"Hip Hop" versus "Rap": Is It Time to Change Our Vernacular?

Rap is something you do, Hip Hop is something you live.
— KRS-One

By Jaylin Paschal

An ironically popular "unpopular" opinion in the Hip Hop discourse world is the argument that the new age of Hip Hop is so different from the traditional sound that it should be categorized as something else entirely. But the problem with this argument is that, frankly, it doesn't really make sense. It's unclear what people mean when they try to pry rap and Hip Hop apart:

Is rap the verb while Hip Hop is the culture? Is the argument here that anyone can be a rapper while only a select few can elevate the culture of "Hip Hop?" Or is the argument that unless you can contribute to Hip Hop, you don't get the title of "rap," which is considered one of the five elements of the culture? Are modern rappers more like "pop stars," dedicated more to a catchy hook than rapping? Or is the argument that "new rap" has morphed into a new genre all together?

All of my friends enjoyed 4:44Culture and Damn.--but while everyone loves the Migos and everyone loves Kendrick and everyone enjoys Jay, not everyone can agree on whether or not they belong in the same conversations. Should our favorite trap or mumble rappers be put in the same context as the more athletic lyricists like K. Dot or experienced practitioners like Hov? Should they be compared or competitive? Are the Migos involved in "rap" and not Hip Hop? Or is their "rap" simply a different beast?

This question is different from a common one posed, which is whether or not "rap" is a subcategory of "Hip Hop;" this question asks--has "rap" become perceived as something entirely separate from "Hip Hop?" This question is not "Should there be a rap section or a best Hip Hop section? A Grammy for Best Rap Performance or Best Hip Hop Performance?" This question is asking if there should be both.

Let's say there is, and we officially separate "Hip Hop" and "Rap." Who then gets put in which category? Do we divide "emcees" from "rappers?" Old heads from freshmen? Is there any chance for objectivity on the matter? Are the lines too blurred? Who would make these decisions, and what happens when the artists themselves disagree with their relegation?

I'm not sure if anyone is qualified to answer these questions. The truth is that Hip Hop has manifested itself in so many different ways that it'd be a daunting task to try to determine who all is and is not a representation of that. While we would pretty much universally agree to excommunicate 6ix9ine, we might get into blood baths over where Future belongs. We have to come to terms with the fact that "Hip Hop" is a broad enough term to encompass several different sounds. It evolves so vastly and significantly that it's hard to really exclude anyone from it. We can't forget that some once said the OutKast didn't belong in the room. From KRS-1 to Lil Uzi, the spectrum of rap is dense. But it's all Hip Hop. Right? Maybe not. Here's what others think.

"Hip Hop and Rap are related. Not interchangeable, necessarily, but related. Trying to remove 'rap' from 'Hip Hop' won't work. They're linked forever by tradition. Rappers, even if you consider them to be 'bad rappers,' are participating in the Hip Hop tradition and should fall under that 'Hip Hop' umbrella. People are so fake deep, trying to separate the two. Just cause you don't like where rap is going doesn't mean rap isn't Hip Hop anymore." - Justin Marks, The Mark

"There’s no more of that ‘wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care’ – you know, something that makes you wanna get out there and breakdance…Rap music has lost that element right now, mainly over in America. There’s not too many great hip-hop records out there, but there are some great rap records.” - Flava Flav, Public Enemy

"The distinction doesn’t lie between hip-hop and rap, but between those who are MCing and those who just happen to rap. It lies between those interested in honoring the foundation that was laid beforehand by putting forth quality work and acknowledging the culture of hip-hop and those who are just rhyming words together and applying a formula to get rich quick." -Shaka Shaw, Ebony


Jaylin PaschalComment