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Hip-Hop Vs. Jazz – Key Differences

Jazz evolved from ragtime and blues.

The world of music is vast and contains a number of t genres. Two of the most iconic genres that have made their mark in North America are hip-hop and jazz. These musical styles differ from one another in many ways, but they also share some special qualities.

In this post we will go over hip-hop vs. jazz and demystify each genre in the process.

What is Jazz?

Jazz is a unique music genre that emerged in New Orleans in the early 20th century. It evolved from ragtime and blues genres and was primarily driven by African-American musicians.

The genre stands out from many others due to its complex nature. Jazz has a heavy focus on complex chords, improvisation, and polyrhythms. While much of jazz music is instrumental, many jazz acts do feature vocals that sing in a special “call and response” fashion.

Some of the most prominent jazz artists of all time include Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Louis Armstrong.

What is Hip-Hop?

Hip-hop is a music genre that arose in New York’s Bronx region in the late 1970s. The genre is characterized by “rapping” over sampled instrumentation and drum machine loops.

Hip-hop has diversified greatly over the decades and now contains a variety of subgenres such old school, gangsta rap, rap rock, pop rap, cloud rap, and trap. Some of the most iconic hip-hop artists and acts of all time include A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, NWA, Eminem, and Kanye West

The Differences Between Hip-Hop and Jazz

Hip-hop and jazz differ in a lot of different areas. This includes:


Most jazz music doesn’t have vocals. However, there are styles which feature singing. Such singing is rhythmic in nature and follows the predominant rhythm of the instrumentation behind it.

Hip-hop is a very vocal-centric music genre. The “rapping” that hip-hop artists do has been compared to poetry. Much of the lyrics in hip-hop are also delivered at a relatively fast pace, making each track incredibly lyric-dense. Many hip-hop artists are known to be great storytellers who draw in audiences with their ability to create a picture using witty wordplay.


Jazz music is centered around live instrumentation and performances. Most jazz musicians are incredibly skilled instrument players and dabble in complex rhythms and chords. Lots of jazz music feature improvisation, which adds to the genre’s unpredictability.

While hip-hop groups such as The Roots and Stetsasonic do use live instrumentation in their recordings and live performances, the vast majority of hip-hop artists don’t rely on live instrumentation. Early hip-hop beats were created by sampling music and drum loops from vinyl records and putting them together. Such an arrangement was created out of necessity as hip-hop producers were often poor and couldn’t afford real instruments.

Modern day hip-hop producers still rely on samples, but many of them also create music using production softwares. For this reason, hip-hop instrumentation doesn’t have the live performance aspect that jazz does.


Jazz and hip-hop tend to have different audiences. Hip-hop generally appeals to younger people as many of the artists that make it are young. Such music is often designed to be fun and party-friendly, so it draws in younger listeners.

Jazz typically appeals to older individuals due to its complex and somewhat inaccessible nature. Most people need to possess some level of musical knowledge to truly appreciate jazz, so this has limited its appeal.

The Future of Hip-Hop and Jazz

Hip-hop and jazz are loved by many people across the world. These genres keep evolving, but the passion that drives them is still there. This means you can expect future generations to continue listening to them.