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Alternative Hip Hop

Alternative hip hop encompasses rap music that didn’t conform to any one of the mainstream hip hop styles. As such, alternative hip hop typically includes elements of the more popular rap genres however fuses these with influences from genres including funk, jazz, soul, rock, and pop. Alternative hip hop emerged in the late-80s when hip hop was dominating the mainstream and various bands, specifically on the East Coast, were trying to push the genre in new directions. Some of the earliest influential bands include A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and KRS-One. De La Soul’s 1989 release, 3 Feet High was especially influential on the genre as it garnered widespread acclaim and attention. The 90s saw alternative hip hop decline from the mainstream however Arrested Development and the Fugees both experienced significant commercial successes. 

After a brief hiatus from the mainstream throughout the 90s, the 2000s saw a resurgence of alternative hip hop, producing artists such as Jurassic 5, El-P and Outkast. To date, alternative hip hop has remained extremely popular, with rappers such as Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino pushing the bounds of creativity within the genre to great success. Alternative hip hop is typically more creative and experimental that traditional hip hop styles. This includes taking influence from a variety of other genres, sampling anything from country to psychedelic pop. The lyrics cover a variety of themes and tend to stray away from the grittier subject matter that you would find in gangsta rap.

Notable artists:

A Tribe Called Quest

De La Soul

Arrested Development

MF Doom

Outkast

Kendrick Lamar

Childish Gambino

Tyler the Creator

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