Abstract hip hop is a style of music that has emerged in the underground hip hop scene of the 2000s. This style eschews many of the conventions that are found in typical hip hop, focusing on more abstract ideas such as existentialism or social institutions rather than everyday problems or braggadocio. Lyrically, these artists tend to avoid the more upfront, visceral language that is typical of the genre and instead use extensive metaphors and symbolic word choice.
The origins of abstract hip hop are controversial. In the 1990s, a story published in The New York Times called “Rap Rage” perpetuated stereotypes about rappers as violent men, based on their appearance and movements (Keyes, 2).
While some believe that the violence of rappers was not the cause of the racism that plagued the 1990s, others feel that it is an important part of the culture of hip hop. One sociologist named Herman Gray believed that the violence of rappers was a part of the political environment that was created by Ronald Reagan.
Abstract hip hop has become an important tool for poor, marginalized youth to express their reflections on their life experiences. It is used to reflect on issues such as poverty, unemployment, incarceration, social injustice, and environmental degradation.
Abstract hip hop combines elements of jazz, funk, soul, and electronic music with unconventional production techniques and lyrical content that is often engagingly cryptic and surrealistic. It also often includes a wide range of samples from a variety of sources. It is considered a sub-genre of experimental hip hop.