originally published March 3, 2012

Congratulations! You have just taken the first step on a long and exciting road to street credibility (or “street cred”, as the kids say). Let me “rap” at you for a minute about what you can expect.

Hip hop is not like it was in the olden times (the 1980s). Back then there were only two kinds to choose from: rap music and early dance music, which was like disco with less afros and more computers.

The sub-genre of old-lady-rap would bridge all the styles.

Now the world of hip hop is filled with more internal genre types than Flava Flav has watch-springs. If you don’t know your Hyphy from your Crunk, then this brochure is for you.

If you’re looking to host a rave party, perhaps because you haven’t outgrown using a soother and wish to do so in a social environment, you’ll either want to play some hip house (repetitive beats with hip hop elements), hip pop (pop music with hip hop elements), electro hop (computer-generated hip hop), electro boogie (disco music done by droids), or ghetto house (house music with the word ‘boobs’ in the lyrics). Your British guests may enjoy hearing some grime music also – this is a grungy form of hip hop with Jamaican and Caribbean influences.

Are you confused? Already? Maybe you aren’t cut out for this. You can still throw a boffo party while playing light, safe jazz, and attract a number of wild, fun people over 50. But you’re looking to work your way into a new world, so you’ll have to get this right.

A lot of folks enter into the hip-hopposphere through conduit genres, styles of music which cross over into something safe and semi-recognizable. Perhaps you should try country-rap. There’s a hip hop cover of the Beverly Hillbillies that you might find palatable. Rap rock has been subdivided into rap metal, which is heavy metal music in which the vocalist is talking instead of screaming, or rapcore, which has more of a punk sensibility. Really, this choice comes down to how long/big your hair happens to be.

Dig Jesus? Why not sample some Christian hip hop? This is hip hop from any other sub-category, but with only one lyrical motif. You’d be surprised how many inventive ways rappers can rhyme things with “Jesus” (like “Sneezes”, “Reese’s Pieces”, or “Bejeezus”).

Political hip hop, which is not (as you might have guessed) made up of old white guys in suits, trying to pander to a young urban demographic, is also a hip hop genre with a lyrical motif. This can range from “stop screwing over the country” to “I want to screw over the country” to “down with whitey”. There’s a lot of ground here.

New Jack Swing isn’t advised, unless your party is “kicking it olde schoole” with an early-90s theme. This was a mix between the rhythms of hip hop with the sound of R&B as it existed in that long-ago era.

Crunk is a style that came out of the southern United States a few years back. The most accepted definition of the style involves drum machines, heavy basslines and shouting call-and-response vocals. The origin of the word dates back either to Conan O’Brien or Dr. Seuss (I’m not making that up), and was used as a synonym for being ‘hyped’, or ‘excited’. If you are looking for genuine “street cred”, you’ll want to start using this word in your everyday life. For example, you could mention to your local McDonald’s employee that the Sausage & Egg McMuffin they made you has left you rather crunk. Or, you could let the nice lady at the bank know that you are simply crunk about the housing market in the upcoming quarter.

Turntablism is not a religion, but rather a means of using one or more turntables to scratch, mix, and juggle your opus unto the world. This takes actual talent though, so I wouldn’t recommend trying your hand in front of people until you know what you’re doing. Once you acquire the necessary skills, you can then fashion yourself a snazzy misspelled nickname starting with “DJ” (like mine, DJ Akwired Tayste).

Nerdcore hip hop is similar to Christian or Political hip hop, in that you would be sticking with a smaller breadth of lyrical inspiration. Instead of rapping about Moses or the budget deficit, you’d rap about “kickin’ in wit’ da Wookiees in da hood on Kashyyk”, and other nerdy things.

Chopped & Screwed is all about slicing up and remixing hip hop music, usually slowed down and with skipped beats, record scratches and rhythmic stoppages. Like with turntablism, this is not about composing something completely new, but recycling other music until it has become identifiably different. Kind of like Hollywood’s current approach to movies.

Reggaeton is a blend of hip hop with reggae, usually featuring Spanish rapping. But just because the musical origins are linked with Bob Marley and Jah-loving Rasta culture doesn’t mean that you can’t find reggaeton music about pimpin’ ho’s and bustin’ caps. If you’re looking to impress by offending, reggaeton can help you out.

Though if that’s the case, you’d probably do better with some horrorcore. While ghetto house can convey all those things you’d love to hear rappers say they’d do to women, horrorcore is all about slicing people up, drinking their blood and eating their entrails. Note that this is not the optimal hip hop genre if you’re looking to seduce women. It may work on some women, but not the kind you’d necessarily want to fall asleep beside.

Mafioso rap is derived from Gangsta rap. These artists rap about dealing drugs, killing enemies, and bathing in the luxuries that mafia life can provide.

If you’re looking to be a hip hop intellectual, you may want to explore some of the offerings in the rap opera genre. While not a fusion of rap and opera (which is a well that is just sitting there, waiting to be tapped), this format pays tribute to the more famous rock opera. Essentially, these are albums which tell a continuous story through a multitude of hip hop songs. Some suggested samples that can really show you to be a connoisseur of fine scholarly hip hop include the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Wyclef Jean’s Apocalypse, R. Kelly’s Trapped In The Closet, or Weird Al Yankovic’s Trapped In The Drive-Thru.

As you can see, the world of hip hop is vast and full of variety. Even you, a complete neophyte who grew up in the warm, safe bosom of Celine, Shania and Bolton, can shake off your musty unhipness and indulge in this dynamic lifestyle. Stay crunk!

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