As hip-hop continues to reinvent itself with each passing decade, it has become a fixture in American pop culture and has become a true identity.
The idea that hip-hop could one day become ‘classical music’ is a notion that many might dismiss but it wouldn’t be entirely impossible to posit this.
Much of the cultural meaning of classical music centuries ago is now applied over hip-hop, rap, and similar genres that fall as much in the mainstream as they do outside of it. Hip-hop has proven to be a cultural movement with decades of classic hip-hop albums, and the richest rappers and hip-hop artists making hundreds of millions of dollars.
Classical Music v. Hip-Hop: Similarities & Differences
In a modern context, classical music is built around the canonization of works by names such as Beethoven and Bach, each with unique stories to tell, unique compositions, and unique characteristics to their music.
That same type of established canon of artists has already been built in hip-hop around highly influential names such as Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, and A Tribe Called Quest among an array of others.
Hip-hop is not as young as some may think it to be and the towers of hip hop such as the names mentioned have influenced a new generation of creators in hip hop. In essence, hip-hop has shown to be just as much ‘establishment’ as any other music genre.
Subgenres In Hip-Hop Look Similar To Those Of Classical Music
If one examines hip-hop, we also see it having a variety of inter-genres that exist depending on the decade and the region of the United States or the world to which a given artist belongs.
Much like comparisons between periods such as Baroque in the classical music world, hip-hop has a number of regional scenes in the eastern, midwest, southern, and western part of the United States, divisions among decades, and further regional genres worldwide including in parts of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Africa.
Classical music also has compositions that are uniquely ‘classical’ and that have shown to be highly influential such as Beethoven’s 5th. Hip-hop has those same sort of key compositions that have proven to be among the most influential records of the last 75 years.
These include Run DMC’s debut album and follow-up in “Raising Hell” in 1986, A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Low End Theory” in 1991, Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” in 1994, and Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” in 2001.
While not necessarily from the viewpoint of melody, the ways in which these albums have structured their compositions have had a major influence – and as ‘composers’, these names are shown to be just as relevant in the present tense as any classical composer.
Just Like Classical Music, Hip-Hop Targets & Represents High-Class Culture
There is another point to be made in that the way that classical compositions targeted the high-class culture of its time, hip-hop has shown to represent the same thing.
As influential and important as classical music was to its time period, hip-hop has been shown to mean just as much to the current time period. Therefore one can easily make the connection that perhaps a hundred years from now, looking back at the predominantly influential music of today, that hip-hop will stand up as the period’s classical music.
Hip-hop has been around since its invention in the early 1970s and has come to influence every genre of music since then, from rock to country, to jazz, and to everything in between.
The world we know today has been fundamentally influenced by hip-hop, a form of decade-defining music that is akin to a modern version of classical music – an interesting idea to say the least.