Although you can trace its roots earlier, rap and hip-hop surged onto the scene in the late 1980s and 1990s.
With its emphasis on rhythm and words, one might argue that rap is a modern form of poetry.
Since famous rappers regularly sell out venues and shows, it’s obvious that rap is a popular genre of music.
From its emotional and raw nature to its relatability, here are 10 reasons why rap is so popular.
Why Is Rap So Popular? (10 Reasons)
1. Speaks About Injustice
One of the reasons rap is popular is because many tracks include verses about injustice.
Rap, as a whole, tends to stand against injustices witnessed and felt by certain communities.
It sheds light on certain injustices and brings listeners together to stand against them.
Even more importantly, rap gives its listeners a bit of hope.
When someone feels as though they’ve experienced great injustice, they can feel lonely, angry, and frustrated.
They may feel isolated from the rest of society because society has singled them out.
Listening to rap might give them comfort and hope.
The lyrics are recognizing their strife.
While rap usually involves lyrics of violence, they don’t blatantly inspire viewers to take action.
Instead, they recognize the listener’s pain and give a harmless outlet to work through their feelings about the matter.
There are several communities, particularly minorities, who experience injustice every day.
Rap gives them something to share.
They’re able to release their frustrations and anger healthily by listening to the music or rapping it out aloud, themselves.
It can become a catharsis for them.
Rap is popular because it helps those who are victims of injustice get back up and keep fighting to find a place in the world.
2. A Melting Pot Of Culture
Rap is a unique blend of different cultures.
Although it’s primarily tied to Africa, it also has its roots in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and other Caribbean countries.
Those countries used to have leaders or shamans who would speak in rhythm.
Some would create poetry, then set the poetry to music and speak it or sing it.
Those traditions eventually came to New York and other big cities.
They mixed together and formed the basis of rap.
Because a different mix of cultures came together to create rap, it stands to reason that many see rap as something that brings people together.
Artists like Eminem broke barriers further to introduce the music to white audiences, too.
Rap is popular because it’s available to everyone.
Even if you didn’t live a life of poetry, there’s sure to be some lyric that speaks to you.
Its mix of different cultures also makes it unique.
It allows rap to transform and for different styles to come out of it.
It’s a versatile type of music.
3. Insider Genre
When rap first took to the streets, it wasn’t mainstream.
It was something that only a few people, or groups of people, listened to.
For example, rap was something that gangs primarily listened to because a lot of gangsters, or former gangsters, were rappers.
Their songs related to the gangster lifestyle.
It spoke to those who were also part of the lifestyle or had associations with the lifestyle.
As rap started to grow and move beyond gangsters, it was still something that only a few people listened to.
You could consider it an insider genre.
Only those who knew about it would go and listen to it or watch performances.
Because it wasn’t something that was widely known or even widely accepted, enjoying rap made you feel like you were part of something special.
It’s not unlike other sub-genres of music that don’t have huge audiences.
The feeling of being part of something small and intimate is special.
Although rap is mainstream now, or at least certain genres of it are, there are still some rap traditionalists that keep true to what rap used to be.
Fans of those particular rap artists likely still feel as though they’re part of something small and intimate.
Even fans of mainstream rap likely feel as though they’re part of a special community since older generations still feel particularly negative about rap music.
It’s deemed rebellious to enjoy rap music.
That draws a certain type of people to it as well.
They don’t like belonging to a larger group that deems itself socially acceptable.
They like to push against societal boundaries and restrictions.
Rap is popular because its fans feel as though they’re part of something small and special.
4. Emphasis On Vocals
Rap stands for “rhythm and poetry.”
Listening to certain rappers proves that rap, in its purest form, really is like listening to poetry set to music.
That’s because the main emphasis of rap is on lyrics and vocals
It’s all about how one annunciates words and uses them to set a rhythm.
Some of the ways that rappers use words are remarkable.
They’re able to generate a melody simply through the use of syllables and sounds.
Yet, rap isn’t just about how words sound together.
It’s also about the meaning of words.
Some might consider rap low-brow music because of its subjects, but if you were to listen to some of the best rappers of all time, you’d find that they use a considerable amount of high vocabulary.
Rap is as informative as it is educational.
It’s popular because people have an appreciation of the type of skill it takes to put together a rap.
Not only do rappers need to string together words to rhyme or make a rhythm, but they need to then remember those words.
Since rap is all about a string of words, it doesn’t always have repeated structures.
That’s when you enter territories like pop music and hip-hop.
Rap is an endless stream-of-conscious of words that the rapper has to recall when performing.
When the rapper is taking part in an improvised rap battle, that’s when skill and talent truly show.
A rapper who can spiff off a rhythm while stringing words together to make a great poem is something to behold.
Rap is popular because fans recognize how difficult it is to put together a great rap.
5. Spread Quickly Through The Internet
To determine why rap is popular, you also have to consider when it emerged.
Rap became quite big in the 1990s.
That was right around the time when computers were becoming more advanced and the internet was forming.
People were able to burn CDs and share music a lot easier in the 1990s than they were in previous generations
As such, it was easier to trade music and introduce others to music.
Once the internet kicked off, rap was even easier to spread around.
Whether it was streaming music, putting up indie raps on YouTube, or sharing music on sites, rap emerged during a time when it was easier than ever to listen, find, and share music.
That certainly helped increase its popularity.
Older genres of music like rock didn’t have that luxury.
It grew slower because its fans had to wait for the band to publish an album.
Then they could only listen to their music with record players, tape players, or CD players.
They weren’t able to share their music with others over long distances since the internet wasn’t a thing yet.
As such, it was also more difficult for new rock artists to get their footing if they weren’t part of a label yet.
Rap came at the perfect time to jettison itself to wider audiences through the internet.
People were able to record and post rap battles that happened on the street.
Since it had a wider reach, it was able to gain more fans faster than other genres in the past.
6. Rappers Aren’t Always Tied To A Label
Another reason rap is popular is that rappers aren’t always tied to a label.
Thanks to the internet, rappers can get noticed and start building a following outside of a label.
While it’s difficult, it isn’t impossible.
Since they’re not tied to a label, rap artists can be their authentic selves.
They’re unforgiving in their uniqueness.
That attracts a lot of fans who dislike musical artists that represent a label and not their true selves.
For example, when some rap artists get signed to a label, there may be some pressure to act or look a certain way
They may also have restrictions on what they can rap about.
Fans may not like those artists because it flies in the face of what rap is truly about.
They might feel the same about other genres of music, too.
Records push their artists to be similar to one another because that’s what sells.
Rap artists have an easier time standing out on their own.
They’re able to gain fans by just rapping their truths and being authentic.
It’s the authenticity that makes rap popular.
It provides an unfiltered brand of music that fans who experience some fatigue of water-downed lyrics love.
Another reason rap is popular is that many deem its content relevant and relatable.
While not everyone is going to be hustling on the street as a gangster, they may identify with other lyrics.
For example, many rap songs describe feelings of oppression.
Almost everyone likely feels oppressed at some point in life, even if that scale of oppression is different.
When you’re frustrated in life because you can’t change something, rap is something you can relate to.
There are songs about frustration over not being able to change the system.
There are songs about living in a violent world.
If you grew up in an abusive home or experienced an abusive relationship, those lyrics might speak to you.
Even the rap songs about making money are relatable.
Everyone wants to make a lot of money and spend it without worry.
When rap talks about the police, it likely speaks to certain communities, too.
When it shines a spotlight on the corruption of the state and federal government, there are those out there who relate to the lyrics.
It speaks to them more than certain pop or rock songs do.
Not everyone can relate to breakups when they’re too busy trying to survive to even date.
Rap is popular because people relate to its lyrics.
It’s relevant to their lives.
8. Different Styles
People who are unfamiliar with rap will often say that it all sounds the same.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
One only needs to listen to Eminem, Kanye, Biggie, and Tupac to immediately see the differences between them.
Like many other genres of music, rap has different styles.
You might even say that it has different sub-genres.
This makes rap popular because even if you don’t enjoy one particular style of rap, you might enjoy another.
It’s not unlike being a rock fan.
You may enjoy classic rock, but you might not be a fan of metal or country rock.
Because rap is all about rhythm and lyrics, there are tons of different styles out there.
It’s popular because it’s likely that people are going to enjoy at least one style of rap.
Even if they don’t like rap as a whole, there may be one particular artist who uses a particular style that they enjoy.
It’s versatile and that versatility allows rap to reach all kinds of different listeners.
A lot of people enjoy rap because they recognize how complex it is.
A rapper’s ability to split a word into its syllables and string them all together to create something that has some rhythm to it is remarkable.
It’s even more impressive when it’s done on the fly and improvised.
Being able to do that requires keen intelligence.
Great rappers are, essentially, wordsmiths.
Fans of rap may enjoy the music, but they also admire the talent it takes to rap.
Rap is much more difficult than other genres of music.
Pop, for example, primarily concerns itself with creating catchy lines that get inside of people’s heads.
Most genres of music place most of their concern on rhyming.
That isn’t the case with rap.
Rap requires a lot more analysis and thought than just looking for words that rhyme together.
While rhyming is an important part of rapping, the words have to make sense, too.
They need to make an impact.
Because there are so many variables involved in rapping, fans appreciate the effort that the rapper took to make a great song.
A final reason rap is popular is because it’s emotional.
The lyrics of a rap song can invoke strong emotions in people.
Rap artists who are part of the gangster lifestyle can make lyrics about losing friends to the lifestyle.
Those who are also part of the lifestyle can relate to that.
Even those outside of the lifestyle can relate to that since everyone loses someone at some point in their lives.
The lyrics can inspire feelings of mourning and loss.
Some might also speak about healing from such losses.
That can inspire feelings of hope and catharsis.
Other artists might rap about drug use and their struggles with addiction.
They might get into the heavy details of isolation and feeling out of control.
Those who have experienced the same thing may feel certain things when listening to those lyrics.
Others can rap about injustices they’ve faced and persecution over this thing or that.
It can inspire anger or understanding in its listeners.
Rap can pull emotions out of its listeners because its lyrics are usually quite raw.
They’re real, authentic, and often based on actual events in the rapper’s life.
Because of their rawness, they often touch a nerve or pluck a heartstring in listeners whereas other genres of music may not.
When music stirs the soul, it only makes sense that people are going to enjoy it.
Rap is a popular form of music that encompasses rhythm and poetry.
There are many different styles and genres of rap which helps it appeal to wider audiences.