12 Songs To Get The Gist of Alternative Hip Hop

I’ve put together this list of songs to get a better sense of the particular conventions that differentiate Alternative Hip Hop from traditional Hip Hop or rap. These particular songs ooze with the conventions of alternative Hip Hop, that, although they rap or have electric drumming, as seen in traditional Hip Hop, they do have a clear overlay of genres such as jazz, funk, reggae, soul, alternative rock, EDM, folk, and punk, added by the absence of the gangsta vibe, and the use of more deep and abstract lyrics.

12. Ride, Twenty One Pilots


Screenshot of the music video of the song Ride from Twenty One Pilots

With the use of reggae organ that gives way to the offbeat rhythm known as skank with the accentuation of the second and forth time of every musical time signature, and of course the use of intricate abstract lyrics just to give away the specific gradient of alternative hip hop.

11. Too Good, Drake


Drake and Rihanna at the OVO Festival 2016 performing Too Good

Drake is know for being experimental with his rhythm, especially with Caribbean music. This song falls in place with alternative Hip Hop because of Rhythm which resonates that of Dancehall, a Jamaican musical genre. In his song he also uses the lyrics of the the song Love Yuh Bad from Popcaan when he says: “Cock up yuh bumpa, siddung pon it“. There is a clear overlay of musical genre.

10. Rock Star, N.E.R.D.


Screenshot from the music video Rock Star form N.E.R.D.

N.E.R.D. have specialized in mixing genres such as funk, R&B, rock and Hip Hop. In this song the fusion of different musical genres with the combination of funk, rock and Hip Hop, which clearly falls into the basic conventions of alternative Hip Hop.

9. Tamale, Tyler, The Creator


Screenshot from the music video Tamale of Tyler, The Creator

Tyler definitely outdid himself and possibly hit a new level  of unusual with the song and the music video. The rhythm consist of kind of industrial sounds with the mixture of tribal screams throughout the whole song with the addition of his signature rap style. Definitely falls into the canon of alternative Hip Hop.

8. i, Kendrick Lamar


Screenshot of Kendrick Lamar’s “i”

Kendrick Lamar isn’t known as the king of west coast for just rapping, his creative musical style is also part of his title. This song features elements from jazz, funk, soul, latin, and hip hop. With the driving cowbell, the jazzy piano, the funky bass, the soul vocalization and rapping, this song is a perfect combination of musical genres that form Alternative Hip Hop.

7. Sunrise, Childish Gambino

2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival Village - Show

Childish Gambino performing
at the iHeart Radio Music Festival 2014

Childish Gambino has a lot of experience with infusing gospel, soul, electronic and hip hop music, which gives him a special style. In his song Sunrise he uses this perfect combination with the use of driving bass synthesizers, tribal drums, soul and gospel vocals and of course, his rapping.

6. Angels, Chance The Rapper (feat. Saba)


Screenshot of the music video of Angels of Chance The Rapper

With the combination of soul, tropical and hip hop, Chance the Rapper hits the bulls-eye with the nice mixture of soul organ, the steel drums that give it that tropical feel, the soul vocals, the jazzy trumpets and the driving rhythm that collide at the same time at the end.  In addition, Chance The Rapper uses intricate lyrics with the use of metaphors and biographical lyrics.

5. Dots & Lines, Lupe Fiasco


Source: Getty

Aside from the fact that Lupe Fiasco incorporate a lot of sting into his album Tetsuo & Youth, his song Dots & Lines has a set of distinctive qualities that giveaway the Alternative Hip Hop stamp to the  song. His song starts and ends with a jamming banjo that give it a kind of western feel, the strings and the pipa that underlay a Chinese folk music, the electric drops, the soul vocalization in the chorus, and the rapping gives this song the label of Alternative Hip Hop.

4. El Aguante, Calle 13


Screenshot of Calle 13’s music video “El Aguante”

Calle 13 is a band formed by three siblings ( René Pérez, Eduardo Cabra, Ileana Cabra). Their music is very creative because of the combination of Visitante’s (Eduardo Cabra) extensive ability to play multiple instruments (guitar, melodica, harmonica, keyboards, cuatro, tiple, accordion, tres, banjo, lute, mandolin, oud, cümbüş, charango, erke, ukulele, bombo legüero, bass guitar, steel guitar, drum set, bouzouki, vihuela, harp, autoharp, zither, timple, guitarro, gittern, cavaquinho, bordonua, congas, trombone, saxophone, drums, percussion, trumpet, violin, clarinet, theremin, kalimba, cello), Residente’s ( René Pérez) Intricate lyrics and rap style that is distinctive for his verisimilitude and ILE’s ( Ileana Cabra) amazing vocals. In “El Aguante” Calle 13 uses a Celtic rhythm, funky bass, tribal rhythms and of course, rapping.

3. Feel Good Inc., Gorrilaz


Gorillaz live at the Manchester Opera House 2005

Gorrilaz are a group that is distinctive for having an unusual musical style for the play vocal effect and their use of rock and funk. The song “Feel Good Inc.” uses vocal effects such as : laughing, whispering and other vocal effects. In addition they intertwine the vocals with a funky bass and guitar, electronic interludes, spanish guitar, rapping, and hip hop beats. This perfect and unique combination makes this song Alternative Hip Hop.

2. Pursuit of Happiness, Kid Cudi


Screenshot of Kid Cudi’s Pursuit of Happiness Music Video

Even so that Kid Cudi is distinctive for his vocals his music has particularity that also sets him between the artists of Alternative Hip Hop. His song “Pursuit of Happiness” features a series of musical effects that give it the electronic feel, with the combination of a drum pad with echo and the piano with kind of R & B vibe. With the combination of music and his particular vocals, Kid Cudi forms part of the Alternative Hip Hop musical artists.

1. B.O.B., Outkast


On the left is Big Boi and on the right is Andre 3000, the famous duo known as Outkast

Saved the best for last, one of the pioneers of the alternative Hip Hop genre, Outkast. This particular song didn’t achieve the popularity of “Hey Ya”, but its consider Outkast’s best song with the incredible blend of musical genres. This song is the combination of a fast beat tempo, electric guitar that resemble Hendrix’s style, rock organs, gospel vocals, vocal effects, rap, funky bass, scatching, rocking guitar riffs, synthesizers, and the hip hop drum set. This song could be considered the epitome of Alternative Hip Hop, due to its huge overlaying of musical genres. It certainly marked the set point between hip hop or rap, into alternative Hip Hop.