While the origins of hip hop can be traced back to the streets of New York City during the late 1970s, the enormous impact of the hip hop culture has been universally felt across the globe. Once described as an outlet for the disenfranchised, hip hop has found a home within all musical genres including unsuspecting avenues like country and heavy metal. The vast levels of experimentation by hip hop producers has kept the music fresh while sometimes leading back to its gritty NYC roots.
One such marriage of sound has been dubbed “lo-fi hip hop.” Lo-fi is short for low fidelity and is a form of music production that conjures lower quality sound than contemporary production to invoke a sense of warmth and nostalgia. Lo-fi gained popularity throughout the 1990s and was affectionately referred to as DIY music due to its amateurish effects that professionals usually avoid. The level of distortion is described as having the quality of an old record album or worn cassette tape.
Since lo-fi is so widely used in modern music, there is a large market to buy and sell lo-fi sample packs such as the ones found at sites like https://www.producerloops.com/lo-fi-hip-hop/. Although the lo-fi sound is low quality and the opposite of polished, it’s a unique sound not easily replicated and has been recognized as an art form in itself. Since it relies on simplicity rather than the complexity of music production, lo-fi producers are literally getting started in their basements with very little equipment.
Youtube has become a huge platform for lo-fi streaming by various levels of producers. Usually synced to an anime scene, lo-fi has found popularity with younger music enthusiasts and is marketed towards school age kids who seek relaxing study music. Lo-fi hip hop has managed to create its own subculture born from the colossal legions of hip-hop fans. Mesmerized by its raw straightforwardness, young listeners have bonded over the mellow sounds while being inspired to further the movement by creating their own harmonies.
The universal appeal of lo-fi hip hop being used as “elevator music” is a good indicator that the sound is set to stand the test of time. Usually devoid of vocals, the chill sounds of lo-fi hip hop can be played in public areas as well as around people of all ages and backgrounds without risking offense. Although the popularity of lo-fi has reemerged through the easily accessed internet, its origins can be traced back to simpler times when musicians were short on fancy equipment and created lo-fi music by default.
The lo-fi sound goes all the way back to rock and roll in the 1950s. A lot of the rock music created during this decade was made on limited budgets and with efficiency in mind. This makeshift approach using substandard equipment birthed the lo-fi culture that eventually evolved from basic necessity to a full-fledged money-making machine. The term lo-fi has seen such a recent surge that outside of the music scene, it’s being used to describe clothing, makeup, and lifestyles.