Most people listen to rap music without knowing there are different types of rap, but it is important for everyone to know these diverse subgenres so they can categorize artists and explore new musical tastes.
“Rap, Trap, and Boom-Bap” is not a name picked solely for its lightheartedness and funny flow, but also for its display of two very prominent styles of rap: trap and boom-bap. These, along with other subgenres, give rap the same diversity of genres like alternative, with indie and rock themes alike, or pop, which ranges from heavy beats to bubblegum-sweet.
A unique subgenre that is most known for providing listeners with humor is country rap. Some consider the style, with songs like “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, to be a parody of country music. One listen to the lyrics displays the artist’s motive to poke fun at country culture. “Old Town Road” was climbing Billboard’s Hot 100 but was removed from the Hot Country Songs chart for not being “country enough.”
But other country rap songs like “Yup (On My Tractor)” by FlyRich Double and “Like A Farmer” by Lil Tracy have also experienced lots of popularity, and it is only a matter of time before this style becomes mainstream.
A subgenre that has already made a similar transition is melodic rap. With artists like Drake leading the way, it isn’t a surprise that this style is so popular. Melodic rap is a lighter type of rap that always has a melody to it, ranging from happy to sad. Its variety can be shown in songs as different as “Broccoli” by D.R.A.M. and “Hold On, We’re Going Home” by Drake.
While some rap styles are solidifying themselves in modern popular culture, others made contributions that have faded from popularity. Boom-bap was popular in the ’90s, when Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur rapped about everyday struggles and, to no one’s surprise, women. These two led the subgenre with the focus on the lyrics and hard-hitting music.
The music style used in boom-bap songs is bouncy and people can’t seem to help moving their head along to it. Despite this style’s influential artists and beat, it isn’t the type of rap played at a campus party.
While rap is often seen as a party genre, many of its subgenres add deeper meanings to its songs, specifically conscious rap. Just like boom-bap, the focus of conscious rap is mainly on the lyrics, but it features more laid-back sounds.
This subgenre uses music to adhere to the definition of a song. The main point of it is to convey a message, primarily focusing on political issues. Because of this, conscious rap doesn’t have as much mainstream influence as other subgenres.
But the rappers that fit into this category, like J. Cole or Joyner Lucas, are still successful. Lucas’s song “I’m Not Racist” went viral upon its 2017 release and explored both sides of racism. Lucas faced both praise and criticism — he was trying to spread a message of unity, but many listeners felt he wasn’t doing enough to condemn racism.
As some of these genres explore the positive impact rap can have on the community, people still have negative stereotypes against other styles. Gangster or “gangsta” rap displays a more dangerous and violent side of rap, one that many people reference when looking down on hip-hop as a whole.
Members of the predominant gangsta rap group, N.W.A, incorporated themes of violence and anger in their music as they rose to fame. While the group is best known for bringing to light many issues surrounding racism and classism, this subgenre still has a lot of controversy surrounding it because many of the lyrics focus on violence, drugs and sex.
Still, gangsta rap has had a major influence on developing other subgenres. Many people believe that it paved the way for modern trap and its overwhelming popularity. This newer subgenre uses dark beats that are driven by an 808 kick with a deep rumbling bass sound heard mainly through a subwoofer. Trap is one of the catchiest subgenres because of the flow that its artists use.
Like its gangsta predecessor, trap’s lyrics are typically filled with violence and drug use, which gives it a bad reputation among parents and more conservative audiences. However, the presentation of the words makes the songs appealing to a wide audience.
One of the most popular trap artists is Future, who Hiphop.com deemed a founding father of trap. His song “Mask Off” peaked at number 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 2017. The song featured a few distinct and unique elements, including the flute, to help it become catchier.
With all of these many different subgenres of rap, it can be hard to navigate, and as rap becomes more popular, there will only be more. But it is fun to know the differences between styles so you can be more educated and get more enjoyment out of the music you listen to. Look up different rap artists and the diverse styles of the hip-hop community and see if you can begin to understand the differences between Rap, Trap and Boom-Bap.
While some rap styles are SOLIDIFYING themselves in modern popular culture, others made contributions that have faded from popularity.