A Guide To The Different Styles Of Hip-Hop

A Guide To The Different Styles Of Hip-Hop

Hip-hop has grown since its beginnings in the 70s’ to include multiple subgenres such as boom bap, gangsta rap, cloud rap, trap, and drill. The styles of hip-hop differ in terms of sound and subject matter, as well as lifestyle and location. Here’s an introduction to some of the vibrant subgenres that have unfolded since the birth of hip-hop. 

Boom Bap

With a heavy drum kick followed by the crisp sound of a snare, boom bap is a genre that makes you want to bob your head to the music. The term started growing in popularity after T La Rock’s ad-libbed outro in 1984 on It’s Yours. Boom bap’s moderate tempo and high mix essentially described the heart of hip-hop — from Marley Marl’s earliest breakbeats in his sampling innovations to New York rap music’s original golden era where artists like Pete Rock, Large Professor, and DJ Premier used classic boom bap to make everyone’s heads bob to the beat. 

Cloud Rap

Cloud rap was a term created in 2010 after Lil B created more airy-sounding tracks. It quickly grew to become an established subgenre for artists who leaned towards abstract, ethereal, and hazy atmospheric beats over the classic and catchy hip-hop percussion beats. Artists who founded the subgenre include producer Clams Casino, A$AP Rocky, and Main Attrakionz. 

Gangsta Rap

Gangsta rap is a form of rap music created by gangsters, about gangsters, or people affected by gangsterism. Gangsta rap can involve the authentic, raw documentation of life on the streets where some have felt that it glamorizes their morally dubious way of life. In terms of sales, it’s one of the most successful hip-hop styles. Artists such as The Notorious B.I.G, Scarface, Jay-Z, Raekwon, Tupac, Nas, and Snoop Dogg have shown through gangsta rap that understanding gangster mentality is to understand modern America, and beyond that, much of the modern world itself.


Trap has grown over the past decade in popularity, dominating contemporary pop music and hip-hop. The term ‘trap’ originated from the 80s’ and 90s’ Atlanta slang for a drug house which is noted in records as far back as 1991 in Kilo Mafia’s Keep On Rolling. However, trap only cemented its status as a rap-style worthy concept in 2003 with T.I’s Trap Muzik, and in 2005 with Gucci Mane’s Trap House. At that point, it took shape by synthesizing every other southern rap, clashing the incredibly agitated hi-hat rattlings of Shawty Red and Mannie Fresh with the droning intensity of DJ Screw and Three 6 Mafia.


Born in Chicago in 2011, drill made its name worldwide with Chief Keef’s breakthrough anthem I Don’t Like in 2012. Musically, it can be difficult to distinguish drill from trap as they both comprised the same slow boom and rattling hi-hat. However, the two differ in terms of attitude and emphasis. Trap covers the dirty end of the drug industry, whereas drill focuses on gang warfare and gun violence.

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