Hip Hop vs Rap: 5 Key Differences Between Them

Rap music is an amalgamation of rhyming and poetry set to a rhythmic beat. Although it also falls into the category of hip-hop, you cannot put an equal sign between them. Rap encompasses lyrical expression over energetic music.

Hip-Hop has been regarded as not just a genre, but a way of life and a distinctive subculture. Rap specifically refers to a genre of music. The Grammy Awards have a dedicated category for Hip-Hop, which includes subcategories for R&B and Rap music. Let’s do without the comparison chart, but consider the key differences between these concepts.

What is Rap?

Rap music has gained popularity in the last two decades, becoming a prominent genre within Hip Hop music. Rap groups prefer a unique sound, resorting to almost all known musical instruments.

What is Hip Hop?

Hip Hop music is a genre that encompasses versatile musical elements. It would be fair to say that this is a vibrant subculture and a way of life for many. In the composition of hip hop music, a range of musical instruments are utilized, including synthesizers, bass, drums, microphones, and more.

5 Key Differences Between Hip Hop vs Rap

#1 History

Hip-hop and rap share the same origins, emerging from the vibrant streets of the Bronx in the 1970s. It is widely believed that a Jamaican DJ by the name of Kool Herc played a significant role by repetitively rhyming over instrumental tunes at parties held at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. This cultural movement swiftly spread throughout the borough, drawing inspiration from the expressive style of rapping employed by folk poets in West Africa. Street gangs in the Bronx adopted hip-hop culture as a means of competition and establishing dominance, graffiti and rapping taking center stage.

In the early 1980s, Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force introduced a groundbreaking electro-funk track titled “Planet Rock”. This innovative composition incorporated electronic sounds and synthesizers, which eventually became prevalent in the genre. As the music movement gained momentum, it reached minority communities throughout the United States. With the emergence of music videos, this cultural phenomenon transcended borders, captivating audiences in Europe and beyond.

You can see for yourself how hip hop and turnip culture has evolved through films. Just try watch HBO, namely films from different release years. You can see how the style has evolved and changed. Don’t worry if HBO isn’t available in your country, just use VeePN.

#2 Elements

Hip-hop is an influential cultural movement that encompasses four primary elements: MCing (emceeing), DJing (deejaying), graffiti art, and breakdancing. Hip-hop also entails various lifestyle trends, including fashion, slang, and a particular mindset.

Rap is the fusion of rhythm and poetry set to music. It has its roots in the tradition of spontaneous poetic improvisation. It is reasonable to consider it as an integral part of the broader hip-hop lifestyle.

According to Ice-T: “Rap is vocal delivery, hip-hop is a culture. The culture of hip hop was a movement that started over 20 years ago, 25 years ago in the south Bronx that incorporates 5 elements: the DJ, the dancer (break dancer, street dancer), graffiti artist, the MC–the rapper, and then the 5th which is the knowledge of it all and how it connects”.

#3 Variations

Derivatives of hip-hop music span across various genres, such as electro, breakbeat, hardcore, club R&B, funk breaks, and abstract hip hop. Rap music has also branched out and has given rise to other styles like grime. The art of rapping can be found in an range of genres including jazz, disco, funk, and even Japanese dance music.

#4 Tone

Hip-hop is a lively music genre that combines fast-paced beats with thoughtful lyrics. 90% of tracks addressing common relationship issues. Rap tends to focus on the current state of affairs, including popular culture and politics.

#5 Popular Artists

The winners of the 2012 Grammys in the hip-hop category included renowned artists such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Lupe Fiasco, Bon Iver, and Nicki Minaj, among others. Notable hip-hop groups from that time period were Sugarhill Gang, Fab 5 Freddy, Kurtis Blow, and Watch the Throne. It is worth mentioning that rap music primarily focuses on solo artists. Eminem and 50 Cent were among the most prominent solo artists in hip-hop during that era.


Hip-hop and rap have their own unique characteristics. Hip-hop incorporates four essential elements and embraces an entire culture. Rap primarily focuses on vocal delivery style set to rhythmic beats. It may not be very clear in words, but now that you know what to look for, you can definitely figure out the differences.

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