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In The Wide World Of Hip-Hop, There's A Style For Everyone

Rico Nasty is one of the leading voices in the current style of hip-hop that adopts elements from hardcore and punk rock.
Rich Fury
Getty Images for Coachella
Rico Nasty is one of the leading voices in the current style of hip-hop that adopts elements from hardcore and punk rock.

We've been starting this new year off arguing on the behalf of genres of music you might not listen to, like country, deep house and opera. Next on our list: hip-hop. We asked Briana Younger, music editor and writer at The New Yorker, to break down some of the styles in the diverse genre, and to give some advice on how to find the type of hip-hop to fit your taste.

On the more energetic styles of hip-hop

Outside of the usual suspects — superstars like Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B — the new names you're more likely to see on the Billboard charts are making trap and Southern-inspired rap. It's fun rap, you hear it a lot at parties, clubs. It's not super cerebral — though contrary to some schools of thought, it's not entirely brainless. On the song "Baby," Lil Baby and DaBaby are kind of two sides of the Southern coin. Lil Baby has this more melodic, woozy, sing-songy flow that's come to be very popular these days, while DaBaby has more attributes of a technician in the way that he uses his syllables and fits them within the flows.

Another high energy sound of the moment is this sort of punk, hardcore-style of rap. I think Rico Nasty is one of its foremost practitioners. After all, there is now a new generation of artists and fans who have grown up on both rock and rap music. And so they just kind of come to play in the music of Rico Nasty and her peers.

On some more mellow kinds of hip-hop to check out

MAVI is definitely more cerebral, very lyrical in the traditional sense, very technically skilled in terms of his wordplay and his use of syllables and cadence, very message-oriented. And there's a whole slew of young and upcoming rappers in this sphere — this kind of lo-fi, loop-centric style that will incorporate things like experimental jazz — and that really demands and rewards attentive listening.

Obviously hip-hop has evolved from poetry, but the Midwest in particular of late has done a really fantastic job of kind of calling on that lineage of spoken word and bringing it up to date. There's this newly-formed supergroup called Ghetto Sage. It's made up of Smino, Saba and Noname, who all tend to make that super vibey, laid back rap that very explicitly dabbles in more poetic forms.

On how to get a sense of what styles of hip-hop you might like

Well, I do want to say that we barely even scratched the surface here. There really is something for every taste, every sensibility. That said, diving into the Dreamville compilations — like Revenge of the Dreamers III -- could be an interesting place to start, simply because they assembled so many different rappers from so many different styles, so many different regions, and just put them all in dialogue with each other, which is what hip-hop is all about.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Briana Younger
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