What Is Hip-Hop Violin?

A. Leverkuhn

Hip-hop violin is a form of hip-hop that employs the violin as an instrument. This unique style of music combines old and new forms of music in an interesting contrast. This relatively new type of music appeals to many people who are interested in both the hip-hop styles and music theory for string instruments.

Hip-hop violin employs the violin as an instrument.
Hip-hop violin employs the violin as an instrument.

Many forms of hip-hop violin rely on something that is used extensively in most forms of hip-hop, an activity called sampling. Rap and hip-hop artists typically sample other works, taking small bits of sound from existing recorded material and incorporating it into their own recorded “tracks” or songs. Sampling has been a popular technique in rap and hip-hop since these genres first began in the late 20th century.

Some hip-hop music includes violin music performed live during song recording.
Some hip-hop music includes violin music performed live during song recording.

When hip-hop violin includes samples of violins, these are generally looped and replayed over and over. Usually, they are played on top of extremely rhythmic backbeats or other percussion tracks, in strict rhythmic synchronicity. This allows for the unique contrast of string sounds and hip-hop percussion blending well.

In other forms of hip-hop violin, the violins are not sampled, but played live over the track. In these cases, the violin track tends to be less repetitive. There may be an entire score written for violin, where the hip-hop percussion and other elements are added separately. Sheet music may be a part of composition for these types of projects.

Often, hip-hop violin is done through collaboration. Artists known for hip-hop percussion and tracks are generally skilled in beats and related music. Violinists may also bring their own particular skills to a project. In finished examples of hip-hop styles with violin, it’s not uncommon to see the two different musicians, the violinist and the beat maker, billed separately on the album or song credits.

New artists are developing hip-hop styles with violin for a more mainstream audience. This kind of complex music is making its way into the greater music industry, with more awareness of how rap and hip-hop break out of strictly defined styles, and appeal to a wider audience. Hip-hop violin is one example of how these genres of music can become more melodic, and cross genres to reach out to more diverse listeners.

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