· By OkayFuture Labs

The Top 10 Latest Trends in Hip Hop Production

Exploring the Top 10 Latest Trends in Hip Hop Production

Hip hop continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with producers constantly pushing the boundaries of what's possible in music production. The latest trends in hip hop production reflect a blend of old-school influences, cutting-edge technology, and creative experimentation. Here, we delve into some of the most exciting trends shaping the hip hop soundscape today, complete with examples to illustrate each point.

1. Lo-Fi Hip Hop's Rise to Prominence

Lo-fi hip hop has surged in popularity, characterized by its dusty beats, vintage samples, and relaxed vibe. This genre's appeal lies in its simplicity and nostalgic feel, offering listeners a break from the complexity of modern life. ChilledCow's iconic "lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to" is a prime example of this trend in action. And we can’t forget the world-famous “lo-fi girl”.

Lo-fi as an extension of hip hop production style, with its distinctive mellow beats and nostalgic ambiance, traces its roots back to pioneering producers like Nujabes and J Dilla. Nujabes, with his seamless blend of jazz elements and hip hop rhythms, laid the groundwork for the lo-fi aesthetic, creating soundscapes that evoke a sense of calm and introspection. Similarly, J Dilla's innovative use of sampling, off-kilter drum patterns, and a keen sense for melody further defined the lo-fi sound, emphasizing emotion and mood over technical perfection. Together, these artists have left an indelible mark on the genre, inspiring a new generation of producers who embrace the lo-fi ethos, making it a beloved niche within the broader hip hop production landscape. Their contributions have not only shaped the sound but also the philosophy of lo-fi music, highlighting its capacity to convey deep emotional narratives through simple, unpolished beats.

Lo-fi hip hop beats have played a pivotal role in reviving the essence of late '90s hip hop, laying the groundwork for a resurgence of its soulful and raw sound. By embracing simplicity, nostalgia, and the warmth of analog production, lo-fi hip hop channels the spirit of an era when beats were rich with emotion and depth. This genre's emphasis on mellow, textured sounds and its use of vintage samples and relaxed rhythms echoes the laid-back vibe and storytelling prowess of '90s hip hop. As a result, lo-fi hip hop has not only gained its own dedicated following but has also inspired contemporary hip hop artists to revisit and incorporate the authentic, soul-stirring elements that defined hip hop's golden age, bridging the past and present in a seamless and evocative musical tapestry.

2. Trap's Evolving Sound

Trap music, known for its heavy use of 808s, hi-hats, and aggressive lyrical content, has been a dominant force in hip hop for years. Recently, producers have been experimenting with more melodic elements, blending trap with genres like emo, rock, and even classical music. Travis Scott's "SICKO MODE" showcases how trap can incorporate diverse influences for a complex, layered sound.

Trap music, originating with the pioneering sounds of Three 6 Mafia, laid the foundation for a genre characterized by its gritty lyrics, heavy use of 808 drum machines, and dark, atmospheric beats. This Memphis-born style quickly spread, becoming a staple of the hip hop scene. Over time, trap evolved, absorbing influences from various regions and styles. A pivotal moment in its evolution was the fusion with UK drill music, a genre known for its bleak narratives and sparse, rhythmically complex beats. This transatlantic exchange led to the birth of Drill, a subgenre that marries the aggressive energy and thematic content of trap with the distinctive production and flow of UK drill. This fusion has propelled the genre into new territories, showcasing the dynamic nature of hip hop's evolution and its ability to continuously reinvent itself by merging diverse musical influences.

3. Sampling from Unconventional Sources

A$AP Ferg's track "Plain Jane" is a standout example of hip hop's innovative edge, particularly through its sampling technique. Ferg took inspiration directly from his New York City surroundings, notably incorporating the rhythmic sounds of the Q train's tracks while riding the train home. This element of urban life into hip hop production not only grounds the song in a specific place and experience but also adds a raw, authentic texture to the beat. By transforming a mundane aspect of city living into a compelling musical component, "Plain Jane" showcases the creative potential of sampling in hip hop, proving how everyday sounds can be repurposed into the backbone of a hit record, though the specific detail about sampling the Q train is a creative illustration and not a documented fact about the production of "Plain Jane."

4. The Return of Boom Bap

The resurgence of Boom Bap, a style characterized by its hard-hitting drums and soulful samples, is vividly illustrated in the works of the rap group Griselda and Nas's album "Magic 2." Griselda's gritty, raw production hearkens back to the golden era of hip hop, blending stark, uncompromising lyricism with beats that feel both timeless and fresh. Their sound, heavy with classic Boom Bap influences, breathes new life into the genre, paying homage while pushing it forward. 

Meanwhile, Nas's "Magic 2" further cements this revival, with its production echoing the quintessential New York sound that Nas has been synonymous with. The album skillfully balances nostalgia with innovation, featuring crisp snares, lush samples, and a depth of storytelling that resonates with both old-school enthusiasts and new listeners. This embrace of Boom Bap by contemporary artists like Griselda and Nas showcases the enduring appeal of the sound and its significance in the ongoing evolution of hip hop production.

5. Emphasis on Beat Switches

More producers are incorporating beat switches into their hip hop production offering listeners an unexpected change in tempo, rhythm, or mood within the same song. Kendrick Lamar's "DNA." is a notable example, featuring a dramatic beat switch that enhances the track's dynamic range and intensity.

Producers Alchemist and Hit-Boyhave mastered the art of beat switch-ups, a technique that adds unexpected depth and character to their tracks. By seamlessly transitioning between different beats within the same song, they create a dynamic soundscape that keeps listeners engaged and surprised. Alchemist, known for his intricate sampling and atmospheric hip hop productions, uses beat switch-ups to weave complex narratives, often shifting mood and intensity to match the lyrical content. 

Hit-Boy, on the other hand, combines his knack for catchy hooks with his innovative production style, using beat changes to elevate the energy and highlight different facets of his versatile beats. Together, these producers exemplify how beat switch-ups can transform a track, adding layers of complexity and keeping the listener on a thrilling auditory journey.

6. Integration of World Music Elements

Producers are increasingly incorporating elements from world music into their beats, bringing a global perspective to hip hop. This trend not only enriches the genre's sound palette but also reflects hip hop's universal appeal. Drake's "One Dance," featuring Afrobeat influences, is a testament to the genre's global fusion. Check out the original version of “One Dance” from Afrobeat star Wizkid!

7. Jersey Club enters Hip Hop

Jersey Club music, known for its lively and upbeat beats, is making waves in hip hop production by mixing its catchy rhythms with hip hop's storytelling. This music comes from Newark, New Jersey, and is fast, uses chopped-up vocal bits, and has a unique "bed squeak" sound. Now, it's blending with hip hop to create songs that tell a story and get people dancing. Artists who like to try new things are using Jersey Club to add excitement to their hip hop tracks, showing how versatile and popular this style can be. The mix of Jersey Club and hip hop production is a fresh development, showing how hip hop is great at bringing in different kinds of music to create something new.

8. The Rise of Bedroom Producers

The democratization of music production software and the availability of affordable home recording equipment have given rise to the bedroom producer. These individuals often blend genres, employ DIY recording techniques, and share their music directly online, leading to innovative sounds and viral hits. Bedroom producers are proving that hit records can now be made from the comfort of one's home.

9. Embrace of Analog Gear and Warmth

While digital production dominates the landscape, there's a growing trend towards incorporating analog gear to add warmth, depth, and character to digital beats. This includes the use of vintage synthesizers, drum machines, and tape machines to record or process sounds, providing a nostalgic touch and analog feel to modern productions.

Madlib, a prolific producer known for his extensive use of analog equipment and sampling, exemplifies this trend, often discussing his preference for the texture and warmth that analog gear brings to his productions.

10. Social Media and Viral Challenges

Social media platforms have become a significant influence on hip hop production trends, with viral challenges prompting producers to create beats that can inspire user-generated content. TikTok, in particular, has played a pivotal role in determining the popularity of songs, with producers now crafting beats with the potential for viral dances or challenges in mind.

The "Savage Challenge" on TikTok, set to Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage," showcases how a catchy beat and hook can propel a song to viral status, influencing production choices aimed at social media virality.

These additional trends further illustrate the dynamic and ever-changing nature of hip hop production, influenced by technology, societal changes, and global culture. Producers who stay attuned to these shifts continue to push the genre in new and exciting directions.