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A Guide to Hip-Hop Subgenres

Conscious rap is powered by the idea that radical social change comes through knowledge of self, personal discovery, and societal awareness. So-called conscious rappers devote much of their rhymes decrying social ills and promoting positive ideas. Conscious rap is a contentious category, and not all every rapper like to be classified as such. Key artists include Talib Kweli, Common, Mos Def. More »

Hyphy is a relatively new musical import from the west coast. It incorporates an uptempo, high-energy style. Hyphy is also characterized by witty lyrics and rugged beats. Critics were quick to dismiss it as a fad at first, mainly because its an offshoot of crunk. Regardless, the Bay Area has enjoyed a measurable amount of success with their brainchild. Key artists include Keak da Sneak, E-40, Mistah F.A.B. More »

The slick polyrhythms of snap are naturally accompanied by finger snaps (hence the name) and occasional whistling to create a distinct melody. Though this style of hip-hop grew out of Atlanta, it quickly spread to other cities in the U.S. Unfortunately, snap fizzled out almost as soon as it became popular. Key artists include Dem Franchise Boyz, Yin Yang Twins, and D4L.

Stylistically, southern rap relies on exuberant production and direct lyrics (typically about the southern lifestyle, trends, attitudes). With a few obscure exceptions, southern hip-hop is more distinct for its sound and slang than for lyricism (although, the new school of emcees from Houston and Atlanta are starting to reverse this trend). In an attempt to capture their stylish culture on wax, some southern MCs consciously incorporate car culture, fashion trends, nightlife, and unique lingo in their songs. Key artists include DJ Screw, T.I., Lil Wayne, UGK, Ludacris, and Scarface. More »