For years, the debate has ensued about what exactly the difference is between rap music and hip hop music, and the main crux of the argument centers around the type of culture that each type of music personifies. Other factors, though, are also included, such as: how the music is produced, the elements associated with the sound of the music, and what each genre tries to get across in its central message.
Historically, Hip Hop comprises 4 elements, 1 of which is rap, as outlined by DJ Afrikaa Bambaataa. The four elements of Hip Hop are DJing, MCing (a.k.a. rapping), B-Boying (a.k.a. break-dancing) and graffiti writing.
Ask any two artists, fans, or other assorted members of the rap/hip-hop
community to explain the precise difference between the two terms, and
odds are you'll get different answers. Even so, most would probably
agree that rap describes a type of music while hip-hop refers to a
cultural phenomenon that includes graffiti, breakdancing, and fashion in
addition to music -- or as rapper social theorist KRS-One says, "Rap is
something you do, hip-hop is something you live." Musically, the only
difference between the two is that rap always contains the vocal element
of rhythmically spoken rhymes while hip-hop can be purely instrumental
in nature. Rap in its earliest stages consisted of DJs mixing records
and juggling beats and breaks for block parties while emcees rhymed over
the rhythms. This practice of adapting, dissecting, and transforming
pre-recorded music to create new songs could be hip-hop's most
significant contribution to modern music.
Hip hop culture is defined by the late '70s, early '80s beat-box style
of music where groups like Sugarhill Gang, Fab 5 Freddy, and Kurtis
Blow. These artists, and many more just like them, sang in upbeat tones
that told people to get off their seats and dance to the music. Their
message was more of a positive, brighter future type of ballad. Rap, on
the other hand, is more concerned with what is going on in popular
culture. Current rap stars like Eminem, 50 Cent, and Lil' Wayne
frequently rap about the prevalence of drug dealing where they are from,
political issues that they disagree with, or general elements of
impropriety amongst the perceived leaders of this nation.
Whereas hip hop strives to push its listeners to look forward to a
better tomorrow, rap music is all about "telling it like it is" in the
here and now. one of the greatest rap groups of all-time, N.W.A., sang
of their hardcore lifestyle which was the only way to survive where
they were from. They were often ostracized in popular music circles, but
they were simply rapping about the current day's conditions. on the
other hand, a song like "Rapper's Delight" from The Sugarhill Gang
encouraged people to have a good time with their lives and stressed that
only good things were going to happen in the future.
While it is true that rap music tends to have a more depressive outlook
than hip hop music, the two terms get interchanged so much in the
current day and age that it becomes difficult to decipher what the real
difference is. While it would be impossible to pinpoint one particular
difference that shows us unequivocally what the difference is between
rap and hip hop, our perceived notions of what separates the two will
continue the great debate about what is the true difference between
these two types of music.
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