If you head over to YouTube and type in Lofi Hip Hop (sometimes called chillhop), you’ll see endless search results of 24 hour live streams, mixes, type beats, and tons of different music videos. On YouTube, or the internet more broadly, Lofi Hip Hop has become one of the most prevalent forms of music. In some ways, the genre has become the elevator music of the 21st century (albeit much more interesting and unique). It’s used as background music for streams, gaming compilations, political commentary, and even cooking channels. One of the most famous YouTube live streams is even called “Lofi Hip Hop to Study/Relax to”. At this point, Lofi Hip Hop has eclipsed itself as a music genre and has tapped into it’s entirely own internet culture and community. From deep fried Simpsons memes to old school anime visuals, lofi hip hop has dominated the internet in the 2010s. But what really is it? How did it start?
What makes it ‘Lofi’?
Lofi has been a common term in music for a very long time, meaning Lo-fidelity. It’s counterpart is Hi-fidelity. Lofi music is typically DIY and independently released. Whereas pop music is professionally produced and recorded (hi-fidelity). The term lofi has been attached to multiple different genres of music (like rock, ambient, garage, house), but how did it get attached to hip hop? One of the common themes among all these genres is that it’s experimental and independent by nature.
This is where lofi hip hop got its roots. It took traditional elements of hip hop and added vinyl cracks, samples, and mixed it with other types of music (ambient and chill out). Some people say that artists like Nujabes and J Dilla are the godfathers of lofi hip hop. They both pioneered the sound in their own ways and are extremely influential to many lofi hip hop artists. Their take on the hip hop sound came from an experimental background. Mixing hip hop with different genres and adding in samples.
One key part of contemporary lofi hip hop is its use of nostalgia. It calls back to an old school hip hop aesthetic (like those vinyl cracks for ambience). Because of this, the imagery and aesthetic of lofi hip hop is based a lot on nostalgia for the 1990s. You’ll often see imagery like the Simpsons, or old school commercials, or other references to pop culture from 30 years ago. The Lofi Hip Hop community has grown massively since it’s humble beginnings, but it still remains massively DIY and independent. It’s spaces on YouTube have only grown.
Another important aspect of lofi hip hop, especially on YouTube is it’s relationship to studying, relaxing, and focusing. This can go back to its use as a sort of contemporary kind of background music. There’s typically no vocals (or minimal if included), which makes it ideal for reading and working. It’s also a very calming genre of music. Nothing offensive, and lofi hip hop tends to meld together seamlessly. If you’re a skilled producer you can effectively use sidechaining and other audio techniques to create dynamics which make the song interesting, but not overly attention-grabbing.
Some Lofi Plugs
If you’re interested in making Lofi Hip Hop or just starting to get into the genre, here are some good examples of music and places to start getting into the community:
lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to – The most famous YouTube lofi stream made by Chilled Cow.
Some people might think of lofi as another passing YouTube fad, but it’s a powerful genre. It’s constantly being pushed in new directions and a lot of people are forming unique and interesting communities within the genre. If you’re just starting out or a full time producer and making lofi beats, you can always send your duds or throwaway tracks to SubmitMusic for valuations and cash for your tracks.