Lofi hip hop is a form of downtempo music[3][4] that combines elements of hip hop and chill-out music.[5] It was popularized in the 2010s on YouTube.


Lo-fi hip-hop originated within the underground beatmaking hip-hop scene of the 2000s, particularly after the advent of Roland SP-303 and Roland SP-404 samplers, each of which featured the "lo-fi" effect as a separate button.[6] Vice contributor Luke Winkie suggested that "if there is one shared touchstone for lo-fi hip-hop, it's probably [the 2004 MF Doom and Madlib album] Madvillainy".[7]

The Japanese artist Nujabes, often called the "godfather of lofi hip hop",[8][9][10] is also credited with driving lofi's growth with his contributions to the soundtrack for the popular anime Samurai Champloo.[11] Another artist also often associated with the development of lofi is US rapper and producer J Dilla.[12][13]

Emergence and popularity

In 2013, YouTube began hosting live streams, which resulted in 24-hour "radio stations" dedicated to microgenres such as vaporwave.[14] Compilation videos are also popular, combining the music with visuals that could take the form of recorded pedestrian walks through major cities like Tokyo, looping visuals from cartoons such as The Simpsons or Internet memes.[15] Spotify added to the popular "lo-fi beats" wave by generating "Spotified genres", including "Chill Hits", "Bedroom Pop" playlists, and promoting numerous "chill pop" artists.[3]

In 2015, a form of downtempo music tagged as "chillhop" or "lo-fi hip hop" became popular among YouTube music streamers. Most, if not all, of the content used in YouTube videos was primarily published on SoundCloud. By 2018, several of these channels had millions of followers. One DJ, Ryan Celsius, theorized that they were inspired by a nostalgia for the commercial bumpers used by Toonami and Adult Swim in the 2000s, and that this "created a cross section of people that enjoyed both anime and wavy hip-hop beats".[7] These channels equally functioned as chatrooms, with participants often discussing their personal struggles.[16] By 2018, Spotify's "Chill Hits" playlist had 5.4 million listeners and had been growing rapidly.[3]

Winkie credited YouTube user Lofi Girl (formerly known as "ChilledCow") as "the person who first featured a studious anime girl as his calling card, which set up the aesthetic framework for the rest of the people operating in the genre".[7]

Viewership of lo-fi hip hop streams grew significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.[16] In April 2020, MTV News noted, "there might be something to be said for lo-fi hip-hop's composition, and the way its creators mix simplistic melodies with a judicious use of words to create intense memories, feelings, and nostalgia" and stated that the quarantine in place in various countries "has led people to log more hours online due to boredom or virtual workplaces and schools, and livestreamed music performances are reaching their full potential".[17]

See also


  1. ^ How Lofi Hip-Hop Will Inspire New Music In 2021 - Forbes
  2. ^ Jack Curtis Dubowsky (2021). Easy Listening and Film Scoring 1948-78. Routledge. pp. 252–253. ISBN 9780429997679.
  3. ^ a b c Werner, Ann (2020-01-02). "Organizing music, organizing gender: algorithmic culture and Spotify recommendations". Popular Communication. 18 (1): 78–90. doi:10.1080/15405702.2020.1715980. ISSN 1540-5702.
  4. ^ Staff. "Downtempo Music Guide: 5 Popular Downtempo Musical Acts". Masterclass. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  5. ^ Maxwell, Dante (September 20, 2019). "Music Microgenres: A Brief History of Retrowave, Acid House, & Chillhop". Zizacious.
  6. ^ "Inside the SP Series". Roland Engineering. 3 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Winkie, Luke (July 13, 2018). "How 'Lofi Hip Hop Radio to Relax/Study to' Became a YouTube Phenomenon". Vice. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  8. ^ ellenbemarc (1 May 2021). "Nujabes: The Godfather of Lofi". The Overlap.
  9. ^ Rinehart, J. D. (6 October 2022). "What is Lo-fi Hip Hop? Why is it So Popular?". Deep in the Mix. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  10. ^ Chow, Aaron (20 February 2022). "Medicom Toy Celebrates Nujabes with 'FIRST COLLECTION' BE@RBRICK Set". Hypebeast. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  11. ^ Anderson, Javon (25 August 2021). "The jazz roots of Nujabes, a pioneer of 'lofi hip hop'". Jazz.FM 91. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  12. ^ iCouldBeYu (3 February 2022). "J Dilla: The GodFather of LoFi Hip Hop". Lofi Weekly. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  13. ^ Yoder, Mark (27 March 2019). "J Dilla and Lo-Fi Hip Hop". Afterglow. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  14. ^ Alemoru, Kemi (June 14, 2018). "Inside YouTube's calming 'Lofi Hip Hop Radio to Relax/Study to' community". Dazed Digital.
  15. ^ Coleman, Jonny (May 1, 2015). "Quiz: Is This A Real Genre". Pitchfork.
  16. ^ a b Alexander, Julia (April 20, 2020). "Lo-fi beats to quarantine to are booming on YouTube". The Verge.
  17. ^ Mlnarik, Carson (April 1, 2020). "How Lo-Fi Beats's Nostalgic Comfort Transcended The Memes". MTV News. Retrieved 7 April 2020.