Like This and Like That: The Difference between Hip Hop & Rap

Photo credit: Anthony Estrada
Photo credit: Anthony Estrada

Thanks to the cleaver video editors of The Tonight Show, the freshly posted YouTube sensation of Brian Williams “rapping” Snoop Dogg’s timeless classic “Gin and Juice” has got me asking myself the question is this Hip Hop?

In a sense this video is an extension of Snoop Dogg, who is an extension of Hip Hop anyways right? Though many would argue that it would more likely be categorized under Rap; a sub-genre branch of Hip Hop.

So what’s the big difference that separates the two?

Hip Hop, is an original music genre that is influenced heavily from early Jazz and R & B that emerged out of New York in the late 1970s amidst the changing American landscape. Originally, Hip Hop consisted of the elements of DJing, MCing, break dancing, beat boxing, and graffiti art which reflected the culture of daily life in New York.

These five elements would be extended to nine in order to include: street fashion, street language, street knowledge, and street entrepreneurship.

Torch bearers of the genre like KRS-One, who visits colleges lecturing on what Hip Hop is would tell you that it IS a culture, a lifestyle; and that Rap is a naturally occurring by-product that is the result of commercial success of the genre.

Considering that the true forms of Hip Hop include poetic lyrics that echo this lifestyle or life in general, Rap usually is produced purely with the goal of financial profit in mind and typically contains content consistent of extravagant, unrealistic ways of living.

This has been true in recent history as the knowledge and consciousness of Hip Hop from the 80s’ had to surrender to the “bling bling” era of the late 90s’Rap. Ironically in its efforts to be innovative, commercial Rap has made the genre more generic and in many ways somewhat of a superficial novelty, while trying to survive in a declining market.

So the next time you hear someone in your class say, “Did you see that Hip Hop video of the news anchor rapping?” you can respond with, “Oh you mean that silly Rap video?”