Often, producers like you and me have a hard time deciding what sub-genre of hip hop the instrumental turns out to be. Especially when you make a beat for a specific sub-genre but then the finished product sounds totally the opposite to what you was aiming for. So, here is a list of the most common sub-genres of hip hop and I will briefly explain the type of elements you will hear in that sub-genre.
Alternative Hip Hop / Experimental Hip Hop
Alternative hip hop music can also be referred to as Abstract (Experimental) hip hop. For this particular genre, producers have a free approach and mind-set about the elements they would like to include as there aren’t specific sounds that need to be applied, making the producers beats sound more unique.
Southern Hip Hop (Dirty South)
Dirty South music is a very popular style and a sub-genre that can also consist of Trap, and Crunk hip hop. Southern hip hop contains electronic sounds like 808 claps and kicks, wild hi-hats and high pitch synth leads and this sub-genre of hip hop is easy for producers to recognise when categorising their instrumentals.
East Coast Hip Hop
The East Coast mostly dominated the 1980s with the likes of Run-DMC, Nas, Kurtis Blow, A Tribe Called Quest and many more. East Coast hip hop does not contain a variety of elements in the instrumentals as it has a free-flowing style for the artists but it is very common to hear unbreakable drum beats and samples.
Although this particular sub-genre originates in the West Coast, it can often be mistaken for Dirty South as it contains elements of Crunk. But, it is more of a hybrid sub-genre, mixing both Dirty South and West Coast. When a producer is working on an instrumental to fit the style of Hyphy, they would mostly consider different 808 claps, kicks and hi-hats that alter throughout the song and it can often sound repetitive.
Originated as a sub-genre of West Coast Hip Hop, G-Funk was mostly popular during the 1990s, spreading massively throughout the United States. It is a very distinctive style compared to a lot of hip hop sub-genres as it imitates a funky, harmonious, melodic and jazzy sound influenced by other genres of music such as Funk, P-Funk, Jazz and Disco. The most common sounds that are used in G-Funk music consist of; saw leads, sine leads, electric pianos, legato strings, slap bass or synth bass and wah guitars.
West Coast Hip Hop
There are many styles of West Coast Hip Hop that have become widely popular in the hip hop industry and are slightly unique from each other. Some styles of West Coast hip hop include G-Funk, Chicano Rap, Hyphy and New School West Coast. Dr Dre is one of many pioneers who have developed a unique instrumental sound for West Coast hip hop in general. A lot of “general” West Coast hip hop beats contain elements of brass, pizzicato strings, piano, bass guitars and crunchy claps.
Producers Need to Experiment
Developing your own style is the key to enjoy music production to the fullest. Personally, limiting yourself to one sub-genre of hip hop is something I would not recommend. It is more musically-healthy to expand your ideas with an open-mind and to just produce a variety of genres. Eventually, you will grow your own distinctive style that can be influenced by many sub-genres of hip hop, whether it’s West Coast or Dirty South. So whenever you are ready to produce your next beat, go into it with an open-mind. Use sounds that you never used before, try combining elements of many different sub-genres. You will never know what an amazing style you can create.
D.J. Hill Music
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