Guide to Writing About Music Genres Pt. 2: Hip Hop

“I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie, to the hip, hip hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it, to the bang bang boogie, say, up jump the boogie, To the rhythm of the boogie da bee” Is The Coolest Thing Ever Said On A Record, Says Everyone.

Part two of our series which aims to help young would-be music journalists is all about Hip Hop, and specifically, the Hip Hop music review. Writing about Hip Hop requires a steady hand, a stout heart, an in-depth knowledge of trainers. Hip Hop reviews are often less about analysing the music, and more about asking the reader hyperbolic rhetorical questions. So for example, many Hip Hop reviews begin like this:

  • “Is there a better producer working in UK Grime right now?”
  • “No fronting, can anyone name me a better East Coast beat than this?”
  • “Ever wondered what it would sound like if the worlds best producer rapped on the worlds greatest rapper’s beat?”

Notice the clever use of the Americanism “No fronting”, subtlely conferring a sense of street-level authenticity on the author. Hip Hop reviews are the only place that a British person is allowed to use terms like “No fronting” without having the piss ripped out of them.

There are a few other terms that you can use interchangeably in your reviews.  We would recommend starting with a smattering of the following:

Drop, head-nodder, East Coast, West Coast, rhymes, fire, lit, dog, vinyl, Rolex, old school, new school, beatz, dope, Kendrick, Kayne, Dizzy. 

Hip Hop reviewers always have to refer to major Hip Hop stars by their first name and as though they were close friends – as in “When Kayne dropped this beat…”,  or “Kendrick’s not like that…” or “Dizzy’s view on fixed-rate mortgages is complex and nuanced…”.

In the last few years, the single most important quality a rapper needs to succeed is simply to be either ‘in tha club’, or on their way to or from ‘tha club’. This applies to the Hip Hop writer too, so make sure your readers know that you’ve been ‘in tha club’ at least twice already today.

Other things to consider if you wish to look knowledgeable about Hip Hip is that retiring and making comebacks is a natural part of the Hip Hop career path, and most artists will do it several times during the course of a career, so if you want to fit in, don’t act surprised when it happens. Remember too, that in Hip Hop circles, vinyl tends to come in slabs, or occasionally as cuts, so refer to it appropriately. Also, when writing  your Hip Hop reviews, make sure you use the Snapback Caps lock on your keyboard.

Remember, your job as a writer is to provide an overview of a piece of music that may have taken the artist and production team months to perfect, using nothing more than the beautiful, expressive tool that is the English language. So make sure that you change every possible letter you can to ‘Z’. Probably best to end with “Peace Out” too. Peace Out.