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What Makes Lo-fi Hip-hop a Hidden Musical Treasure?

If you have ever stumbled upon a mysterious YouTube video that has an animation picture or gif, while chill hip-hop jazz tunes are being played in the background and a deeply meaningful quote from a movie appears at the beginning of it, you have just discovered a hidden internet treasure that is getting more and more popular over time. What I am talking about is a new genre of music that surprisingly has its origins in places not so contemporary. The genre I am talking about is called Lo-fi Hip Hop and its roots bring about itself a sense of nostalgia, melancholy, intertwined with very well-developed technology and personality.

At first Lo-fi music was associated with the beginning of the vaporwave trend, where both genres are massively focused on sampling old tunes, such as 80s, Japanese, old jazz or pop music. The lo-fi genre is mostly focused on sampling jazz, acoustic or old songs backed up by downtempo drums and different decay, poor audio quality, record static and reverb touches. In this sense, the term Lo-fi comes in contrast with the word Hi-fi, which suggests high quality and clear sounds. However, these technical flaws make the genre in the end, artistic. Its origin comes from what was used to be called “old school hip hop”, where the main founder artists were J Dilla, Madlib, and Nujabes. To bring even more cultural influence on this genre, different visual aesthetics, such as images you would find late at night on Adult Swim help to contribute in making Lo-fi a creative, relaxing and nostalgic new form of music.

What seems even more striking in Lo-fi music, is the type of people it connects with. This genre has given opportunities to many artists to develop and find success as tiny producers you will find mostly on SoundCloud, such as Tomppabeats, Elijah who, Jinsang and idealism. Even more surprising is that Lo-fi genre has a strong group of female producers around the world that are making this subgenre of hip-hop a trendy wave. Arguably, perhaps the most famous lo-fi female artist is Eevee, where she first began as a DJ. She now focuses on finding inspiration from hip-hop tunes, such as J Dilla, Flying Lotus or even cartoon soundtracks, making a whole different atmosphere out of these samples. She mentioned in an interview that Lo-fi is for her “a way to express myself and put my feelings out, so a lot of times my inspiration is based on my mood and feelings. I hope to let people see if they go through hard times they know they are not alone.” Her DJ career continues, as she will have her own tour in the United States in Spring 2018, where she is going to present her own Lo-fi hip hop solo album.

 

It is unclear how popular this genre will become, however, it seems Lo-fi has had quite some troubles being accepted at first. There were some criticisms regarding its technicality, where people mentioned that it was a type of music made by lazy people that unsuccessfully wanted to make good music. These are people that think that sampling makes musicians unoriginal due to the fact that they choose preexisting tunes to build up their own art. However, sampling has always stayed at the core of hip-hop and has built this strong relationship between music and technology, which automatically is the main tool for creating music nowadays. You will find today that almost all professional producers will use a similar type of utensils in creating music as in hip-hop samplings, such as Midi keyboards, mixers, and other customizable machines. The only difference, in this case, is that Lo-fi has shown that any person can learn how to produce music and can make their own artistic compositions.

In the end, Lo-fi is made to strongly connect with its listener through meaningful tunes, aesthetic visuals, relatable movie or cartoon quotes, and titles. Therefore, if you are interested in listening to something that brings with it a nostalgic and relaxing atmosphere, I will highly suggest listening to Lo-fi hip-hop.

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