Hip-Hop Rap Styles

Hip-Hop and Rap were created in the 1970s. However, since then many different types of rap have formed.

Change and adaptation of the genre have become common. It wouldn’t be a surprise if new types of rap continue to come to life. It’s almost guaranteed.

Old School

The ‘Old School’ type of rap is straightforward. It’s the oldest version of rap around since the genre became official. This refers to the era of the 1970s – 1990s when rap became a movement.

The genre consists of sampled beats and mostly freestyle vocals. Back in this era old school beats were made by sampling other genres. DJs would sample, then loop sections from mostly funk and soul records. Then, they would layer it over with drums. Finally, rappers would lay their rhymes over it.

The beats were fairly simple & repetitive but they contained new grooves, unlike any other genre.

Today when we listen to old-school types of rap we get a nostalgic feeling. That is because a lot of rappers and producers will use vintage samples to emphasize this vintage era.

There is still a wide audience of listeners who enjoy the old-school style of music. This type of rap will most likely never die out.

Artists to check out: Sugar Hill Gang, Tupac, Slick Rick

Boom Bap

Boom bap is another old type of rap. It is very similar to old school. However, this type focuses more in on the beat. More specifically, the beat’s drums.

The boom-bap era introduced a new set of drum samples. Punchy kicks, crispy snares, and light hi-hats. Drum patterns for boom bap are almost always in duple time or 2 beats to a bar.

Similar to old school, boom bap is also heavily focused on samples for the melody.

Boom-bap artists to check out: Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep


Trap is a type of rap that is very common today. This style focuses heavily on 808 patterns and assertive lyrics.

The word trap is a slang term. It refers to neighborhoods or houses where illegal drugs and activities are taken place. The culture behind this type of rap resembles slang. A lot of lyrics in trap music reference drugs and violence.

However, the majority of Trap music today does not aim to promote illegal activities. A lot of trap rappers reference these experiences from their past. Expressing to their audience that they came from tragic backgrounds. As a result, inspiring others that anything is possible.

Trap artists to check out: Gucci Mane, Future, Megan Thee Stallion

Gangsta Rap

This type of rap focuses on aggression. The beats tend to be aggressive and the lyrics match it. It broke off of boom-bap in the 90s.

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A lot of gangsta rap is about… well… gangsters. The graphic lyrics showcase the hardcore lives of being in a gang. Back in the 90s and early 2000s the more hardcore you were the better your rap career went. People gave respect to the rappers who went through the graphic stories told through their music. This music opened the eyes of a lot of people who were unfamiliar with gang life.

Today gangsta rap still exists. However, a lot of mainstream rappers use it as a marketing scheme. They use the genre as a branding technique to attract a certain audience. However, these rappers are not involved in gang activity. Similarly, their lyrics aren’t always 100% true.

But again, there are still a lot of gangsta rappers today that have experienced their lyrics. You can usually find out the truth by researching the rapper.

Gangsta rap artists to check out: Jedi Mind Tricks, Geto Boys


G-Funk is short for gangsta-funk. It is a subgenre of gangsta rap. However, it has its unique twist.

It was discovered on the west coast by Dr. Dre after he mixed funk music with hip-hop-style drums. After it was discovered it quickly became the signature sound for West Coast hip hop.

The creation of this genre had a huge impact on the rap industry. It opened the doors to a lot of west coast rappers and turned the west coast into a powerhouse for rap music.

G-funk artists to check out: Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre


Since the early 2010s Drill has become a major type of rap. It’s another form of trap and gangsta rap.

Producers such as Young Chop brought light to the style. It was formed in Chicago but adopted trap sounds from Atlanta. The beats tend to be more fast-paced with eerie melodies. The lyrics are similar to gangsta rap. Expressing the harsh realities of the streets.

Drill artists to check out: Chief Keef, Young Chop, Pop Smoke

Emo rap

I guess even rap music can have an emo phase.

Emo rap took inspiration from the tortured lyrics of Kurt Cobain, the wistful melodies of midwest emo and screamo, and the auto-laden production styles used by neo-R&B artists like T-Pain.

Naturally, emo rap is most defined by its lyrical content and visual style—with artists like Lil Uzi Vert singing about their pains while maintaining a grungy dress code.

Emo rap artists to check out: Lil Uzi Vert, Juice WRLD, XXXTentacion


Grime is a subgenre of hip-hop that comes from the UK.

It’s known for mixing hip-hop production with electronic influences from the UK’s healthy dance music scene, particularly UK Garage music.

You’ll hear a lot of bubbly synths and freaky pads used throughout many grime tracks.

Beyond the production, Grime is most notable for its lyrical style that leans heavily into specific dialects of English from parts of London.

Both the rhythmic delivery and lyrical content feel different, with plenty of British street slang used throughout.

Grime rappers to check out: Skepta, JME

UK Drill

UK Drill builds on the trap-influenced stylings of Drill music from Chicago and combines them with the sound UK Grime rappers pioneered.

It’s a very new genre that only really grew to prominence in 2019. Rapper, Stormzy, and producer AXL Beats are the two biggest artists behind the genre.

The best way to describe UK Drill is that it marries the distinct sound of UK Grime’s rhythmic lyrical cadence with the drill’s intense drum production.

UK Drill artists to check out: Stormzy, Skengdo


New York may get credit for inventing hip-hop, but it wasn’t the only place where hip-hop was going on in the early 90s.

Down in New Orleans, a different movement was starting—Bounce was the south’s response to what was happening up north.

Compared to the hard-hitting and gritty sound of New York MCs, Bounce was fun.

Its dancy nature and heavy use of call-and-response sections made it easy to sing along with.

Bounce also pioneered the fusion of soul and R&B with hip-hop music and featured many great women MCs who could both sing and rap—the late Magnolia Shorty is an excellent example.

This is a truly southern genre, that gave birth to southern hip hop and inspired crunk artists like Lil John and horrorcore artists like Three 6 Mafia.

Bounce artists to check out: JUVENILE, Magnolia Shorty, DJ Jubilee


Crunk is an incredible subgenre of rap that popped up in Florida and parts of the southwestern states over the 2000s.

It’s a really interesting genre of rap to me because it sounds unique and different from most other kinds of rap. You know when you’re listening to a crunk rap song.

Crunk is a precursor to the modern trap that’s so popular right now too. It makes use of fast hi-hat production and some pretty boomy bass kicks.

But what pushes crunk over the top are its vocal characteristics—they often use loud and gnarly choruses that almost sound like they’re screaming into the mic.

The biggest crunk artist is Lil Jon, who’s famous for his prolific vocal features and his catchy way of shouting “YEAH’ and “OKAY”.

Crunk artists to check out: Lil Jon, Lil’ Scrappy, Soulja Boy

Country trap

Country trap is a relatively new genre with obvious connections to Atlanta trap and good ol’ Nashville pop country.

The mega-hit that defined the genre is Lil Nas X with Old Town Road, but outings from Nelly with Florida Georgia Line laid the groundwork for the genre.

Today’s modern country sound does take a lot of cues from trap production, you’ll hear trap hats and 808 claps in many party-oriented pop-country songs if you listen closely.

Country trap artists to check out: RMR, Little Nas X

Rap rock

Rap Rock combines the high-voltage energy of rock music with the attitude and style of hip-hop.

The genre is rooted in late 90s acts like the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC but grew to mainstream prominence with 2000s artists like Linkin Park.

Rap Rock often uses influences from punk and hardcore but leaves space for rap verses by incorporating hip-hop-friendly drum parts inspired by drum and bass and boom-bap.

Rap rock artists to check out: Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine

Mumble rap

Mumble rap is somewhat of a derogatory term for some artists. But, in many ways, it’s a fair description of a certain rap style that’s popular right now.

The genre is an offshoot of Trap that plays with triplet-heavy rhyming used by many trap artists.

Mumble rappers will often rhyme very quickly in triplets while using unintelligible and sometimes made-up words.

Mumble rappers to check out: Young Thug, Lil Yachty, 645AR

Jazz rap

Jazz rap has close ties to the boom-bap era of hip-hop.

That’s because so many of the samples boom-bap producers used came from jazz and soul types of vinyl.

Jazz rap in the early 2000s pushed the limits of sampling techniques and combined complex rhyme schemes with off-kilter drum production.

To me, the two figureheads of jazz-rap are the late J Dilla and MF DOOM.

J Dilla is the producer who’s credited with pioneering the off-kilter, slightly swung drum production style that’s associated with Jazz rap.

MF DOOM is a master lyricist whose ability to string extremely complex rhymes into incredible storytelling rivals no one.

Jazz rap artists to check out: Karriem Riggins, Knxwledge, Anderson.Paak


Unlike Bounce, Horrorcore is a dark and transgressive genre—like its name suggests, it’s supposed to send chills down your spine with occult imagery and graphic lyrics.

I think out of all the more old-school genres of hip-hop, my favorite artists come from the horrorcore genre because of the clear links between its production style and modern trap.

It’s just so cool to hear about the evolution of Hip-Hop.

My favorite horrorcore group is Three 6 Mafia. Listen to their 1995 album Mystic Styles and you’ll hear why it’s credited as an early inspiration for trap music.

Horrorcore has a gritty and lo-fi edge without sounding like it’s from New York—it’s completely true to its southern roots in Memphis and Houston.

Horrorcore artists to check out: Three 6 Mafia, Geto Boys

Latin trap

Latin trap is the union of reggaeton and trap music.

In Latin trap production you’ll hear that classic reggaeton dembow drum beat combined with heavy 808s and fast trap hats.

Latin trap is often sung in Spanish and usually will feature both singing and rap verses and choruses.

Latin trap artists to check out: Bad Bunny, Rosalia

Conscious hip-hop

Conscious hip-hop grew in tandem with boom-bap in the mid-90s—but with a political focus spawned from the 1992 LA riots.

Groups like A Tribe Called Quest and NWA witnessed what was happening with police brutality toward black communities and wrote music to voice their anger.

Conscious hip-hop kicked off a tradition of speaking truth to power in hip-hop, paving the way for artists like Common and Kendrick Lamar.

Conscious hip-hop artists to check out: Public Enemy, Jungle Brothers, The Roots

Soundcloud rap

Soundcloud is the platform many rappers today use to find their followers and develop their voices.

It’s a free streaming platform where anyone can post their tracks, get feedback and find followers.

That’s why it’s no surprise that Soundcloud has given birth to many artists and even an entire style of rap.

Because the platform is free from the demands of other mainstream platforms, Soundcloud rappers have a lot of room to experiment.

Many Soundcloud rappers spit verses over weird and unique music productions, use shocking and strange lyrics and keep a colorful and artistic aesthetic.

If there’s one thing that unites successful Soundcloud rappers it’s their volume of output—these artists put a ton of content out on the platform.

Soundcloud rappers to check out: Lil B, Yung Lean, Lil Ugly Mane

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