Pop rap (also known as pop hip-hop, pop hop, hip pop, melodic hip-hop or melodic rap) is a genre of music fusing the rhythm-based lyricism of hip-hop music with pop music's preference for melodious vocals and catchy tunes emphasizing on pop like productions and structure. The lyrics are often positive, with choruses similar to those heard in pop music. This genre gained mainstream popularity during the 1990s, though the influences and roots of pop rap can trace back to late-1980s hip-hop artists such as Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and Beastie Boys.



AllMusic describes pop rap as "a marriage of hip hop beats and raps with strong melodic hooks, which are usually featured as part of the chorus section in a standard pop-song structure."[2] Pop rap also tends to have less aggressive lyrics than street-level rap music.[2][3] However, some 1990s artists fused pop rap with a more aggressive attitude to defuse backlash on their own accessibility.[2] Music journalist Wilson McBee has strongly criticized pop rap, "A pop rapper is assumed to be a sellout – someone who has compromised artistic principles in order to fit commercial expectations. Or worse, it's someone who never had any artistic principles to begin with, who's guilty of bastardizing rap's social and political traditions just to make money." McBee also then went on saying "In labeling the likes of Flo Rida, Lupae Filius and other pop rappers, we blur the distinction between a 'pop rapper' and a rapper who is just really popular. Not every rapper who has a hit is automatically a sellout or deserving of the pop rap tag."[4] While some rappers from the 1990s with catchy hooks have been compared to pop music, McBee also said:

In 1994, both Coolio's "Fantastic Voyage" and Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa" were big hits. Both featured plush, synthesizer-heavy production, catchy hooks and lyrics about partying. But the songs are not even close to being siblings. Coolio's awkward verses are nearly void of internal rhyming, interesting metaphors or lyrical variation whatsoever. The imagery is tired, vague and familiar: “We’re going to a place where everybody kick it/ Kick it, kick it . . . yeah that’s the ticket.” Compare that with these vivid lines from Biggie: “So we can steam on the way to the telly, go fill my belly / A T-bone steak, cheese eggs and Welch’s grape.” "Big Poppa" may have a poppy melody and beat, but it is still the work of a masterful lyricist and storyteller.[4]

Pop rap songs often have lyrical content similar to that in pop with themes such as love and relationships.[4]


MC Hammer performing with Vanilla Ice in July 2009, who were both described as early pop rap artists for blending rap music with catchy hooks.

In the 1980s, rap artists including Run DMC and LL Cool J set up the blueprints and origins of pop rap as they suddenly broke into the mainstream.[2][3] LL Cool J has been described as the first "pop rapper" in history, when he rose to prominence on his 1985 debut album Radio. Paramount-owned music video channel MTV has described LL Cool J's 1987 single "I Need Love" as "one of the first pop rap crossover hits".[5] Later, rap artists such as Tone Loc, Young MC, and Fresh Prince then made party tunes and used their storytelling abilities as they became popular. During the 1990s, pop rap began to expand even more as hip hop music also began to connect strongly with dance music and R&B.[2][3]

In the early 1990s, MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice broke into the mainstream with songs such as "U Can't Touch This" and "Ice Ice Baby", respectively, but the two sampled from both songs of the 1980s.[6] They caused pop rap to be "derided (and, occasionally, taken to court) for its willingness to borrow" from best-known hit singles.[2] Another important moment was the remix of Mariah Carey's 1995 song "Fantasy" with Ol' Dirty Bastard.[7]

By the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, rappers such as Ja Rule fused gangsta rap themes with 1980s pop and soul elements; pop rap was dominated by many artists.[2] It then went back into the mainstream with the success of the Black Eyed Peas who had smash singles such as "Where Is the Love?" (2003) from their breakthrough album Elephunk.[1]

During the late 2000s and early 2010s, many rap artists who used pop rap in their music had emerged such as Nicki Minaj, Drake, will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, Redfoo, Flo Rida and Wiz Khalifa.[4][8]

Social acceptance


Most people who listen to pop rap do not call it pop rap, and simply consider it as rap.[9] When Spotify introduced the pop rap category in 2019, Twitter users were confused as to what this 'new' genre suggested. Some users were even bewildered when Spotify classified the genre for its users and suggested that they listen to pop rap.[10] Popular hip-hop rapper LL Cool J did not embrace the idea of labeling him as the "forefather of pop rap" and tweeted about it in April 2021.[11][12]

Stylistic differences


Street pop


Street pop, also known as street hop, emerged in Lagos, evolving from a blend of Nigerian hip hop, popular music, afrobeats, and Nigerian street sounds. Influenced by artists such as Danfo Drivers, Baba Fryo and Daddy Showkey well as the shaku shaku dance style, originally inspired by gqom and later evolving into its own music genre. Street pop is characterized by its lively tempos and incorporates elements from gqom, highlife, pop, hip hop, and EDM. While typically fast-paced, slower variations of street pop are also prevalent. It features a fusion of melodious arrangements, urban colloquial language, Pidgin, singing, indigenous and Western rap. Variants of street pop include neo-fuji, shaku shaku, zanku, fuji-fusion, and apala-fusion. Key figures in the street pop genre include Olamide, Slimcase, Mr Real, Idowest, Naira Marley, Zinoleesky, Mohbad, Balloranking, Reminisce, Rexxie, Zlatan Ibile, Sarz, 9ice, Lil Kesh, T.I Blaze, Asake, Portable, Terry Apala, Bella Shmurda, Seyi Vibez and DJ Kaywise.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19]


  1. ^ a b "Rap+Pop = Alt-Hip Hop: Black Eyed Peas, Jessy Moss". Metro Weekly. August 21, 2003. Archived from the original on January 11, 2014. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Pop Rap". Allmusic. Archived from the original on July 20, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "Too Legit: The Neglected Legacy of Pop Rap". Jonathan Bogart. February 24, 2012. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d "What Is Pop Rap, And Why Do We Hate It?". Prefix Mag. May 25, 2011. Archived from the original on January 26, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  5. ^ "LL Cool J Bio | LL Cool J Career". MTV. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  6. ^ "The Year Onyx's 'Slam' Crashed Pop Radio". NPR. October 17, 2013. Archived from the original on April 25, 2015. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  7. ^ "Celebrities Praise Mariah Carey: Part 1". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 11, 2011. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  8. ^ "Drake charts a course for pop". Chicago Reader. November 17, 2011. Archived from the original on November 27, 2020. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  9. ^ Wilson_McBee. "What Is Pop Rap, And Why Do We Hate It? | Prefixmag.com". Archived from the original on October 29, 2022. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  10. ^ "Twitter Is Confused Over 'Pop Rap' Category On Spotify's 'Unwrapped' Year-End Tally". BET.com. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  11. ^ "LL Cool J Responds to Being Called 'Pop Rap' Pioneer: 'What the F*ck Are You Talking About??'". Complex. Archived from the original on April 13, 2021. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  12. ^ "LL COOL J Not Feeling 'Forefather Of Pop Rap' Title: 'WTF You Talking About?'". HipHopDX. April 12, 2021. Archived from the original on April 13, 2021. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  13. ^ Native, The (March 12, 2018). "Watch Reminisce's video for "Problem"". The NATIVE. Archived from the original on December 4, 2022. Retrieved July 19, 2024.
  14. ^ Native, The (August 7, 2020). "How To: A guide to Africa's most popular dance moves from the 2010s". The NATIVE. Archived from the original on June 19, 2024. Retrieved July 19, 2024.
  15. ^ "The rise of street-hop, Lagos' evolving dance sound". DJ Mag. April 15, 2021. Retrieved July 19, 2024.
  16. ^ Ihejirika, Uzoma (February 7, 2023). "For Its Next Lap, Nigeria's Street Pop Is Pushing Into Experimental Fields". The NATIVE. Archived from the original on June 9, 2023. Retrieved July 19, 2024.
  17. ^ "SOUNDS FROM THIS SIDE: STREET POP". The NATIVE. Archived from the original on September 2, 2021. Retrieved July 19, 2024.
  18. ^ "The changing face of Nigerian street-pop". PAM - Pan African Music. February 7, 2023. Archived from the original on December 3, 2023. Retrieved July 19, 2024.
  19. ^ Adebiyi, Adeayo (January 17, 2024). "Can the growing presence of melancholy in Street music make it Nigeria's foremost genre?". Pulse Nigeria. Archived from the original on June 21, 2024. Retrieved July 19, 2024.