The Difference Between Hip Hop and Rap

I’ve noticed recently that a lot of people don’t seem to understand the difference between rap and hip hop. The two words have been used interchangeably for so long, it’s easy to think that rap music and hip hop music are the same thing. But I feel this is an inaccurate assumption to make.

Rapping is a vocal technique that’s sort of like a cross between talking and chanting and is spoken rhythmically over a beat (although you can rap a capella). Hip hop isn’t just a style of music, it’s actually a subculture with five key elements : MCing (or rapping), DJing, break dancing, graffiti art and knowledge. Rap is merely one of the elements in hip hop, but over time it became the most prominent aspect of the culture as more hip hop artists crossed over into mainstream success.

But not all rap music can be considered hip hop. You can rap in just about any genre, including rock, pop, country, EDM, etc. There are singers like Mary J. Blige who many consider to be hip hop. You also have a lot of rappers that have meshed singing with their songs, with Andre 3000, Lauryn Hill, Ja Rule, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Childish Gambino being some examples.


“Rap is something you do,
Hip-Hop is something you live”
– KRS-One

Again, rap is sort of like talking rhythmically over music. It’s a verb, an action, it’s something you do. Hip hop is a culture with music being one of it’s most important and visible elements. It is something you experience.