Abstracthiphop is a genre of hip hop music that explores the possibilities of a counter-hegemonic spirit through engagingly cryptic lyricism mixed with often experimental beats. The artists of this subgenre are some of the most innovative and creative voices in contemporary hip hop, and their efforts to create something unique and different have spawned an intensely resonant counterculture within the hip-hop universe.

Abstract Hip-Hop Ethos

The ethos of abstract hip-hop is a set of core doctrines that underlie its distinctive spirit, encompassing five essential tenets: the properties of flow, layering, and rupture; a principle of productive consumption; the production of excessive publicity or promotion–what affiliates refer to as “hype”; embracing individual and communal entrepreneurship; and a committed politics of action and loyalty.

1. Flow

The core of abstract hip-hop is an ethos that prioritizes polyrhythmic layers over repetitive instrumental rhythms. Deejays, emcees, and rappers all strive to achieve a smooth, flowing mix of multiple expressive materials that evoke emotions of excitement and pleasure in listeners.

2. Layering

The most fundamental art form associated with abstract hip-hop is a practice of layering vocal tracks to create a seamless (flow) or strategically punctuated (rupture) mix. Adlibs–short snippets of vocal adornments that punctuate the main vocal track by repeating certain words or phrases–are a staple of this layered performance.

3. Productive Consumption

Abstract hip-hop adopts a culture of sharing by incorporating intertextually positioned continuities and ruptures to generate sensation and spectacle, which in turn spotlight the self-worth of individuals and communities. The art of sampling is another arena in which this ethos manifests itself, as sample-based music producers appropriate and extend past music commodities to envision new musical futures.

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