Hip-Hop’s Sub Genres, Defined

Hip-Hop can’t truly grow without acknowledging its many different styles. Same goes for those writing about it too. — Pro

With Hip-Hop, like with other music genres, there’s always something for someone out there. You may not enjoy the infectious melody of Young Thug, but appreciate the technical prowess of MF DOOM. You may not rock out to Tech N9ne but find yourself enjoying the southern alternative sound of Yelawolf. Despite all that, all of these artists have one thing in common: Hip-Hop. Sadly, oversimplification within the genre has stalled the conversation for too long.

I’m personally guilty of ignoring artists in the past if they didn’t fit perfectly into what I viewed as a Hip-Hop artist. Basically, if there was nary a complex rhyme scheme in your artist’s repertoire…I’m not listening.

Elitist is what they call it.

I’ve grown a great deal since those days and have a deeper understanding of music and how I wish to write about it. There are objective (and respectfully subjective) ways to discuss music and, when you recognize that, you can find something dope about any style. One of our first goals when putting this site and crew together was having a definitive list of sub-genres for Hip-Hop. It took some time, but it’s finally here.

~The list below was curated by the collective I.D.N. Team


  • Mumble Rap
  • Drill

Example(s): Young Jeezy — Thug Motivation 101 (Intro) // Future — “March Madness” // T.I. — “Rubber Band Man” // Gucci Mane — “Trap House”


  • Backpacker
  • Nerd Core
  • Conscious
  • Battle Rap

Example(s): Common — “It’s Your World” // Tech N9ne ft. Eminem & Krizz Kaliko — “Speedom” // Rum Nitty vs Ave // Noname — “Yesterday”


Example(s): Tyler, The Creator — “IFHY” // Travis Scott ft. Kendrick Lamar — “goosebumps” // Kendrick Lamar — “i”


Example(s): Big K.R.I.T. — “Soul Food” // Outkast — “Aquemini” // Master P — “Make Em Say” // Lil Wayne — “Go DJ”


Harping is a portmanteau of harmonizing and rapping. Used by rappers who can’t necessarily sing but can use rhythms to accentuate their harmonizing. The reciprocal of the crooners. — A.J.

Example(s): Mac Miller ft. Miguel — “Weekend” // Nelly — “E.I.”


Example(s): Anderson .Paak — “Come Down” // Nate Dogg — “Never Leave Me Alone”


Example(s): Jay Rock — “Easy Bake” // 50 Cent — “Many Men” // Vince Staples — “Norf Norf”


Example(s): Missy Elliot — “Gossip Folk” // Drake — “Hold On, We’re Going Home” // T-Pain — “Freeze”


  • Soul
  • Contemporary
  • Funk
  • Neo-Soul

Example(s): Tigallero — “It’s So Easy” // Beyonce — “Sorry” // BJ The Chicago Kid ft. Chance The Rapper & Buddy— “Church” // SZA — “Babylon”

Old School

This classification is a bit different for us. It includes sub-genres that are no longer active. This area serves as a reminder to why sub-genres are important so that we don’t lose anymore artists or styles due to a change in popularity.— A.J.

There are artists that still incorporate a couple of these into their sound. Rae Sremmurd (Crunk, Ring Tone) and Rick Ross (Mafioso) for example. — Pro

  • Crunk
  • Snap
  • Mafioso
  • Native Tongues
  • New Jack Swing
  • Bounce
  • Ring Tone

~ The branches beneath the sub-genres are not all that are recognized; just a few of the options inspired by its home sub-genre.

This list is a step forward but still allows for more growth. It will frame how we cover Hip-Hop here on I.D.N, but this is an evolution for writers as well as readers. Let’s push the conversation forward, together.