Rap as we know it emerged in the 1970s, at block parties in New York City.
And hip-hop has spawned countless subgenres and styles since then – from jazz rap and Lo-fi hip-hop to G-funk.
So in today’s post, we will explore the most popular genres of rap and hip-hop music.
We will also provide you with some examples from different types of rap so you can explore more if something grabs your attention.
1. Old School
As we mentioned in the beginning, rap as a genre began at block parties in New York City in the early 1970s.
And one of the things that changed everything was the release of “Rapper’s Delight” (1979) by the Sugarhill Gang.
Sugarhill Gang’s hit is regarded as one of the most iconic old-school songs, but some of the artists associated with the genre also include Tupac Shakur, LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest, and Slick Rick.
The genre is generally characterized by turntablism, the use of duple meter, and simple rhymes and rapping techniques.
Battle rap is also an important part of the old-school hip-hop culture.
And when it comes to the narrative, old-school songs mostly revolve around the lives of the rappers and their personal stories and struggles.
When it comes to modern takes on hip-hop, one of the most popular genres is definitely trap.
Trap emerged in the South of the United States in the 1990s, and it continues to evolve to this day.
The genre has been incredibly popular all these years, and it influenced many modern hip-hop genres and styles.
It’s characterized by the sound of synthesized drums, complex and fast hi-hats patterns, tuned kick drums, and booming 808 basses.
And lyrics revolve around personal lives, struggles, and life in actual trap houses and poor neighborhoods where the genre first appeared.
Pioneers of trap music include producers Mannie Fresh, Zaytoven, and Kurtis Mantronik and rappers Gucci Mane and Young Yeezy.
See also: What is trap music?
Drill is a trap-inspired subgenre of hip-hop that emerged in Chicago in the 2010s.
The lyrics and vibes of drill rap style are usually very gritty and violent, and they often reflect life on the streets.
That said, drill lyrics are rather similar to those of gangsta rap.
They are also rather direct and explicit, with a lack of metaphors or wordplay.
Nevertheless, the genre is similar to trap because of its use of hi-hats and synth pads.
Also, drill rappers tend to be very young – some of the most prominent artists rise to fame during their teens.
Drill rappers you can check out include Chief Keef, Young Chop, and Pop Smoke.
4. UK Drill
UK drill is a relatively new genre.
It emerged in the South London district of Brixton in the early 2010s, but it rose to prominence and turned into a mainstream genre in 2017.
Borrowing from the style of Chicago drill music and road rap, the UK drill is recognizable by its violent language and intense drum production.
Thanks to its provocative lyrics, the genre is often associated with the increase in knife crime in London.
One thing is for sure – the UK drill is one of the most controversial genres to come out of hip-hop.
Some of the most popular UK drill artists include Stormzy and Skengdo.
See also: Best UK Rappers
Boom-bap is a popular 90s hip-hop genre influenced by soul and funk.
It’s characterized (and named after) by its distinctive drum production style, and it’s generally recognizable by its samples-oriented style of beat-making.
Since it helped shape many rap styles and mainstream music in general, boom-bap is undeniably one of the most influential hip-hop genres from the 90s.
And it’s arguably one of the most beloved rap styles, especially because of its artists.
Some of the most famous boom-bap rappers artists include Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, and Mobb Deep.
6. Jazz Rap
One of the hip-hop subgenres tied closely to the boom-bap era is jazz rap.
Jazz rap is basically a fusion of jazz and hip-hop music, but it also has alternative hip-hop elements.
And in the 2000s, producers started adding more complex sampling techniques and rhyme schemes.
Nevertheless, the genre is known for its jazz and soul samples and influences, and chill vibes.
Some of the artists associated with jazz rap include A Tribe Called Quest and J Dilla.
Anderson Paak often combines jazz rap in his music as well.
7. Gangsta Rap
Gangsta rap emerged in the 1980s and became a dominant style of rap in the 90s.
Gangsta rap was initially called reality rap – and many rappers still refer to it like that.
It evolved from hardcore rap, and it’s generally characterized by hard-hitting beats, jazzy samples, and edgy sounds.
Gangsta rap is similar to boom-bap in its music and production style.
Lyrically, gangsta rap music revolves around gritty stories about crime and violence.
Some of the rappers associated with the genre include Ice-T, Geto Boys, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Notorious B.I.G.
8. Lo-Fi Hip-Hop
If you like instrumental music, you should check out Lo-fi hip-hop.
This instrumental hip-hop style became popular on YouTube and large streaming platforms, and it’s generally used as ambient music.
Lo-fi hip-hop music is characterized by off-kilter and jazz-rap-style drums and chill vibes.
It’s influenced by producers like J Dilla and jazz rap music.
9. Rap Rock
Rap rock as a genre emerged in the early to mid-1980s.
It’s also associated with 90s music and groups like Beastie Boys and Run D.M.C.
But the genre generally began when hip-hop DJs started incorporating rock elements and samples into their tracks.
It’s basically a combination of the energetic rock atmosphere and hip-hop attitude and lyrics – generally, rap rock artists use punk and hardcore elements and rap the lyrics.
They also use drum parts inspired by drum and bass and boom-bap.
Some of the most famous artists associated with rap rock include Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine, and Jay-Z.
10. Cloud Rap
As a subgenre of rap, cloud rap combines elements of trap music and lo-fi sounds.
It’s a rather dreamy or hazy type of rap recognizable by its relaxed atmosphere, chill vibes, and abstract sounds.
That said, cloud rap differs a lot from traditional hip-hop styles or gangsta rap.
And that’s one of the reasons why it’s often released independently, mostly via YouTube or streaming platforms like Spotify and SoundCloud.
Some of the most popular artists of cloud rap include Clams Casino, Oakland duo Main Attrakionz, and A$AP Rocky.
Crunk is probably one of the most unique styles that came out of hip-hop.
It emerged in the 90s in Memphis, but it entered the mainstream scene in the 2000s.
Some of the artists that popularized Crunk include Lil Scrappy, Ying Yang Twins, and White Dawg.
Lil Jon also has an important role in the evolution of the genre, and he is regarded as one of the leading crunk figures.
The genre is characterized by heavy basslines, fast hi-hats, and shouting vocals.
It’s an interesting type of rap for sure, and many modern hip-hop artists incorporate crunk elements into their music.
12. Mumble Rap
Honestly, mumble rap is a loosely defined genre, but it still deserves to be mentioned in the conversation about the most influential types of rap.
The most distinctive characteristic of mumble rap is the rapping style – mumble rappers often rhyme very quickly.
Mumble rap lyrics are often unclear, and some words are even made up.
That said, mumble rap differs a lot from other popular rap genres that are based on storytelling and explicit or meaningful lyrics.
Some of the most prominent mumble rap artists include 645AR and Young Thug.
13. Country Rap
Country rap dates back to its early influences in the 1960s – from talking blues to “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash.
Essentially, country rap blends elements of country music and rapping styles.
Bubba Sparxxx and Big & Rich are considered two of the most popular country rap artists.
But you can also check out Upchurch, Colt Ford, and The Lacs.
Artists also started to combine country and trap production – and that’s how the country trap was born.
Lil Nas X’s country trap single “Old Town Road” even achieved mainstream international success.
14. Emo Rap
Emo rap is a type of rap that combines somber lyrics, neo-R&B production styles, and melancholy melodies associated with the emo genre.
The genre is also influenced by rap rock, trap, pop punk, cloud rap, and many other genres.
And just like emo music, emo rap songs revolve around topics such as depression, loneliness, and anxiety.
Some of the most notable rap artists include Lil Peep, XXXTentacion, Lil Uzi Vert, and Juice Wrld.
Grime is a subgenre of hip-hop that emerged in the UK in the early 2000s.
Grime music is based on electronic dance music and beat-driven hip-hop music production, and it’s influenced by UK garage music.
It’s recognizable by fast, syncopated breakbeats and bubbly synths.
It rose to prominence thanks to artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Kano, Lethal Bizzle, Skepta, and Wiley.
Stormzy also played an important role in the genre’s evolution and revival – his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer was the first grime record to climb the charts.
While old-school hip-hop started to rise to prominence in New York City, a different type of rap began to take root in New Orleans.
Unlike traditional hip-hop, bounce feels rather fun and dancy.
Musically, bounce is a fusion of R&B, soul, and hip-hop music.
And as a Southern rap style, bounce influenced crunk artists like Lil Jon.
And when it comes to popular bounce rap artists, you can check out JUVENILE, Magnolia Shorty, and DJ Jubilee.
Horrorcore (also called horror rap) is by far one of the darkest types of rap.
It evolved from hardcore hip-hop and music by gangsta rap artists such as the Geto Boys.
Lyrically, horrorcore music can be very unsettling, as it covers a variety of gruesome topics and imagery.
Some of the most popular horrorcore artists include Three 6 Mafia and Tech N9Ne.
18. Latin Trap
As the name suggests, Latin trap is a fusion of reggaeton and trap music.
This subgenre of trap music originated in Puerto Rico, and it rose to prominence in 2007.
And Latin trap music is becoming more and more popular, thanks to artists such as Bad Bunny, J Balvin, and Ozuna.
Latin trap songs include both sung and rap verses and choruses, and they are often performed in Spanish.
Nevertheless, the genre gained popularity all over the world.
G-funk is one of the most popular rap styles that emerged in the 1990s.
It’s actually a subgenre of gangsta rap, and it’s heavily influenced by psychedelic funk, a 1970s genre that combines funk and psychedelic rock.
However, G-funk entails distinctive electronic drum production, and it’s generally recognizable by melodic, vintage synths, slow grooves, and guitar samples.
There are many rappers who helped shape G-funk, but Dr. Dre is considered a pioneer of the genre.
Other notable artists of G-funk music include Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Warren G.
Hyphy was born in Oakland in the 1990s.
Hyphy means hyperactive in Oakland slang, and the term for the genre was first coined by Oakland rapper Keak da Sneak.
The Hyphy aesthetic was influenced by everyday life in urban spaces and the Bay Area.
Although it wasn’t as popular as New York hip-hop styles that were emerging at the same time, hyphy music made a huge impact on artists like Dr. Dre and therefore influenced genres like G-funk.
The Hyphy music and culture spread to other areas of the US in the 2000s and continued to be relevant in the 2020s, influencing many pop and electronic music styles.
21. Conscious Hip-Hop
Conscious hip-hop (or conscious rap) arose in the 1990s along with boom-bap.
In fact, the genre was born as a result of the 1992 LA riots.
But it was inspired by artists such as The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron who were active and politically focused in the 1970s.
So, conscious rap is based on comments on sociopolitical issues and deals with problems and conflicts such as racism, police brutality, and poverty.
That said, the purpose of conscious rap songs is to send important messages and inspire change.
Some of the most prominent artists of the genre include The Roots, Common, and Kendrick Lamar.
Footwork is one of the modern hip-hop subgenres characterized by intense drums and rhythm.
Footwork producers also use chopped jazz and soul samples.
In fact, the genre is mainly influenced by Juke music (a fast genre of electronic dance music) and ghetto house.
It’s a very unique and lively genre for sure – after all, it evolved to match the energy of footwork dance.
Some of the artists you can check out include DJ Paypal, DJ Spinn, and DJ Taye.
23. Frat Rap
The origin of this rap-style name is college fraternities.
That said, frat rap is a rather casual rap style focused on the college party scene, mainly in the US.
So, although this is not one of the most influential types of rap, it became quite popular at some point.
Some of the frat rap stars include Mac Miller, Asher Roth, Hoodie Allen, and Sammy Adams.
The Backpack is a type of rap focused on the underground hip-hop scene with Afrocentric and conscious rap origins.
The style emerged in the late 90s, as the reaction to mainstream rap.
And it was inspired by the work of the Native Tongues and Public Enemy in the 80s.
Some of the notable backpack rappers include Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, and Skillz.
25. Dirty South Rap
There are many different types of rap out there, each with its own sound and characteristics.
But many hip-hop subgenres are defined by the region they were born in – including dirty south rap.
In fact, southern hip-hop (also known as dirty south and South Coast rap) is a term used to describe the regional genre of American hip-hop that emerged in Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis, Miami, and other cities in the South.
But dirty south rap is mostly associated with the subgenre that drew from gangsta rap, bounce music, hardcore rap, and other styles.
Also, unlike East Coast music, dirty South rap music tends to be more electronic-focused.
Some of the most influential names of Southern hip hop include Lil Wayne, T.I., Soulja Boy, Gucci Mane, and Ludacris.
Types of Rap – Final Thoughts
The hip-hop genre has changed a lot since its birth in the 1970s.
New technology and production styles emerged, and countless subgenres and types of rap appeared.
From old-school hip-hop and boom-bap to trap music, there’s really a lot to explore.
And this article only tapped the surface of what each genre has to offer.
You may also like: How to Rap for Beginners