The United States. Arguably an epicentre for the West’s idea of musical success, producing some of this decade’s greatest musicians, but also many genres of music: RnB, Blues, Country, and the most popular genre of the moment, hip-hop. We all know the story: hip-hop was born during the 1970s from the Bronx from African-American and Latino youth; this small movement has since then snowballed into the mainstream genre we know today. But how can we map its changing identity?
the East focused more on conscious lyricism, jazz-based sampling, and boom-bap drum kicks
It would be easy to reduce this hip-hop landscape to notorious the 1990s rivalry of East versus West; the supposed Golden Age of hip-hop. And yet, to an outsider, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact stylistic differences between the two coasts; the general consensus is that the East focused more on conscious lyricism, jazz-based sampling, and boom-bap drum kicks, while the West co-opted its own genre with G-Funk that incorporated aspects of the George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic sound.
But hip-hop has grown past the East-West divide; mapping itself across the country, differentiating state-by-state; nowadays, each city has its own identity.
the West co-opted its own genre with G-Funk that incorporated aspects of the George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic sound
Naturally, with the current mainstream popularity of trap music, it is undeniable that Atlanta has one of the biggest, fastest-growing music scenes as of now. From trap stars such as Migos, Future, and 21 Savage, to pioneering artists like Childish Gambino and OutKast, the city has more than earned The New York Times’ title as “hip-hop’s center [sic] of gravity”.
Florida, a state also in the south, is a movement that has rapidly changed over the past couple of decades. In the late noughties, both Pitbull and Flo Rida cornered the market as artists who blended hip-hop with EDM. Pitbull is an especially interesting artist to consider as he blended in homages to Florida’s latin scene and his own Cuban roots. Yet Florida has also had a growing cloud rap scene with artists like Denzel Curry who opt for hazier, lo-fi sounds. But currently, Florida is perhaps best known for its pioneering role in the SoundCloud rap scene with the likes of Lil Pump, Smokepurrp, and Saba highlighting how anyone can be a famous musician in the age of the internet.
Florida is perhaps best known for its pioneering role in the SoundCloud rap scene
While the South has its own fast-growing movements, it would be a mistake to rule out the Midwest. Naturally known for its hero, Kanye West, Chicago was long the place for the alternative hip-hop scene, with artists like Common and Lupe Fiasco opting for more conscious lyricism to the beats of its key producer, No.I.D. Detroit is another Midwest giant. If you look past its hip-hop hero Eminem, you’ll see it has an innovative history with producers such as J Dilla creating some of the most interesting beats in record. Danny Brown, Dej Loaf, and Big Sean all hail from Detroit, making it a city with a diverse range of rappers.
But while these cities all stick out for having their own unique identities, it is becoming clear that hip-hop’s influence has spread across the United States with artists popping up everywhere, from Washington State to Alabama. And it’s only getting more diverse.