Recently when I said something is real hip hop to my friend, he was on that “the term real hip hop is vague, you can’t define it,” tip.

How are you going to act like there is not such a thing as “real hip hop,” or that it is even hard to define? There is such a thing as real hip hop, people just haven’t thought hard enough about how to define it. Let me break it down!

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When somebody talks about real hip hop, they are basically using the word “real,” as a substitute for the word “authentic.”

au·then·tic [aw-then-tik]


1. not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.

2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenicated; verified: an authentic document of the Middle Ages; an authentic work of the old master.

3. entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy: an authentic report on poverty in Africa.

What you want to look at is definition #1. When you realize that people are using the word “real,” as a substitute for the word “authentic,” it is actually incredibly easy to define what real hip hop is. Real hip hop is original, genuine, and not fake. That’s it! There is nothing more and nothing less. In fact, this definition can go beyond “real hip hop,” and can be used in reference to any music genre that exists past and present.

The biggest obstacle I have witnessed in the attempts to define real hip hop is that people will use artists as an example of what is and isn’t real hip hop, instead of using individual songs as examples. An artist cannot be real hip hop. I say this because you can have an entire album that is a certified classic in the hip hop world and yet not every single track on that album will be “real hip hop.” You can have a hip hop artist with the best values and intentions in the world but not every song they create in the scope of their entire music career will fall within the parameters of “real hip hop.”

Real hip hop can only be examined when you look at individual songs.

When you hear a lot of people talking about “This isn’t real hip hop,” on a basic level they are usually referring to a track that does not project an original style lyrically or musically. Let me give you an example of real hip hop:


Dear Mama by Tupac Shakur is loved by hip hop fans everywhere because the lyrics are original in style, composition, and subject matter. The production fits the mood perfectly and doesn’t overshadow Shakur’s signature vocals, but instead is in perfect harmony with his message. By making this track, Shakur was also doing something that was controversial to his standard image in the media at that time. He was a “thug,” rapper to most, who created a song dedicated to his mom. Who did that?!

Going back to what I said earlier, as an artist Tupac Shakur did not always make real hip hop so it would be impossible to say Tupac Shakur’s music is real hip hop, but looking at this individual song, you can easily define it as a shining example of real hip hop.

Once you know the definition of real hip hop, it is impossible to say that it doesn’t exist, that it’s a vague term, or that it is even an opinion. Real hip hop is very easy to define. It is original, genuine, and not fake. That’s all!


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