20+ Rap Genres & Sub-Genres Explained and their Differences - Gemtracks Beats (2023)


By Gemtracks StaffMay 5th, 2022


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(Video) What Are the Differences Between Rap Sub-Genres? - Brief Overview of Rap

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Almost 40 years ago, hip-hop was born, which then gave rise to rap music. Since then, rap has exploded tremendously into countless styles and sub-genres. Today, every hip-hop and rap subgenre sounds different, even if they're still following the core tenants of beat and rhyme.

From the early days of New York hip-hop to the catchy sound of UK Drill, the only thing that has been constant is the change in music. With the evolution of technology, change is expected.

In this article, you will get to explore each rap genre that matters, so that you know what is out there to explore in-depth.

Here are the rap styles that you need to know about.

Old school

Kicking off the list is the most obvious place to start - old school rap.

Old school encompasses most of the hip-hop from the late 70s and mid-to-late-80s. Old school rap is characterized by the easy use of samples, turntables, and simple rhyme schemes.

You will also hear the usage of a duple meter. The use of triplets wasn't that much of a thing in the early days. Old school hip-hop originated from New York, so naturally, this is where most old school hip-hop artists hail from.

Old school artists to check out - Tupac, Sugar Hill Gang, and Slick Rick


Boom-bap is a rap genre that is based on and gets its name from a uniquely distinctive drum production style. This mid-90s hip-hop genre makes use of snare and kicks, sometimes also putting the drum sounds ahead of the hi-hats and beat arrangements.

Boom-bap is a sample-oriented style of beat-making. Many musicians from this time period used to sample sections of soul and funk vinyl into an SP-1200 and then loop them into repeating punchy, hypnotic, and incredibly powerful beats.

It is a beat-making production style that'll ultimately have a big impact on how music is made going forward.

Between the stories from the streets, the boom-bap MCs used to rhyme about and the unique, hard-hitting sound of boom-bap drums, the genre is one of the most well-loved and revered styles of rap.

Boom-bap artists to listen to - Nas, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang Clan

Jazz rap

Jazz rap has very close ties to the boom-bap genre of hip-hop. It is because many samples of boom-bap producers used in the past came from soul and jazz vinyls.

Jazz rap in the early 00s pushed the limits of sampling techniques while combining complex rhyme schemes with off-kilter drum production.

For many, the late J Dilla and MF Doom are seen as the figureheads of jazz-rap.

J Dilla is the music producer often credited with pioneering the off-kilter swung drum production style that is associated with Jazz rap. MF Doom, on the other hand, is a master lyricist whose ability to string extremely complex rhymes into incredible stories is rivaled by very few.

Jazz rap artists that you can listen to - Anderson, Paak and Karriem Riggins.


Rap Rock

Rap Rock generally has the high energy of rock with the style and attitude of hip-hop.

This genre has roots in the late 90s with acts like Run DMC and Beastie Boys but grew in popularity with the 2000s group Linkin Park.

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

Rap Rock artists to listen to - Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine

Mumble rap

Mumble rap is often considered somewhat of a derogatory term for rappers. But in many ways, it is actually a fair description of a genre of rap that is popular these days.

This genre is an offshoot from trap played with triplet-heavy rhyming used by trap artists. Mumble rappers often rhyme quickly in triplets while using unintelligible and even made-up words.

Mumble rappers to listen to - Lil Yachty, 645AR, Young Thug


Crunk is an incredibly unique subgenre of rap music that popped up in Florida and parts of southwestern states over the 00s.

It is an interesting genre of rap because it sounds unique and different from other kinds of rap. Crunk is a precursor to the modern trap that is popular right now too. It makes use of fast hi-hat production with pretty boomy bass kicks.

What really pushes crunk over the top will be the vocal characteristics. This generally often uses loud, gnarly choruses that sound like they're creamed into the mic.

The most popular crunk artist is arguably Lil Jon, who is famous for his vocal features and his catchy way of screaming "YEAH" and "OKAY".

Crunk artists to listen to - Soulja Boy, Lil Jon, Lil' Scrappy

Gangsta rap

Gangsta rap is a popular subgenre that caught mainstream attention in the late 90s boom-bap. This sub-genre is particularly defined by the lyrical content that graphically describes the grittier side of life on the streets as a gang member.

Moreover, gangsta rap production makes heavy usage of strings and orchestral samples from jazz and classical music.

The combination of formal sounds and heavy boom-bap drums create a contrast that somehow feels suitable for the intense lyrical descriptions of life on the streets.

Gangsta rap artists to listen to - Geto Boys, Jedi Mind Tricks


If there is one genre of rap that you hear most in the current music industry, then it is definitely trap. These days, mainstream hip-hop and music in general, from pop to country, is all about the trap beats.

The defining features of trap music are its extensive use of booming bass, incredibly fast hi-hats, and the use of triples in the beats and the rhymes trap artists produce.

Trap is truly a modern form of hip-hop, especially due to the trap beats being much easier to program with the help of today's sampling technology and modern DAWs.

Trap artists to listen to - Future, Gucci Mane, Megan Thee Stallion

Latin trap

Latin trap is seen as the union of trap music and reggaeton.


In Latin trap, you'll hear the classic reggae dembow drum beat combining with heavy 808s and fast trap hats to produce catchy music.

Generally, Latin trap is sung in Spanish and features both singing and rapping in verses and choruses.

Latin trap artists to listen to - Rosalia, Bad Bunny

Soundcloud rap

Soundcloud is a huge platform and musicians today use it for improving their following and developing their voice as they get to post their music to newer audiences.

It is a free streaming platform and anyone can share their tracks, get feedback from listeners, and find followers. It should come as no surprise that Soundcloud has given birth to several rappers and even an entire genre of rap.

Since the platform is free from the demands of other platforms, Soundcloud rappers have ample room to experiment and let their creativity flow.

Soundcloud rappers to listen to - Lil Ugly Mane, Yung Lean, Lil B


Drill is another great trap-inspired rap genre that has successfully made it into mainstream music towards the late 2010s.

The Chicago-based producers who had a big role in Drill Chief Keef and Young Chop took inspiration from Atlanta-style trap music but leaned heavily towards speedy trap hi-hat production, crunchy horn samples, and brooding synth pads.

It is very similar to gangsta rap's reaction to boom-bap. The genre is all about doubling down on the elements of trap that hit hardest and combining that with gritty lyrics about the mean streets and life.

Drill artists to listen to - Chief Keef, Pop Smoke, Young Chop

Emo rap

Who knew rap music could also have an emo phase?

Emo rap took huge inspiration from the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, melodies of Midwest emo, and the auto-laden production style used by R&B artists like T-Pain.

Emo rap is generally defined by its lyrical content and visual style with mainstream artists like Lil Uzi Vert singing about their personal pain while also maintaining a grungy dress code.

Emo rap artists to listen to - Juice WRLD, Lil Uzi Vert, XXXTentacion


Horrorcore has a lo-fi, gritty edge to it without actually sounding like it is from New York. The genre stays completely true to its southern roots in Houston and Memphis.

Horrorcore artists to listen to - Geto Boys, Three 6 Mafia


Grime is a subgenre of hip-hop that originated in the UK. It is best known for mixing hip-hop production with influences from the UK's dance music scene. There is a lot of bubbly synths and freaky pads used in grime.

Both the lyrical content and rhythmic delivery feel different with a lot of British street slags used throughout.

Grime rappers to listen to - JME, Skepta


New York might get the credit for inventing hip-hop but New York wasn't the only place where hip-hop was popular in the early 90s.


In New Orleans, a different movement was taking place with Bounce originating as the South's response to the movement taking place up North. Compared to the gritty, hard-hitting sound of New York MCs, Bounce was pretty fun.

The dancey nature and frequent use of calls and response actions made it very easy to sing along to.

Bounce artists to listen to - Magnolia Shorty, JUVENILE, DJ Jubilee

Conscious hip-hop

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

Groups such as NWA and A Tribe Called Quest witnessed the events happening, especially the police brutality towards people of color, and wrote music to voice their anger.

Conscious hip-hop kicked off this tradition of speaking truth in hip-hop, paving the way for artists like Kendrick Lamar and Common to take it one step further later on.

Conscious hip-hop artists to listen to - Jungle Brothers, The Roots, Public Enemy

UK Drill

UK Drill is based on the trap-influenced style of Drill music from Chicago and effectively combines them with the sound that UK Grime rappers pioneered.

It is a relatively new genre that grew to prominence in 2019. Producer AXL Beats and rapper Stormzy are the two biggest names in this genre.

The best way of describing this genre is that it combines the distinct sound of drill's intense drum production and UK Grime's rhythmic lyrical cadence.

UK Drill artists to listen to - Skengdo, Stormzy

Country trap

Country trap is a comparatively new genre with connections to Atlanta trap and Nashville pop-country.

The huge hit that defined this genre was Lil Nas X's Old Town Road. However, it was Nelly with Florida Georgia Line who laid the groundwork for this genre.

Today's modern country sound does take a lot of cues from trap production. You will hear 808 claps and trap hats in many party-oriented pop-country songs.

Country trap artists to listen to - Lil Nas X, RMR


During the steep rise of New York's hip-hop scene in the 1990s, another scene was brewing in Oakland - this is where the Hyphy rap genre was born.

Hyphy played a huge role in the career of producers like Dr. Dre and for laid the groundwork for G-Funk and the laid-back feel that 90s west coast rap is popular for.

This genre's primary progenitors are E-40, Too $hort, who produced fun music that embodies the sunny and funky style this genre is known for.

Hyphy rappers to listen to - Keak Da Sneak, Too $hort

Lo-fi hip-hop

One of the very few instrumental hip-hop genres on this list is lo-fi hip-hop, this genre is also one of the most popular instrumental hip-hop genres right now.

It blew up in popularity from YouTube streaming playlists that house an endless supply of boom-bap-inspired beats.

You would have probably heard moody samples and jazz-rap-style drums. It is inspired by music producers like J Dilla.

(Video) The Names of All The Music Genres


What are some sub genres of hip-hop? ›

  • Alternative hip hop. Hipster hop.
  • Boom bap.
  • Bounce.
  • British hip hop. Road rap.
  • Chopped and screwed.
  • Chopper.
  • Cloud rap.
  • Comedy hip hop.

What makes rap different from other genres? ›

The components of rap include "content" (what is being said), "flow" (rhythm, rhyme), and "delivery" (cadence, tone). Rap differs from spoken-word poetry in that it is usually performed off time to musical accompaniment.

What are the 4 different types of hip-hop? ›

While there is some debate over the number of elements of hip-hop, there are four elements that are considered to be its pillars: deejaying, or “turntabling”; rapping, also known as “MCing” (emceeing) or “rhyming”; graffiti painting, also known as “graf” or “writing”; and break dancing, or “B-boying,” which encompasses ...

How do you rap on a beat? ›

How to Rap to a Beat | Rap Music - YouTube

Is rap a subgenre of hip-hop? ›

The term hip hop music is sometimes used synonymously with the term rap music, though rapping is not a required component of hip hop music; the genre may also incorporate other elements of hip hop culture, including DJing, turntablism, scratching, beatboxing, and instrumental tracks.

What's the difference between rap and hip hop? ›

Hip-hop is composed of four main elements: MCing, DJing, grafitti and breakdancing. The term “hip-hop” also includes other lifestyle trends such as clothing, slang and mindset. Rap is the combination of rhyme and poetry to a musical beat. It has a background in improvisational poetry.

What is rap music called? ›

Hip hop music, also known as rap music, is a style of music which came into existence in the United States during the mid- 1970s, and became a large part of modern pop culture during the 1980s. It consists of two main components: rapping ( MCing) and DJing ( production and scratching).

What type of rap is Eminem? ›

Hip hop

What is Southern rap called? ›

Southern hip hop, also known as Southern rap, South Coast hip hop, or dirty south, is a blanket term for a regional genre of American hip hop music that emerged in the Southern United States, especially in Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, Memphis, and Miami—five cities which constitute the "Southern Network" in rap music ...

Who is the king of rap? ›

King Of Rap is a highly honorable title that is hard to associate with only one hip-hop artist as there are countless hip-hop artists and enthusiasts today. However, there is one name that is respected and appreciated by almost all different branches of hip-hop; Eminem.

What is rap called now? ›

The term hip hop music is sometimes used synonymously with the term rap music, though rapping is not a required component of hip hop music; the genre may also incorporate other elements of hip hop culture, including DJing, turntablism, scratching, beatboxing, and instrumental tracks.


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