The evolution of rap over the last decade

Georgia Fenlon

Credit: Megan Hannan

What has grown into a multibillion-dollar business around the globe began in the epicentre of the Bronx. 

The backbone of rap is a recurrent beat pattern which is accompanied by rhythmic speech. It has bred multiple subgenres, such as hip-hop and grime. Its popularity boomed during the last decade, expanding out of a niche following and into mass appeal.  

Hip-hop and rap culture have sustained common themes throughout their existence which stem from changing economic conditions and high crime concentration in urban 1970’s New York.

In the mid-80’s, rappers like LL Cool J began crafting melodic hooks, which would lead to songs like J. Cole’s 2014 G.O.M.D.

Kanye West, Jay-Z, Eminem and Drake; artists such as these moulded the 2010’s rap scene as we know it.

West’s fourth studio album, 808’s and Heartbreak, is said to have revolutionised pop culture. Many artists, from Future to Young Thug, have stated its influence on their own work.

The Weeknd said the album was “one of the most important bodies of work of [his] generation”.

These years also marked the emergence of female rappers that would define the decade, namely Nicki Minaj who shot to stardom collaborating with other artists on pop tracks- the most notable being Where Them Girls At with Flo Rida and David Guetta.

Prominent female rappers of today, such as Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion, have continued and adapted Nicki Minaj’s powerful stage presence by reversing gender roles within rap.

“I tell him where to put it/ Never tell him where I’m ‘bout to be,” Megan raps on the hit W.A.P with Cardi B.

Rap is known to be versatile as a genre, the prime example of this being Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly – a hybrid of rap, hip-hop, funk and soul centred around jazz.

Although rap has merged with several other genres over the past ten years, its core principles have remained the same. It is a method of societal critique which lets the listener observe the world through the rapper’s perspective.

DJ Kool Herc, a founding father of hip-hop, has stated that the genre “says we are a family. It has given young people way to understand the world, whether they are from the suburbs or the city or wherever”.

Georgia Fenlon

Image Credit: Megan Hannan