Hill Records, was performed by The Sequence, a group from Columbia, South Carolina which featured Angie Stone.
Despite the genre's growing popularity, Philadelphia was, for many years, the only city whose contributions could be compared to New York City's. Hip hop music became popular in Philadelphia in the late 1970s. The first released record was titled "Rhythm Talk", by Jocko Henderson.
The New York Times had dubbed Philadelphia the "Graffiti Capital of the World" in 1971. Philadelphia native DJ Lady B recorded "To the Beat Y'All" in 1979, and became the first female solo hip hop artist to record music. Schoolly D, starting in 1984 and also from Philadelphia, began creating a style that would later be known as gangsta rap.
The 1980s marked the diversification of hip hop as the genre developed more complex styles. New York City became a veritable laboratory for the creation hip hop. Early examples of the diversification process can be identified through such tracks as Grandmaster Flash's "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel" (1981), a single consisting entirely of sampled tracks as well as Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" (1982), and Warp 9's "Nunk," (1982) which signified the fusion of hip hop music with electro. In addition, Rammellzee & K-Rob's "Beat Bop" (1983) was a 'slow jam' which had a dub influence with its use of reverb and echo as texture and playful sound effects. "Light Years Away," by Warp 9 (1983), (produced and written by Lotti Golden and Richard Scher) described as a "cornerstone of early 80's beatbox afrofuturism," by UK media outlet, the Guardian, introduced social commentary from a Sci-Fi perspective. The mid-1980s,marked a paradigm shift in the development of hip hop, with the introduction of samples from rock music, as demonstrated in the albums King of Rock and Licensed to Ill. Hip hop prior to this shift is characterized as old-school hip hop.
The proliferation of electro hip hop and hip hop records in the early 1980s can be largely attributed to the Roland TR-808 becoming commercially available. Hitting the market in 1980, it became the drum machine of choice for producers and artists because of its affordability and the unique character of its analogue sounds, especially its bass drum which translated well in clubs. Heavy usage of the new generation of drum machines such as the Roland TR-808 and Oberheim DMX was a defining characteristic of many 1980s songs, allowing record companies to pump out electro and electro hip hop records to meet the demand on the street.
Even today, the 808 kick drum is used by hip hop producers. Over time sampling technology became more advanced; however earlier producers such as Marley Marl used drum machines to construct their beats from small excerpts of other beats in synchronisation, in his case, triggering 3 Korg sampling-delay units through an 808. Later, samplers such as the E-mu SP-1200 allowed not only more memory but more flexibility for creative production. This allowed the filtration and layering different hits, and with a possibility of re-sequencing them into a single piece.
With the emergence of a new generation of samplers such as the AKAI S900 in the late 1980s, producers did not require the aid of tape loops. Public Enemy's first album was created with the help of large tape loops. The process of looping break into a breakbeat now became more common with a sampler, now doing the job which so far had been done manually by the DJ. In 1989, DJ Mark James under the moniker "45 King", released "The 900 Number", a breakbeat track created by synchronizing samplers and vinyl.
The lyrical content of hip hop evolved as well. The early styles presented in the 1970s soon were replaced with metaphorical lyrics over more complex, multi-layered instrumentals. Artists such as Melle Mel, Rakim, Chuck D, KRS-One and Warp 9 revolutionized hip hop by transforming it into a more mature art form, with sophisticated arrangements, often featuring "gorgeous textures and multiple layers" The influential single "The Message" (1982) by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is widely considered to be the pioneering force for conscious rap.
Independent record labels like Tommy Boy, Prism Records and Profile Records became hugely successful in the early 1980s, releasing records at a furious pace in response to the demand on the street, generated by local radio and clubs. Early '80s electro music and rap were catalysts that sparked the hip hop movement, largely led by artists such as Cybotron, Hashim, Afrika Bambaataa, Planet Patrol, Newcleus and Warp 9. In the New York City recording scene, it was not uncommon for artists to collaborate with producer/writers such as Arthur Baker, John Robie, Lotti Golden and Richard Scher, exchanging ideas that contributed to the development of hip hop. Some rappers eventually became mainstream pop performers. Kurtis Blow's appearance in a Sprite commercial marked the first hip hop musician to represent a major product. The 1981 songs "Rapture" by Blondie and "Christmas Wrapping" by the new-wave band The Waitresses were among the first pop songs to utilize rap in the delivery. In 1982, Afrika Bambaataa introduced hip hop to an international audience with "Planet Rock."
Prior to the 1980s, hip hop music was largely confined within the context of the United States. However, during the 1980s, it began its spread and became a part of the music scene in dozens of countries. Greg Wilson was the first DJ to introduce electro hip hop to UK club audiences in the early 1980s, opting for the dub or instrumental versions of Nunk by Warp 9, Extra T's "ET Boogie," Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don't Stop) by Man Parrish, Planet Rock and Dirty Talk (Klein + M.B.O. song).
In the early part of the decade, B-boying became the first aspect of hip hop culture to reach Japan, Australia and South Africa, where the crew Black Noise established the practice before beginning to rap later in the decade. Musician and presenter Sidney became France's first black TV presenter with his show H.I.P. H.O.P. which screened on TF1 during 1984, a first for the genre worldwide. Radio Nova helped launch other French stars including Dee Nasty whose 1984 album Paname City Rappin' along with compilations Rapattitude 1 and 2 contributed to a general awareness of Hip Hop in France.
Hip hop has always kept a very close relationship with the Latino community in New York. DJ Disco Wiz and the Rock Steady Crew were among early innovators from Puerto Rico, combining English and Spanish in their lyrics. The Mean Machine recorded their first song under the label "Disco Dreams" in 1981, while Kid Frost from Los Angeles began his career in 1982.
Cypress Hill was formed in 1988 in the suburb of South Gate outside Los Angeles when Senen Reyes (born in Havana) and his younger brother Ulpiano Sergio (Mellow Man Ace) moved from Cuba to South Gate with his family in 1971. They teamed up with DVX from Queens (New York), Lawrence Muggerud (DJ Muggs) and Louis Freese (B-Real), a Mexican/Cuban-American native of Los Angeles. After the departure of "Ace" to begin his solo career the group adopted the name of Cypress Hill named after a street running through a neighborhood nearby in South Los Angeles.
Japanese hip hop is said to have begun when Hiroshi Fujiwara returned to Japan and started playing hip hop records in the early 1980s. Japanese hip hop generally tends to be most directly influenced by old school hip hop, taking from the era's catchy beats, dance culture, and overall fun and carefree nature and incorporating it into their music. As a result, hip hop stands as one of the most commercially viable mainstream music genres in Japan, and the line between it and pop music is frequently blurred.
New school hip hop
The new school of hip hop was the second wave of hip hop music, originating in 1983–84 with the early records of Run-D.M.C. and LL Cool J. As with the hip hop preceding it (which subsequently became known as old school hip hop), the new school came predominately from New York City. The new school was initially characterized in form by drum machine-led minimalism, with influences from rock music, a hip hop "metal music for the 80's-a hard-edge ugly/beauty trance as desperate and stimulating as New York itself." It was notable for taunts and boasts about rapping, and socio-political commentary, both delivered in an aggressive, self-assertive style. In image as in song its artists projected a tough, cool, street b-boy attitude. These elements contrasted sharply with the funk and disco influenced outfits, novelty hits, live bands, synthesizers and party rhymes of artists prevalent prior to 1984 (although this characterization does not include all, or most artists prior to 1984). New school artists made shorter songs that could more easily gain radio play, and more cohesive LPs than their old school counterparts. By 1986 their releases began to establish the hip-hop album as a fixture of the mainstream. Hip hop music became commercially successful, as exemplified by the Beastie Boys' 1986 album Licensed to Ill, which was the first rap album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
Golden age hip hop
Hip hop's "golden age" (or "golden era") is a name given to a period in mainstream hip hop—usually cited as between the mid-1980s and the early 1990s—said to be characterized by its diversity, quality, innovation and influence. There were strong themes of Afrocentrism and political militancy, while the music was experimental and the sampling, eclectic. There was often a strong jazz influence. The artists most often associated with the phrase are Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Eric B. & Rakim, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Big Daddy Kane and the Jungle Brothers.
The golden age is noted for its innovation – a time "when it seemed that every new single reinvented the genre" according to Rolling Stone. Referring to "hip-hop in its golden age", Spin's editor-in-chief Sia Michel says, "there were so many important, groundbreaking albums coming out right about that time", and MTV's Sway Calloway adds: "The thing that made that era so great is that nothing was contrived. Everything was still being discovered and everything was still innovative and new". Writer William Jelani Cobb says "what made the era they inaugurated worthy of the term golden was the sheer number of stylistic innovations that came into existence... in these golden years, a critical mass of mic prodigies were literally creating themselves and their art form at the same time".
The specific time period that the golden age covers varies upon perception. MSNBC states, "the 'Golden Age' of hip-hop music: The '80s".
Gangsta rap and West Coast hip hop
Gangsta rap is a subgenre of hip hop that reflects the violent lifestyles of inner-city American black youths. Gangsta is a non-rhotic pronunciation of the word gangster. The genre was pioneered in the mid-1980s by rappers such as Schoolly D and Ice-T, and was popularized in the later part of the 1980s by groups like N.W.A. Ice-T released "6 in the Mornin'", which is often regarded as the first gangsta rap song, in 1986. After the national attention that Ice-T and N.W.A created in the late 1980s and early 1990s, gangsta rap became the most commercially lucrative subgenre of hip hop.
N.W.A is the group most frequently associated with the founding of gangsta rap. Their lyrics were more violent, openly confrontational, and shocking than those of established rap acts, featuring incessant profanity and, controversially, use of the word "nigger". These lyrics were placed over rough, rock guitar-driven beats, contributing to the music's hard-edged feel. The first blockbuster gangsta rap album was N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton, released in 1988. Straight Outta Compton would establish West Coast hip hop as a vital genre, and establish Los Angeles as a legitimate rival to hip hop's long-time capital, New York City. Straight Outta Compton sparked the first major controversy regarding hip hop lyrics when their song "Fuck tha Police" earned a letter from FBI Assistant Director, Milt Ahlerich, strongly expressing law enforcement's resentment of the song.
Controversy surrounded Ice-T's album Body Count, in particular over its song "Cop Killer". The song was intended to speak from the viewpoint of a criminal getting revenge on racist, brutal cops. Ice-T's rock song infuriated government officials, the National Rifle Association and various police advocacy groups. Consequently, Time Warner Music refused to release Ice-T's upcoming album Home Invasion because of the controversy surrounding "Cop Killer". Ice-T suggested that the furor over the song was an overreaction, telling journalist Chuck Philips "...they've done movies about nurse killers and teacher killers and student killers. Arnold Schwarzenegger blew away dozens of cops as the Terminator. But I don't hear anybody complaining about that." In the same interview, Ice-T suggested to Philips that the misunderstanding of Cop Killer and the attempts to censor it had racial overtones: "The Supreme Court says it's OK for a white man to burn a cross in public. But nobody wants a black man to write a record about a cop killer."
The subject matter inherent in gangsta rap more generally has caused controversy. The White House administrations of both George Bush senior and Bill Clinton criticized the genre. "The reason why rap is under attack is because it exposes all the contradictions of American culture ...What started out as an underground art form has become a vehicle to expose a lot of critical issues that are not usually discussed in American politics. The problem here is that the White House and wanna-bes like Bill Clinton represent a political system that never intends to deal with inner city urban chaos," Sister Souljah told The Times.
Due to the influence of Ice T and N.W.A, gangsta rap is often viewed as an originally West Coast phenomenon, despite the contributions of East Coast acts like Boogie Down Productions in shaping the genre.
In 1990, Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet was a significant success with music critics and consumers. It was highly contributory to hip hop's mainstream emergence in 1990, dubbed by Billboard editor Paul Grein as "the year that rap exploded". In a 1990 article on its commercial breakthrough, Janice C. Thompson of Time wrote that hip hop "has grown into the most exciting development in American pop music in more than a decade." Thompson noted the impact of Public Enemy's 1989 single "Fight the Power", rapper Tone Lōc's single Wild Thing being the best-selling single of 1989, and that at the time of her article, nearly a third of the songs on the Billboard Hot 100 were hip hop songs. In a similar 1990 article, Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times put hip hop music's commercial emergence into perspective:
It was 10 years ago that the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" became the first rap single to enter the national Top 20. Who ever figured then that the music would even be around in 1990, much less produce attractions that would command as much pop attention as Public Enemy and N.W.A? "Rapper's Delight" was a novelty record that was considered by much of the pop community simply as a lightweight offshoot of disco—and that image stuck for years. Occasional records—including Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" in 1982 and Run-DMC's "It's Like That" in 1984—won critical approval, but rap, mostly, was dismissed as a passing fancy—too repetitious, too one dimensional. Yet rap didn't go away, and an explosion of energy and imagination in the late '80s leaves rap today as arguably the most vital new street-oriented sound in pop since the birth of rock in the '50s.
However, hip hop was still met with resistance from black radio, including urban contemporary, of which Russell Simmons said in 1990, "Black radio hated rap from the start and there's still a lot of resistance to it".
MC Hammer hit mainstream success with the multi platinum album Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em. The record reached #1 and the first single, "U Can't Touch This" charted on the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100. MC Hammer became one of the most successful rappers of the early nineties and one of the first household names in the genre. The album raised rap music to a new level of popularity. It was the first hip-hop album certified diamond by the RIAA for sales of over ten million. It remains one of the genre's all-time best-selling albums. To date, the album has sold as many as 18 million units. Released in 1990, "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts in the U.S. It also reached number one in the UK, Australia among others and has been credited for helping diversify hip hop by introducing it to a mainstream audience. In 1992, Dr. Dre released The Chronic. As well as helping to establish West Coast gangsta rap as more commercially viable than East Coast hip hop, this album founded a style called G Funk, which soon came to dominate West Coast hip hop. The style was further developed and popularized by Snoop Dogg's 1993 album Doggystyle.
Hip hop became a best selling music genre in the mid-1990s and the top selling music genre by 1999 with 81 million CDs sold. By the late 1990s hip hop was artistically dominated by the Wu-Tang Clan, Diddy and the Fugees. The Beastie Boys continued their success throughout the decade crossing color lines and gaining respect from many different artists.
Record labels based out of Atlanta, St. Louis, and New Orleans gained fame for their local scenes. The midwest rap scene was also notable, with the fast vocal styles from artists such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Tech N9ne, and Twista. By the end of the decade, hip hop was an integral part of popular music, and many American pop songs had hip hop components.
World hip hop
In Haiti, hip hop was developed in the early 1980s, and is mostly accredited to Master Dji and his songs "Vakans" and "Politik Pa m". What later became known as "Rap Kreyòl" grew in popularity in the late 1990s with King Posse and Original Rap Stuff. Due to cheaper recording technology and flows of equipment to Haiti, more Rap Kreyòl groups are recording songs, even after the January 12th earthquake.
In the Dominican Republic, a recording by Santi Y Sus Duendes and Lisa M became the first single of merenrap, a fusion of hip hop and merengue.
New York City experienced a heavy Jamaican hip hop influence during the 1990s. This influence was brought on by cultural shifts particularly because of the heightened immigration of Jamaicans to New York City and the American-born Jamaican youth who were coming of age during the 1990s.
In Europe, Africa, and Asia, hip hop began to move from the underground to mainstream audiences. In Europe, hip hop was the domain of both ethnic nationals and immigrants. British hip hop, for example, became a genre of its own and spawned artists such as Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, The Streets and many more. Germany produced the well-known Die Fantastischen Vier as well as several Turkish performers like the controversial Cartel, Kool Savaş, and Azad. Similarly, France has produced a number of native-born stars, such as IAM and Suprême NTM, MC Solaar, Rohff, Rim'K or Booba. In the Netherlands, important nineties rappers include The Osdorp Posse, a crew from Amsterdam, Extince, from Oosterhout, and Postmen. Italy found its own rappers, including Jovanotti and Articolo 31, grow nationally renowned, while the Polish scene began in earnest early in the decade with the rise of PM Cool Lee. In Romania, B.U.G. Mafia came out of Bucharest's Pantelimon neighborhood, and their brand of gangsta rap underlines the parallels between life in Romania's Communist-era apartment blocks and in the housing projects of America's ghettos. Israel's hip hop grew greatly in popularity at the end of the decade, with several stars both Palestinian (Tamer Nafar) and Israeli (Subliminal). In Portugal hip hop has his own kind of rapping, which is more political and underground scene, they are known for Valete, Dealema and Halloween. Russian hip hop emerged during last years of Soviet Union and cemented later, with groups like Malchishnik and Bad Balance enjoying mainstream popularity in the 1990s, while Ligalize and Kasta were popular in the 2000s. In former Yugoslavia hip hop first appeared during the 1980s mostly with Serbian hip hop with performers such as B-boy, The Master Scratch Band, Badvajzer, and others. During the late 1990s hip hop had a boom, with Rambo Amadeus and later Beogradski sindikat becoming a major performer. Bosnian and Herzegovinian hip hop is nowadays dominated by Edo Maajka. In the region hip hop is often used as a political and social message in song themes such as war, profiteering, corruption,etc... Frenkie another Bosnian rapper, who is associated and the closest worker with Edo Maajka, has collaborated beyond Bosnians borders.
In Asia, mainstream stars rose to prominence in the Philippines, led by Francis Magalona, Rap Asia, MC Lara and Lady Diane. In Japan, where underground rappers had previously found a limited audience, and popular teen idols brought a style called J-rap to the top of the charts in the middle of the 1990s.
Latinos had played an integral role in the early development of hip hop, and the style had spread to parts of Latin America, such as Cuba, early in its history. Later in the decade, with Latin rap groups like Cypress Hill on the American charts, Mexican rap rock groups, such as Control Machete, rose to prominence in their native land. An annual Cuban hip hop concert held at Alamar in Havana helped popularize Cuban hip hop, beginning in 1995. Hip hop grew steadily more popular in Cuba, because of official governmental support for musicians.
Brazilian hip hop is heavily associated with racial and economic issues in the country, where a lot of black people live in a bad situation in the violent slums, known in Brazil as favelas. São Paulo is where hip hop began in the country, but it soon spread all over Brazil, and today, almost every big Brazilian city, such as Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, Recife and Brasilia, has a hip hop scene. Some notable artists include: Racionais MC's, Thaide, and Marcelo D2.
East Coast hip hop
In the early 1990s East Coast hip hop was dominated by the Native Tongues posse which was loosely composed of De La Soul with producer Prince Paul, A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers, as well as their loose affiliates 3rd Bass, Main Source, and the less successful Black Sheep & KMD. Although originally a "daisy age" conception stressing the positive aspects of life, darker material (such as De La Soul's thought-provoking "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa") soon crept in.
Artists such as Masta Ace (particularly for SlaughtaHouse) & Brand Nubian, Public Enemy, Organized Konfusion, Ignacio Bernal, had a more overtly militant pose, both in sound and manner.
In the early 1990s, the Wu-Tang Clan revitalized the New York hip hop scene by pioneering an East coast hardcore rap equivalent to what was being produced on the West Coast. According to Allmusic, the production on two Mobb Deep albums, The Infamous and Hell on Earth (1996), are "indebted" to RZA's early production with Wu-Tang Clan. The success of artists such as Nas and Notorious B.I.G. during 1994–95 cemented the status of the East Coast during a time of West Coast dominance. In a March 2002 issue of The Source Magazine, Nas referred to 1994 as "a renaissance of New York Hip-Hop."
The productions of RZA, particularly for Wu-Tang Clan, became influential with artists such as Mobb Deep due to the combination of somewhat detached instrumental loops, highly compressed and processed drums and gangsta lyrical content. Wu-Tang solo albums such as Raekwon the Chef's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Ghostface Killah's Ironman, and GZA's Liquid Swords are now viewed as classics along with Wu-Tang "core" material. The clan's base extended into further groups called Wu-affiliates.
Producers such as DJ Premier (primarily for Gangstarr but also for other affiliated artists such as Jeru the Damaja), Pete Rock (With CL Smooth and supplying beats for many others), Buckwild, Large Professor, Diamond D and The 45 King supplying beats for numerous MCs regardless of location.
Albums such as Nas's Illmatic, Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt and O.C.'s Word...Life are made up of beats from this pool of producers.
The rivalry between the East Coast and the West Coast rappers eventually turned personal.
Later in the decade the business acumen of the Bad Boy Records tested itself against Jay-Z and his Roc-A-Fella Records and, on the West Coast, Death Row Records. The mid to late 1990s saw a generation of rappers such as the members of D.I.T.C. such as the late Big L and Big Pun.
On the East Coast, although the "big business" end of the market dominated matters commercially the late 1990s to early 2000s saw a number of relatively successful East Coast indie labels such as Rawkus Records (with whom Mos Def and Talib Kweli gained great success) and later Def Jux; the history of the two labels is intertwined, the latter having been started by EL-P of Company Flow in reaction to the former, and offered an outlet for more underground artists such as Mike Ladd, Aesop Rock, Mr Lif, RJD2, Cage and Cannibal Ox. Other acts such as the Hispanic Arsonists and slam poet turned MC Saul Williams met with differing degrees of success.
West Coast hip hop
After N.W.A. broke up, Dr. Dre (a former member) released The Chronic in 1992, which peaked at #1 on the R&B/hip hop chart, #3 on the pop chart and spawned a #2 pop single with "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang." The Chronic took West Coast rap in a new direction, influenced strongly by P funk artists, melding smooth and easy funk beats with slowly drawled lyrics. This came to be known as G-funk and dominated mainstream hip hop for several years through a roster of artists on Death Row Records, including Tupac Shakur, whose double disc album All Eyez on Me was a big hit with hit songs "Ambitionz az a Ridah" and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted", and Snoop Dogg, whose Doggystyle included the songs "What's My Name?" and "Gin and Juice", both top ten hits. As the Los Angeles-based label Death Row Records built an empire around Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and the rapper-actor Tupac Shakur. It also entered into a rivalry with New York City's Bad Boy Records. (See the article on the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry.)
Detached from this scene were other artists such as Freestyle Fellowship, The Pharcyde as well as more underground artists such as the Solesides collective (DJ Shadow and Blackalicious amongst others) Jurassic 5, Ugly Duckling, People Under The Stairs, Tha Alkaholiks, and earlier Souls of Mischief represented a return to hip hop roots of sampling and well planned rhyme schemes.
Diversification of styles
In the 1990s, hip hop began to diversify with other regional styles emerging on the national scene. Southern rap became popular in the early 1990s. The first Southern rappers to gain national attention were the Geto Boys out of Houston, Texas. Southern rap's roots can be traced to the success of Geto Boy's Grip It! On That Other Level in 1989, the Rick Rubin produced The Geto Boys in 1990, and We Can't Be Stopped in 1991. The Houston area also produced other artists that pioneered the early southern rap sound such as UGK and the solo career of Scarface.
Atlanta hip hop artists were key in further expanding rap music and bringing southern hip hop into the mainstream. Releases such as Arrested Development's 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of... in 1992, Goodie Mob's Soul Food in 1995 and OutKast's ATLiens in 1996 were all critically acclaimed. Later, Master P (Ghetto D) built up a roster of artists (the No Limit posse) based out of New Orleans. Master P incorporated G funk and Miami bass influences; and distinctive regional sounds from St. Louis, Chicago, Washington D.C., Detroit and others began to gain popularity.
In the 1990s, elements of hip hop continued to be assimilated into other genres of popular music. Neo soul, for example, combined hip hop and soul music. In the 1980s and 1990s, rap rock, rapcore and rap metal, fusions of hip hop and rock, hardcore punk and heavy metal became popular among mainstream audiences. Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit were among the most well-known bands in these fields.
Digable Planets' 1993 release Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) was an influential jazz rap record sampling the likes of Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Herbie Mann, Herbie Hancock, Grant Green, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. It spawned the hit single "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" which reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100
Although white rappers like the Beastie Boys, House of Pain and 3rd Bass had had some popular success or critical acceptance from the hip hop community, Eminem's success, beginning in 1999 with the platinum The Slim Shady LP, surprised many.
2000s and 2010s
The popularity of hip hop music continued through the 2000s. Dr. Dre remained an important figure, and in the year 2000 produced The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem. Dre also produced 50 Cent's 2003 album Get Rich or Die Tryin', which debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts.
Hip hop influences also found their way increasingly into mainstream pop during this period mainly the mid-2000s, as the Los Angeles style of the 1990s lost power. Nelly's debut LP, Country Grammar, sold over nine million copies. In the 2000s, crunk music, a derivative of Southern hip hop, gained considerable popularity via the likes of Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins. Jay-Z represented the cultural triumph of hip hop. As his career progressed, he went from performing artist to label president, head of a clothing line, club owner, and market consultant—along the way breaking Elvis Presley's record for most number one albums on the Billboard magazine charts by a solo artist.
In addition to the mainstream success, the United States also saw the success of alternative hip hop in the form of performers such as The Roots, Dilated Peoples, Gnarls Barkley and Mos Def, who achieved significant recognition. Gnarls Barkley's album St. Elsewhere, which contained a fusion of funk, neo soul and hip hop, debuted at number 20 on the Billboard 200 charts. In addition, Aesop Rock's 2007 album None Shall Pass was well received, and reached #50 on the Billboard charts.
World and national music
The continuation of hip hop can also be seen in different national contexts. In Tanzania, artists maintained popular acts of their own in the early 2000s, infusing local styles of Afrobeat and arabesque melodies, dancehall and hip-hop beats, and Swahili lyrics. Scandinavian, especially Danish and Swedish, performers became well known outside of their country, while hip hop continued its spread into new regions, including Russia, Japan, Philippines, Canada, China, Korea, India and especially Vietnam. Of particular importance is the influence on East Asian nations, where hip hop music has become fused with local popular music to form different styles such as K-pop, C-pop and J-pop.
In Germany and France, gangsta rap has become popular among youths who like the violent and aggressive lyrics. Some German rappers openly or comically flirt with Nazism; for example, Bushido (born Anis Mohamed Youssef Ferchichi) raps "Salutiert, steht stramm, Ich bin der Leader wie A" (Salute, stand to attention, I am the leader like 'A') and Fler had a hit with the record Neue Deutsche Welle (New German Wave) complete with the title written in Third Reich style Gothic print and advertised with an Adolf Hitler quote. These references also spawned great controversy in Germany. Meanwhile, in France, artists like Kery James' Idéal J maintained a radical, anti-authoritarian attitude and released songs like Hardcore which attacked the growth of the French far right.
In the Netherlands, MC Brainpower went from being an underground battle rapper to mainstream recognition in the Benelux, thus influencing numerous rap artists in the region. In Israel, rapper Subliminal reaches out to Israeli youth with political and religious-themed lyrics, usually with a Zionist message.
One of the countries outside the US where hip-hop is most popular is the United Kingdom. In the 2000s a derivative genre from Hip-Hop (as well as UK Garage and Drum and Bass) known as Grime became popular with artists such as Dizzee Rascal becoming successful. Although it is immensely popular, many British politicians criticize the music for what they see as promoting theft and murder, similar to gangsta rap in America. These criticisms have been deemed racist by the mostly Black British grime industry. Despite its controversial nature, grime has had a major effect on British fashion and pop music, with many young working-class youth emulating the clothing worn by grime stars like Dizzee Rascal and Wiley. There are many subgenres of grime, including "Rhythm and Grime," a mix of R&B and grime, and grindie, a mix of indie rock and grime popularized by indie rock band Hadouken!
Hip hop has globalized into many cultures worldwide, as evident through the emergence of numerous regional scenes. It has emerged globally as a movement based upon the main tennets of hip hop culture. The music and the art continue to embrace, even celebrate, its transnational dimensions while staying true to the local cultures to which it is rooted. Hip-hop's inspiration differs depending on each culture. Still, the one thing virtually all hip hop artists worldwide have in common is that they acknowledge their debt to those African-American people in New York who launched the global movement. While hip-hop is sometimes taken for granted by Americans, it is not so elsewhere, especially in the developing world, where it has come to represent the empowerment of the disenfranchised and a slice of the American dream. American hip-hop music has reached the cultural corridors of the globe and has been absorbed and reinvented around the world.
Crunk and snap music
Crunk originated in Tennessee in the 1990s. The style was pioneered and commercialized by artists from Memphis, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia.
Looped, stripped-down drum machine rhythms are usually used. The Roland TR-808 and 909 are among the most popular. The drum machines are usually accompanied by simple, repeated synthesizer melodies and heavy bass stabs. The tempo of the music is somewhat slower than hip-hop, around the speed of reggaeton.
The focal point of crunk is more often the beats and music than the lyrics therein. Crunk rappers, however, often shout and scream their lyrics, creating an aggressive, almost heavy, style of hip-hop. While other subgenres of hip-hop address sociopolitical or personal concerns, crunk is almost exclusively party music, favoring call and response hip-hop slogans in lieu of more substantive approaches.
Snap music is a subgenre of crunk that emerged from Atlanta, Georgia, in the late 1990s. The genre soon gained mainstream popularity and in mid-2005 artists from other southern states such as Tennessee began to emerge with this style. Tracks commonly consist of an 808 bassdrum, hi-hat, bass, snapping, a main groove and a vocal track. Hit snap songs include "Lean wit It, Rock wit It" by "Dem Franchize Boyz", "Laffy Taffy" by D4L, "It's Goin' Down" by Yung Joc and "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em.
Glitch hop and wonky music
Glitch hop and Wonky music evolved following the rise of trip hop, dubstep and IDM. Both styles of music frequently reflect the experimental nature of IDM and the heavy bass featured in dubstep songs. While trip hop was described as being a distinct British upper-middle class take on hip-hop, glitch-hop and wonky music have featured much more stylistic diversity. Both genres are melting pots of influence, echoes of 1980s pop music, Indian ragas, eclectic jazz and West Coast rap can be heard in glitch hop productions. Los Angeles, London, Glasgow and a number of other cities have become hot spots for these scenes, and underground scenes have developed across the world in smaller communities. Both genres often pay homage to older and more well established electronic music artists such as Radiohead, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada as well as independent hip hop producers like J Dilla and Madlib.
Glitch hop is a fusion genre of hip hop and glitch music that originated in the early to mid-2000s in the United States and Europe. Musically, it is based on irregular, chaotic breakbeats, glitchy basslines and other typical sound effects used in glitch music, like skips. Glitch hop artists include Prefuse 73, Dabrye and Flying Lotus.
Wonky is a subgenre of hip hop that originated around 2008, but most notably in the United States and United Kingdom, and among international artists of the Hyperdub music label, under the influence of glitch hop and dubstep. Wonky music is of the same glitchy type as glitch hop, but it was specifically noted for its melodies, rich with "mid-range unstable synths". Scotland has become one of the most prominent places, where wonky music was shaped by artists like Hudson Mohawke and Rustie.
Glitch hop and wonky are popular among a limited number of people interested in alternative hip hop and electronic music (especially dubstep); neither glitch hop nor wonky have met any mainstream popularity, however, artists like Flying Lotus, The Glitch Mob and Hudson Mohawke have seen success in other avenues. Flying Lotus's music has earned multiple positive reviews on the independent music review site Pitchfork.com as well as a prominent (yet uncredited) spot during Adult Swim commercial breaks. Hudson Mohawke is one of few glitch hop artists to play at major music festivals such as Sasquatch! Music Festival.
Decline in sales
Starting in 2005, sales of hip hop music in the United States began to severely wane, leading Time magazine to question if mainstream hip-hop was "dying." Billboard Magazine found that, since 2000, rap sales dropped 44%, and declined to 10% of all music sales, which, while still a commanding figure when compared to other genres, is a significant drop from the 13% of all music sales where rap music regularly placed. According to Courtland Milloy of The Washington Post, for the first time on five years, no rap albums were among the top 10 sellers in 2006. NPR culture critic Elizabeth Blair noted that, "some industry experts say young people are fed up with the violence, degrading imagery and lyrics." However, the 2005 report Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8–18 Year-Olds found that hip hop music is by far the most popular music genre for children and teenagers, with 65 percent of 8- to-18-year-olds listening to it on a daily basis.
Others say the music is just as popular as it ever was, but that fans have found other means to consume the music." It can also be argued that many young people now download music illegally, especially through P2P networks, instead of purchasing albums and singles from legitimate stores. For example, Flo Rida is known for his low album sales regardless of his singles being mainstream and having digital success. His second album R.O.O.T.S. sold only 200,000+ total units in the U.S., which could not line up to the sales of the album's lead single "Right Round". This also happened to him in 2008. Some put the blame on the lack of lyrical content that hip hop once had, another example is Soulja Boy Tell 'Em's 2007 debut album souljaboytellem.com was met with negative reviews. Lack of sampling, a key element of hip hop, has also been noted for the decrease in quality of modern albums. For example, there are only four samples used in 2008's Paper Trail by T.I., while there are 35 samples in 1998's Moment of Truth by Gang Starr. The decrease in sampling is in part due to it being too expensive for producers. In Byron Hurt's documentary Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, he claims that hip hop had changed from "clever rhymes and dance beats" to "advocating personal, social and criminal corruption." Despite the fall in record sales throughout the music industry, hip-hop has remained a popular genre, with hip-hop artists still regularly topping the Billboard 200 Charts. In the first half of 2009 alone artists such as Eminem, Rick Ross, The Black Eyed Peas, and Fabolous all had albums that reached the #1 position on the Billboard 200 charts. Eminem's album Relapse was one of the fastest selling albums of 2009.
Hip hop on Broadway
In recent years, hip hop's influence has reached into musical theater. Rap verses permeated musical theater as early as 1956 in the production My Fair Lady. Inclusion of rap in musical theater has been an increasing occurrence, making appearances in popular musicals such as Rent and Dreamgirls While more notable for funk than hip hop, Broadway musical Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk fuses tap dance and hip hop dance styles together, and includes rap.
Off Broadway saw hip hop in the 1990s and early 2000s, with musicals So! What Happens Now? and Jam on the Groove. In the Heights, music and lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, also performed off Broadway in 2007.
Hip hop music met the Broadway stage in 2008, when In the Heights brought hip hop dance and music to Richard Rogers Theater. The production is said to fuse salsa and hip hop styles together, and has a healthy inclusion of rap. Miranda brought hip hop to Richard Rogers Theater a second time in 2015 with his production Hamilton. The show saw unprecedented success in the box office. Hamilton and In the Heights included rap onstage in a way that theater had never done before, with the cast recording of Hamilton making number one album on the Billboard rap charts. The success of Hamilton suggests that Hip hop in musical theater may see a rise soon.
Innovation and revitalization
It was during the mid-2000s that alternative hip hop finally secured a place within the mainstream, due in part to the crossover success of artists such as OutKast, Kanye West, and Gnarls Barkley. Not only did OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below receive high acclaim from music critics, manage to appeal to listeners of all ages, and span numerous musical genres – including rap, rock, R&B, punk, jazz, indie, country, pop, electronica and gospel – but it also spawned two number-one hit singles and has been certified diamond by selling 11 times platinum by the RIAA for shipping more than 11 million units, becoming one of the best selling hip-hop albums of all time as well as winning a Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards being only the second rap album to do so. Industry observers view the sales race between Kanye West's Graduation and 50 Cent's Curtis as a turning point for hip hop. West emerged the victor, selling nearly a million copies in the first week alone, proving that innovative rap music could be just as commercially viable as gangsta rap, if not more so. Although he designed it as a melancholic pop rather than rap, Kanye's following 808s & Heartbreak would have a significant effect on hip hop music. While his decision to sing about love, loneliness, and heartache for the entirety of the album was at first heavily criticized by music audiences and the album predicted to be a flop, its subsequent critical acclaim and commercial success encouraged other mainstream rappers to take greater creative risks with their music. During the release of The Blueprint 3, New York rap mogul Jay-Z revealed that next studio album would be an experimental effort, stating, "... it's not gonna be a #1 album. That's where I'm at right now. I wanna make the most experimental album I ever made." Jay-Z elaborated that like Kanye, he was unsatisfied with contemporary hip hop, was being inspired by indie-rockers like Grizzly Bear and asserted his belief that the indie rock movement would play an important role in the continued evolution of hip-hop.
The alternative hip hop movement is not limited only to the United States, as rappers such as Somali-Canadian poet K'naan, Japanese rapper Shing02, and Sri Lankan British artist M.I.A. have achieved considerable worldwide recognition. In 2009, TIME magazine placed M.I.A in the Time 100 list of "World's Most Influential people" for having "global influence across many genres." Global themed movements have also sprung out of the international hip-hop scene with microgenres like "Islamic Eco-Rap" addressing issues of worldwide importance through traditionally disenfranchised voices. Today, due in part to the increasing use of music distribution through the internet, many alternative rap artists find acceptance by far-reaching audiences. Several artists such as Kid Cudi and Drake have managed to attain chart-topping hit songs, "Day 'n' Nite" and "Best I Ever Had" respectively, by releasing their music on free online mixtapes without the help of a major record label. New artists such as Wale, J. Cole, Lupe Fiasco, The Cool Kids, Jay Electronica, and B.o.B, some of whom mention being directly influenced by their nineties alt-rap predecessors, in addition to the southern rap sound, while their music has been noted by critics as expressing eclectic sounds, life experiences, and emotions rarely seen in mainstream hip hop.
Emergence of mumble rap
Mumble rap was also the subject of significant exposure during the mid 2010s, with many artists such as Future, Young Thug, and Migos receiving great attention. Mumble rap is defined as an alternative approach to hip hop, in which the artists often prioritize a satisfying flow or cadence, coupled with many ad libs, rather than lyrical content. This often results in difficulty to completely understand the artist, as seen in the works produced by Lil Uzi, Lil Yachty, and Desiigner.
Mumble rap has seen a mixed response by both fans and artists, with traditional hip hop artists such as Wiz Khalifa and J. Cole voicing their displeasure at the rise of the genre. Justin Hunt, a writer for HipHopDX, states the current climate within hip hop regarding mumble rap resembles the divide felt by many during the split in response to the rise of crunk and snap in the 2000s, where many artists relented at the low standard associated with the genre. Despite a mixed critical response to the genre, mumble rap has proved commercially successful, with songs like "Panda", "Broccoli", and "Bad and Boujee" all occupying the top five in the Billboard Hot 100 charts, as well as gaining platinum certification.
In September 2014 a course in rap linguistics was offered at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, "examining rap from cultures as diverse as German, French, Navajo and even the Sami people of Northern Europe." The course has difficult content as rap is studied using methodologies applied in linguistics, such as grammar analysis and measurement of vowel sounds using software. According to associate professor Darin Flynn, who is teaching this course, rap heroes, such as Eminem or Jay-Z, are "true poet laureate[s] of the working class" and their songs "crisscross sound, emotion, grammar and multiple metaphors".