This text was not written to trigger a holy war in the comments but to define the borders and speak about our perception of rock and hip-hop music. What we definitely not gonna do here is to try and find out which genre is “better”. We only want to share our opinion as people, who have been in karaoke business for over 16 years and are well-aware of what you’re singing when nobody’s watching you. ))
Rock started in the 1950s as a protest of the young generation. It was a rebel against the older generations, the morals, and the values of the society. The history of rock music as a whole is a cyclical repetition of this protest. Every 12-15 years, yet another “voice of the generation” emerges and turns everything upside down, stirring up the arguments over whose idol is greater.
Hip-hop is 25 years younger than rock and was born in the 1970s from the simple text the DJs were reading out during their shows. These texts were not socially motivated, held no rebel or urge to be heard. Rap was an amusing light genre for the parties and night clubs until the mid-1980s, when among the dancing beats, one started hearing first subtle and then the increasingly persistent voice of the streets.
Rock comprises a huge number of styles and absorbed practically all existing music genres. Symphorock? Here you are. Folk-rock? Enjoy! Electronic music? No problem. In terms of its variety, hip-hop is not as rich, however, it’s doing just fine in the company of most fierce rock groups, playing rock-core or nu-metal. The rap’s greatest achievement is, perhaps, its symbiotic relationship with pop-music and R&B, which regularly utilize rapping. It also incorporated the image of the bad boys from the streets with a mic in their hands and brass knuckles in their pockets.
But let’s not be hypocrites here: rockers were the first to exploit the “bad boys” image. Leather jackets, tight jeans, daring hairstyle and provocative behavior of the young rebels was a shock for the conservative people of the 1950s. With every new cycle, the rockers’ outlook was changing, while the rebellious spirit has always been there.
Since the 1990s, hip-hop has got more serious and sharper. The texts gained a pronounced social implication that went far beyond night-club parties. Once it spread across Europe, particularly, the Eastern Europe, rap focused on really pressing issues: struggles of life, economy, and politics. Hip-hop became the form through which many people could self-express. It was quite simple as it didn’t require years of practicing a music instrument, so it was an accessible way to share your opinion with the audience. It only took the basic understanding of melodics and composition to create a simple beat on the computer.
Some time ago, punk was as simple with its three chords and clear laconic messages – it was an alternative to stadium-gathering rock giants with their 10-minute solos and mind-blowing shows on the stage. As long as it didn’t ask for profound music literacy, punk forced its way from the poor industrial areas as a separate sub-culture that accumulated the untamed rage of the entire generation with its ideas, pain, experience, and problems.
Hip-hop has also grown its subculture and philosophy, primarily built on the African-American culture: slang, dances, love to sportswear, and expensive cars. Hip-hoppers’ images were enriched with the graffiti they were generously painting on the walls in the neighborhood, on the bridges, and subway cars. Similarly to the songs, glorifying the bravery of the desperate gangster, these paintings grew from the severe lifestyle in the suburbs of metropolises – they served as delimiters to define the influence zones of the street gangs.
With all those differences between rock and hip-hop, we can still spot the features they share. Both rock and rap are basically the music of the young people and a challenge to the older generation; it is a protest against the system, living conditions, and reflection of a never-ceasing fight for the place under the sun, as well as the competition with other musicians.
Back in the 1970s, when hip-hop was just conceived, one could argue about differences in ideology and weightiness of the messages; but since the 1990s, both genres equally take efforts in being honest with their fans and exposing all the sides of reality through their music and texts. What’s also true is that both hip-hop and rock are equally commercialized and produced en masse by large music productions.
In the 21st century, having arguments about the differences in the styles doesn’t sound like a good idea. Hundreds of musicians mix them up in most various proportions, taking it exclusively as a form of self-expression, without sticking to one specific genre. Great Internet wars “Hip Hop vs. Rock” became a history now. It is the era of freedom when a playlist is formed by the taste and mood, not by stereotypes and prejudice.
Just in case, here is a reminder that the karaoke catalog of Studio Evolution holds a huge number of both rock and hip-hop hits.