EDM Explorer: Why LoFi Hip Hop is the Perfect Study Music
EDM Explorer: Why LoFi Hip Hop is the Perfect Study Music
EDM Explorer is an on-going series in which I am exploring the characteristics of different subgenres of electronic music, in layman’s terms. I’ll be outlining what makes them unique, as well as which types of music I love and which I loathe. In this EDM Explorer, we will be exploring the chill electronic music subgenre known as lofi hip hop.
One area of EDM music that is blowing up right now with the youths is Lofi Hip Hop. A blend of nostalgia, simplistic repeating sections, and awesome samples of rap music, there is no wonder this form of EDM is popular. Lofi music, especially Lofi Hip Hop, is perfect for highly focused tasks. That’s why most of the Lofi playlists and radios that play live 24/7 on YouTube include keywords like ‘chill’, ‘study’, ‘relax’, and ‘gaming’. It’s the best music that I have found so far to just vibe out to while also paying extreme attention to the task at hand. That’s what I really love about LoFi music, its just so easy to get lost in.
If I had to describe Lofi Hip Hop in 20 words or less, I would say that it’s like…
Listening to VHS tapes of the Wu Tang Clan when it was just The Rza, The Gza, Hall, and Oates
What is Lofi Hip Hop and what makes it unique?
This is a difficult question to answer, if I’m being honest. I have tried researching lofi music (lofi hip hop specifically) several times and there doesn’t seem to be a consensus answer to this question. From what I can tell, having listened to hours of lofi hip hop on YouTube, there are definitely things that make it distinct. The question more revolves around which are necessary for a lofi hip hop track.
Lofi music in general came about in the late 60s and early 70s within the garage rock and punk scenes. Lofi is short to ‘low fidelity’, which is a term describing a lower sound quality of recording. Most music is recorded in high fidelity in order to remove imperfections and make the sound as crisp as possible. Lofi music purposefully adds back in those imperfections in order to create a more homemade, DIY feel. It is meant to harken back to the times when music could be produced using low cost equipment and home recordings.
When you look at answering the question of ‘what is lofi hip hop?’ and ‘what makes lofi hip hop unique?’, things get a bit more vague. Other than a few standard attributes of lofi music, there isn’t much out there to define lofi hip hop specifically. These are the defining characteristics that you can probably find in a lofi hip hop track:
- The song itself must be recorded using lossless compression, but it needs to have the feel of being recorded using vintage technology. The aesthetic that you are going for here is one of extremely crisp music that sounds as if it has imperfections in the recording. It’s a purposeful dichotomy between old and new. You’ll hear a lot of distorted audio, tape hissing, misplayed notes, background noises. All of this harkens back to the days of shared cassette tape mix tracks. You can definitely hear this distortion and low fidelity feel on the sample from Notorious B.I.G’s track “Dead Wrong“
- For lofi hip hop specifically, it needs to sample beats and portions of hip hop songs. Traditionally, these tracks are created using samples from both hip hop music and jazz. This creates a ‘chill’ atmospheric feel that is comprised of mostly low-to-midtempo beats and instrumentals, with the occasional vocal track added in. Sometimes these samples are not from hip hop tracks at all, but are from old movies or shows. This track uses samples from the show ‘Space Ghost, Coast to Coast‘.
- It needs to be a low tempo, somewhere around 90-100 beats per minute. This tempo is usually kept by more realistic sounding drum loops (something not shared with the 808s in Future Bass). This is what creates the chill/relaxed feel to the music, which is the signature aspect of lofi hip hop. You’ll notice that with the the first song that I listed here, the artist slowed down the Notorious B.I.G track to match this more relaxed pace. The realistic drums, along with the aforementioned imperfections, give the music a genuine feel.
Who are some Lofi Hip Hop artists I should check out?
I’m gonna be upfront here, the more I worked on this article, the more I realized something. I don’t have a ‘favorite’ lofi hip hop artist. I don’t even really retain the names of many of the artists that create lofi music that I listen to. I’ve been listening to so many playlists and curated radios of lofi music that I haven’t branched out into individual albums. Maybe I’m missing out by not diving deeper into the bodies of work of some of my favorite artists. That’s something that I’m going to have to change. Until then, I’m just gonna link the two YouTube radios that I turn on most often:
I’ll also note that these two channels on YouTube were two of the first to pick up steam within the lofi hip hop circle. This is partially do to being 24/7 streaming channels, which get a bump in the YouTube algorithm. It is also because both Chilled Cow and Chillhop Music are excellent at curating lists of awesome lofi tracks from producers larger and small.
What I love about Lofi Hip Hop
There are very few genres of music that I can turn on for hours at a time and just get completely lost in. I have exclusively switched over to using music as background noise when I work, study, or read. Recently that music has mostly been Lofi hip hop. There is something so entrancing about the simplistic looping melodies and sick samples that Lofi artists use. Sometimes I will start a playlist and just forget that I’ve been working for several hours with loud EDM music blaring. I can’t really say that about many of the other forms of EDM that I take in. While I can’t really see going to listen to Lofi music live, I’d be hard pressed to come up with another type of music I’d rather listen to while focusing on work.
I’d recommend Lofi Hip Hop if you’re into…
Getting lost in music that is just plain fun to listen to. If you regularly earmark 30 minutes to start working on something and then find yourself 4 hours later, sitting in your living room in the pitch black, having skipped a meal, this will make for the perfect soundtrack.
Lofi Hip Hop in under 60 minutes
I close out every one of these EDM Explorer posts with a short playlist that typifies the genre in my mind. The purpose here is to make it short enough that any reader not familiar with the genre could listen to it in one sitting. That way you aren’t pouring too much time into learning whether you love or hate this particular portion of EDM music.
Is lofi hip hop something that you can get into? Feeling more relaxed already? Or could you not make it through the playlist? I’m going to be exploring even more subgenres of EDM music for these posts and I’m curious to hear back from you what I should check out next. So be sure to leave a comment about which subgenre of EDM music is your go-to.