Subgenres in music aren’t anything new in fact most music genres such as Jazz, Rock N Roll, and R&B have subgenres. Subgenres allow the listener to have a more informed ear encouraging them to be more open to what it is they’re listening to. Since Hip Hop/Rap music is the youngest of all of the American musical genres we have yet to designate any subgenres…officially anyway. The term “mumble Rap” and “mumble Rapper” have come up within the last five years however Hip Hop has needed official subgenres for at least ten years now. There have always been subgenres based on region i.e. West Coast rap vs East Coast Rap but nothing that defines a specific sound. The problem is that some folks within the culture don’t agree with subgenre definitions for their artwork. That is completely understandable that some artists don’t want to be “put into a box” and they want their art to simply just be.
The main problem with not having subgenres is the generalizations that people outside of the culture make about the music that defines the culture. Billboard, The Grammys, iHeart Radio, and the like don’t know anything about the music of the culture so in turn subgenres are our way of teaching them. How many times do you want to see Kendrick Lamar in the same category as 21 Savage or SahBabii? We have to do more than join the voting academy of the Grammys. We have to concede that Hip Hop/Rap music have grown a great deal since it began in the Bronx over forty years ago. Having to expand into subgenres should make us happy that so many different types of people want to participate in the musical efforts of the culture and express themselves. That means we have to protect the integrity of the culture by defining the various types of Rap music. Mural art is a subgenre of graffiti writing just like an aux cord DJ is a subgenre of dee jaying. Dee Jaying has so many subgenres you wouldn’t even be able to keep up.
There has to be some sort of collective that makes this decision or it will be made for us at the most inopportune time, like an award show. Maybe the BET Hip Hop Awards will feature subgenres. Maybe they can even start having subgenre cyphers. Trap Album of the Year should go to 2Chainz while Best Underground Hip Hop Album can go to Sean Price. Best Debut Album could go to Leikeli47. I could go on and on Hip Hop Heads. This is how a dope artist that you may have never heard of can get their recognition and possibly grow their audience. The pushback against subgenres could be a ploy to pigeon hold Hip Hop music and maintain the capitalist status quo. Mind you your children are listening and watching these same award shows and they need to know that there is more to Rap music than dancing and popping pills. Subgenres will afford us all an opportunity to be exposed to different sounds and different people and to understand that we are not monolithic; we are a complex people and so is our music.
“Called him tar baby, now he’s transcending genres.” –Pusha T (40 Acres)