Just as music is the lifeblood of culture, subgenres are similarly the lifeblood of the music industry. Umbrella genres of music, such as hip-hop and rock, have influenced hundreds of subgenres in which artists fall into different niches and explore different styles. For decades, these subgenres have served as industry milestones, responsible for some of the greatest chart-toppers and artists of today. Here’s a list of some of the most popular subgenres of music:
While punk, the child of rock music, made a name for itself in the mid-1970s, it was originally used to describe the garage musicians of the 60s. This subgenre was founded by amateur musicians who played harder and faster than the classic rock legends of their time. Punk music was infused with political lyrics and gave way to raucous shows. It was loud and angry, born out of frustration with the failures of the utopian ideals that imbued 60s activism. In a few short years, we went from The Beatles telling us "All You Need Is Love" to Black Flag saying "We are tired of your abuse / Try to stop us, it's no use."
Top Artists: Bad Brains, Minor Threat, The Clash
Trap music, the descendant of hip-hop, made an appearance in the 90s, springing out of the Atlanta rap scene. We can recognize a trap track “by its beat — stuttering kick drums, hi-hats, 808s and oodles of synthesizers,” according to ThoughtCo. In addition, unlike hip-hop, lyrics revolve entirely around “trappin'.” Trap music is rhyming about a “lifestyle of dealing, pimping and hustling," according to XXL.
Artists like UGK, 8Ball and OutKast paved the way for artists like T.I. and Gucci Mane with their use of the TR-808 drum machine, a sound synonymous with the genre. This subgenre continues to make an impact in music, going from the influenced to the influencer and birthing some of the greatest hits of our time.
Top Artists: T.I., Gucci Mane, Future, Young Thug
Dub can be best described as a reggae remix. This subgenre, born in Jamaica, manipulated classic reggae sounds with mixing boards to create dub. Dub most notably uses and remixes songs, using the B-side of existing songs. It also highlights instruments, creating a new and unique sound. Legends like Osborne “King Tubby” Ruddock, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Errol Thompson can be considered pioneers of dub, as they reinvented reggae by cutting and mixing songs and sounds. The music and sound of artists like Kanye West, Skrillex and Avicii all have traces of dub in them, decades after this subgenre arose from reggae.
Top Artists: Lee “Scratch” Perry, Mad Professor, Bill Laswell
House music all started in Chicago’s Southside in 1977, emerging from the ashes of disco. One of the influencers of house music, Frankie Knuckles, mixed old disco classics and new Eurobeat pop, birthing the genre that has since taken on a name for itself.
House music can best be characterized by “repetitive 4/4 beats, off-beat hi-hat cymbals, synthesized baselines and kick drums on every beat,” according to Diffen. In addition, house music takes advantage of drum machines, synthesizers and turntables to create that recognizable, house sound. This provocative, get-up-and-dance genre has left our feet thumping and bodies aching to dance for decades, with songs like Madonna’s “Vogue” or Frankie Knuckles’s “Your Love,” serving as iconic accomplishments of house.
Top Artists: Daft Punk, Madonna, Swedish House Mafia
Subgenres, with endless evidence, prove to be just as important in the music industry as larger, umbrella genres of music. From punk to house, subgenres have created timeless bangers that we will continue to dance to and celebrate until the end of time.