Psychedelic rap

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Psychedelic rap is a microgenre that fuses hip hop music with psychedelia.[2] The genre's otherworldy sound was influenced by psychedelic rock and soul, funk and jazz, utilizing breaks and samples that create a hallucinogenic effect. Psychedelic drugs may also play a part in shaping the genre's sound.


Psychedelic rap is defined by "deep musicality, anchored by dusty drum breaks and samples often lifted from jazz records", resulting in music that is "both comforting and otherworldly — both retro and Afrofuturistic".[2] Some psychedelic rap artists, such as Flatbush Zombies, are influenced by psychedelic drugs.[4] The genre has its roots in the psychedelic rock of Jimi Hendrix, whose "hypnotic, laidback vocal style" on songs like "Crosstown Traffic" would "[foreshadow] the stoned swagger of a West Coast hip-hop MC", according to Tidal magazine.[2] Psychedelic soul, such as Sly Stone, and funk, were also key influences on psychedelic rap.[2] Parliament-Funkadelic are among hip hop's most sampled artists.[2] Betty Davis was cited as another precursor to psychedelic rap, as her recordings "wove singularly freaky funkiness with proto-rap aggression", particularly on "Shut Off the Light," in which Davis has been described as "barking, screeching and howling in a spoken-sung style over a barbed-wire slap-bass riff".[2] Her ex-husband, jazz musician Miles Davis, "chased head-trip sounds through tape-splicing studio experimentation and electric chaos", which predated sampling.[2]


In the late 1980s, new school hip hop, as exemplified by L.L. Cool J and Run-DMC, led to the "philosophical introspection and radical, brainy beat-making" of Beastie Boys' 1989 album Paul's Boutique, which was a landmark sampledelia album, sampling sources which ranged from Curtis Mayfield's psychedelic soul song "Superfly" to Pink Floyd's progressive rock song "One of These Days".[2] Beastie Boys were inspired to create a "psychedelic rap manifesto" in "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" by listening to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and Hendrix.[5] New York's Native Tongues collective, headlined by De La Soul, Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest, pioneered psych-rap, particularly on A Tribe Called Quest's "8 Million Stories".[2] Although De La Soul were categorized as a psychedelic rap outfit,[6] the group denied either being a psychedelic group or hippies.[7] Shock G of Digital Underground, who translated P-Funk's musical language to hip hop, was another pioneer of psychedelic rap.[8]

Cypress Hill and Redman, in addition to psychedelic hip hop, can also be classified as "weed rap";[9] the latter's 1992 release Whut? Thee Album was categorized as a psychedelic rap album,[10] and Black Moon's psychedelic hip hop defined the sound of 1990s hip hop,[11] while Poland's Kaliber 44 were labeled "psycho-rap" for their psychedelic rap music.[12] The psychedelic rap rock band Pop Will Eat Itself charted in 1988 and 1991,[13] while psychedelic rap group P.M. Dawn were signed to Gee Street Records in the early 1990s,[14] and the psychedelic rap band New Kingdom released two influential albums in the late '90s.[15] In 1996, Kool Keith released the psychedelic hip hop concept album Dr. Octagonecologyst, about "a deadly, libidinous and doped-up doctor".[16] Some experimental hip hop artists, like Quasimoto, are also be considered to be psychedelic.[17] Though the "trip" in trip hop was more linked to dub music than psychedelia,[17] the genre combined psychedelic rock with hip hop.[18]

Although psych-rap would be predominantly underground in the early 2000s, many mainstream artists would be influenced by psychedelia in their lyrics, production and artwork, such as on D12's 2001 single "Purple Pills", noted for Eminem's hallucinogenic production.[2] Flatbush Zombies, formed in 2010, would "reinvigorate psychedelic rap as a concept", according to Clash Music.[19] In 2013, Chance the Rapper released Acid Rap, an album that displayed "nonsensical and exuberant lyrics alongside poignant social commentary and personal confessions", and experimental production which drew from jazz, blues, soul and rock and roll; Clash Music described the album's unclassifiable sound as "its own genre of music".[19] THEESatisfaction were labeled as both "psychedelic space-rap/jazz" and "hippie hop".[20] Kid Cudi would breakthrough with "noir-trippy storytelling and tracks of mind-expanding atmosphere", while Danny Brown and Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt would emerge as "psych-tinged" MCs.[2] In a profile on the genre by Tidal magazine, it was noted that many of the most important works in contemporary hip hop would be psychedelic, such as Travis Scott's 2018 album, ASTROWORLD, which "peerlessly filters contemporary hip-hop production through magic-mushroom sonics".[2] Scott's Days Before Rodeo "pushed psychedelic trap into the mainstream".[21] Artists like Thundercat and Flying Lotus revived interest in P-Funk and jazz-influenced hip hop.[2] In a review of Ski Mask the Slump God's 2018 release Beware the Book of Eli, the reviewer named E-40's The Element of Surprise, Quasimoto's The Unseen and Young Thug's Jeffery as examples of psychedelic rap.[22] In 2023, rapper Lil Yachty shifted his sound from "bubblegum trap" to psychedelic rock with Let's Start Here, a "maximalist and multi-genre undertaking" which GQ deemed "a spectacular statement from hip-hop's prevailing weirdo" and the rapper's "first great album".[23]


  1. ^ David Foster, Wallace and Costello, Mark (July 23, 2013). Signifying Rappers. Little, Brown. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-316-40111-1.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Reed, Ryan (November 10, 2022). "Psych-Rap: A Trippy History: Inside hip-hop's legacy of mind expansion, from acid-rock to A$AP Rocky". Tidal. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  3. ^ Ripp, Gabriele, ed. (July 24, 2015). Handbook of Intermediality: Literature – Image – Sound – Music. De Gruyter. p. 867. ISBN 978-3-11-039378-1.
  4. ^ Newman, Jason (May 19, 2016). "Flatbush Zombies on Their Psychedelic Hip-Hop 'Odyssey'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 17, 2023.
  5. ^ Beastie Boys (October 30, 2018). Beastie Boys Book. Random House Publishing Group. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-8129-9554-1.
  6. ^ O'Brien, Lucy (2002). She Bop II: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop and Soul. Continuum. p. 329. ISBN 978-0-8264-7208-3.
  7. ^ Clover, Joshua (October 7, 2009). 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About. University of California Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-520-94464-0.
  8. ^ Weiss, Jeff (April 24, 2021). "Shock G of Digital Underground was a psychedelic rap pioneer who helped hip-hop crossover". Washington Post. Retrieved August 17, 2023.
  9. ^ Reeves, Mosi. "B-Boys on Acid: A Brief History of Psychedelic Hip-Hop". The Dowsers. Retrieved August 17, 2023.
  10. ^ "Whut? Thee Album". Vibe. Vol. 15, no. 1–6. Time Publishing Ventures/University of Virginia. January 14, 2010. Retrieved August 17, 2023.
  11. ^ Kulkarni, Neil (October 2015). The Periodic Table of HIP HOP. Ebury Publishing. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-4735-2840-6.
  12. ^ Shepherd, John, ed. (October 5, 2017). Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 11. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 388. ISBN 9781501326103.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (August 31, 2023). Rock Tracks 1981–2008. Record Research. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-89820-174-1.
  14. ^ Patrin, Nate (June 9, 2020). Bring That Beat Back: How Sampling Built Hip-Hop. University of Minnesota Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-4529-6380-8.
  15. ^ "New Kingdom: Tripping Towards Paradise". Red Bull Music Academy. Retrieved August 16, 2023. The psychedelic NYC duo of Nosaj and Sebastian Laws on taking hip hop on a trip via two mind-expanding LPs in the'90s
  16. ^ Moayeri, Lily (July 23, 2002). "Kool Keith Revives Dr. Octagon". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 22, 2008. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  17. ^ a b Echard, William (May 22, 2017). Psychedelic Popular Music: A History through Musical Topic Theory. Indiana University Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-253-02659-0.
  18. ^ Fonseca, Anthony J. (2019). Listen to Rap!: Exploring a Musical Genre. Greenwood. p. 68. ISBN 9798216112006.
  19. ^ a b Staff (August 15, 2023). "10 Of The Best: Rap's Most Psychedelic Albums: Hip-hop's extra-sensory documents..." Clash Music. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  20. ^ Shlomit Sofer, Danielle (July 5, 2022). Sex Sounds: Vectors of Difference in Electronic Music. MIT Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-262-36205-4.
  21. ^ "How Travis Scott's Days Before Rodeo Pushed Psychedelic Trap into the Mainstream". The Culture Crypt. July 29, 2023. Retrieved August 17, 2023.
  22. ^ Bromfield, Daniel (June 6, 2018). "Ski Mask the Slump God: Beware the Book of Eli". Spectrum Culture. Retrieved August 17, 2023.
  23. ^ Brickner-Wood, Brady (January 31, 2023). "How Lil Yachty Ended Up at His Excellent New Psychedelic Album Let's Start Here". GQ. Retrieved August 16, 2023.