S01E09: Origins of Lo-fi Hip-Hop, Who started it? Why Anime? and How you can make it too.

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In this episode we’ll be explore the origins of lo-fi hip-hop and it’s boom of chill study music.

This episode is going to be a little different. Like what has become of Jazz, Lo-fi Hip-hop to the untrained ear kind of all fits in a nice little package.

It’s kind of difficult to tell between artists and in my listens, I don’t mind. Yet the genre of Lo-Fi Hip-Hop is particulary booming in recent years.

Show Notes:

“Show Notes” are my raw general thoughts about said artist and usually how I roughly structure the episode. An episode may or may not include all of the following details.

Lo-fi Hip-hop is the Hang Up

In this episode we’ll be explore the origins of lo-fi hip-hop and it’s boom of chill study music.

1986 DJ William Berger of East Orange, NJ radio WFMU, coined the term lo-fi. He had a weekly half hour segement in his regular programming dedicated to “home record music” under the name Lo-Fi.

Although started as an underground music scene, artists such as Sebadoh, Pavement, and Beck are accredited for their contributions. Probably most well known Loser by Beck. which interestingly enough and sticking to to Lo-fi roots was actually recorded in a kitchen and made it into the Billboard top 10.

So Lo-fi was starting off in this garage made shoegaze rock. During the 90s the craze caught on but fragmented the definition of the genre. and ultimately turned into indie rock. The term, Lo-fi, was not being forgotten in time leaving it open for the next generation.

Although in the 90s and 2000s bands were still looking for that original bedroom sound by purchasing vintage equipment to achieve an authentic lo-fi aesthetic no one was claiming the lo-fi sound any more in headlines.

What was seen though that the lo-fi feel had a very unique sound of distortion and noise (such has birds, busy cities or a passing car ) to acheive a vintage sound. The aesthetic of harmonic distortion, dynamic tape speeds and tape / vinyl noise but most of all downtempo driven music was the defining characteristic.

It’s not difficult to see these elements could be taken from it’s original origins and put into a genre like hip-hop.

So where did the hip-hop veriation start?
Some would argue that DJ Shadow, J Dilla, Nujabes and the Memphis rap scene had the sound before there was a term associated with it. and I agree, I grew up on Nujabes and I think that early 2000s sound is what original made me interested in lo-fi hip-hop.

Relating this term to hop-hop is relatively new. The subreddit for lo-fi hop-hop being barely 5 years old and the use of it on soundcloud a little earlier. but I think where most of us were introduced to it was on those wonderful youtube playlists.

The Youtube Playlists
I don’t know the exact playlist that originally introduced me because at this point a lot of the art and titles of the videos have been emulated to much but it was for sure the original girl from the anime Wolf Children in the room studying.

Most likely it was the one titled “Lofi Hip Hop Radio 24/7 Chill Gaming / Study Beats,” which was actually removed from YT from the animation house of Wolf Children. Too bad because that bit of animation literally started the lo-fi craze for most and it was great adverting for the animation study in my mind. It made me go out and rent the movie.

So how did anime get involved?
Obviously a lot of the playlists on youtube includes them but did it start from there? I’d argue that Samurai Champloo and nujabes are a big source of information. Even some would argue that at one point when adult swim and hip-hop together it formed this notion that the two mediums go hand in hand.

At this point though the genre and anime feel like they go hand and hand. It’s difficult to find a youtube playlist that is title lo-fi without some form of cartoon. Thus catering to the scene and it’s listeners.

Even though that stream is gone, we can say she did finally finish her homework.

So what is it popular?
What makes lo-fi hip-hop so easy to listen to is that it plays of nostalgia very well. Plus add some bird sounds, a crackling of vinyl and the perfect speed of downtempo it’s not difficult to see why people have attached to it for studying, chilling and creative exploration. Plus add a cute anime girl or a racoon and it’s not hard to see how it’s gotten so much attention.

How’s it made?
I think the essence of lo-fi can be found from the first machinese to allow sampling. For example popular instruments such as the Roland SP-404, BOSS SP-303, SP-202 and early MPCs. Just as seen in early lo-fi the vintage hardware is still sought after for the sounds. I’ve owned an MPC500 and 1000 and can attest to the use of them but I think for the effects of lo-fi the SP’s are so groovy. The woobles and distortion in them really make up the elements of lo-fi for me.

What artists should I check out?
The lo-fi scene is kind of saturated yet at the same time, I’ve yet to find a song on a playlists that made me think, yeah that’s a skip. Listening to one of the youtube playlists and a spotify one as well, I’ve put together a few artists I dig:

  • BSD.U
  • Knowmadic
  • Jinsang
  • Shlohmo
  • Eevee
  • Tomppa
  • Shamana

For some final words. I really dig the genre, and I like that in the 2010s we’ve gotten a lot of new genres, such as Lo-Fi Hip-hop Lo-fi house, and Vaporwave to name a few. Music keeps evolving and I’m stoked to see what the next wave going into the 2020s soon.

If you like this kind of thing, I usually look at songs or artists that effect me in each episode. Usually they are not as structured as this one but if you enjoy this format let me know. Hit us up on social media or even leave a review I enjoyed researching and putting this one together and I want to keep doing it. So any kind of spreading the word would be awesome.

Thanks for listening, I appreciate it. Cheers.

More information and Research links:

  • https://www.polygon.com/2018/2/8/16990594/youtube-lofi-hip-hop-gaming-livestream-anime-wolf-children
  • https://www.reddit.com/r/LofiHipHop/comments/651nbf/writing_a_paper_about_lofi_hip_hop/
  • https://www.discogs.com/style/lo-fi
  • https://genius.com/a/youtube-chill-a-glimpse-into-the-world-of-lo-fi-hip-hop

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