Contrary to the commonly held belief, rap and hip hop aren’t interchangeable. Here’s an in-depth answer to the age-old question: what’s the difference between rap and hip hop? — including a breakdown from a hip hop pioneer.
Most experts maintain that the real difference between rap and hip hop is that one is a subset of the other. Rap represents a rhythmic style of vocal recitation that’s popular in most of hip hop’s top songs. But it’s just one component of the broader hip hop cultural movement.
The hip hop movement, for its part, consists of rap and several cultural elements, including one’s lifestyle and experiences. Rapping is a specific vocal delivery, while hip hop can include fashion, deejaying, dance (hip hop dance and breakdancing), art (especially graffiti culture), and a general lifestyle and attitude.
Old school rap icon KRS-One put it this way: “Rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live.”
To sum it up, anyone can be a rapper, while only those who’ve lived hip hop can craft music in the genre and represent the broader lifestyle.
Most of today’s popular rap didn’t result from firsthand experiences with hip hop culture, according to the “Remember 2 Forget” creator. In turn, Murs relayed that there’s a disconnect between many facets of contemporary rap music and the real-world memories of the responsible artists – and it’s this disconnect and lack of authenticity that stops the tracks from being hip hop.
Digital Music News was on hand for a recent Songtradr Happy Hour event, “Hip-Hop Deconstructed,” which welcomed Murs to discuss and analyze hip hop music and its precise definition. Building upon the above-mentioned difference between rap and hip hop, the “First Love” artist specified that authenticity is essential in hip hop and elaborated on the resulting distinction.
“You could be a rapper, and you could be a musician, and you could be a pop star,” said Murs, “but it doesn’t make you hip hop. Hip hop is definitely – it’s a culture. There’s elements to it, there’s all types of things that go along with it.”
Much of the rap music making waves today didn’t result from firsthand experiences with hip hop culture, according to the “Remember 2 Forget” creator. In turn, Murs relayed that there’s a disconnect between many facets of contemporary rap music and the real-world memories of the responsible artists – and it’s this disconnect and lack of authenticity that stops the tracks from being hip hop.
“Rap is not authentic. The rap you hear on the radio is not what is going on in black communities,” stated Murs. “Assuming that these men are always partying or always violent, or that’s, you know, an indicator of black life in America is way off base.”
Across his nearly 40 releases to date – including a new work tackling the seemingly endless stream of tracks centering on selling cocaine – Murs has remained authentic by staying true to each piece of his background. From reading (which his mother introduced him to) and religion to skateboarding and comic books, as well as much in between, Murs’s songs reflect his unique, one-of-a-kind viewpoint.
“‘Your voice is your lens through who you are,’” Murs’s mentor, Slug, once told him. “For better or worse, I’m from Los Angeles. It would be gang culture – that’s my lens. Everything I see is through that,” Murs noted.
The frequent Twitch streamer also expressed the idea that hip hop is evolving out of its “hair metal phase” presently. “Hip hop has been stuck in kind of its ‘hair-metal phase’ for a long time,” said Murs. “It’s very flashy, sex, sex, sex, party, party, party. It’s been stuck there for a long time. But I think what’s going on now is there’s going to be a huge shift. There has to be.
“Hip hop is growing now with Tyler [The Creator] and Kendrick Lamar,” continued the “Vs. Everybody” artist. “And there’s still room for the 50 Cents and the ‘hair metal bands’ of rap. I think we’re finally getting over that hump. But for a while we were stuck in that.”
One thing to keep in mind: this is where rap and hip hop exist right now. But things are constantly evolving. Rap styles are always evolving, and hip hop’s nuances are in a state of constant flux.
But in terms of breakdowns, not all rap is hip hop, and not all hip hop is rap. This invaluable distinction is important for the hip hop voices of tomorrow, and fans in search of music that speaks to their preferences and stories.