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Xu, H. Impact of the Internet on Hip Hop. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 11 December 2023).
Xu H. Impact of the Internet on Hip Hop. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed December 11, 2023.
Xu, Handwiki. "Impact of the Internet on Hip Hop" Encyclopedia, (accessed December 11, 2023).
Xu, H.(2022, November 30). Impact of the Internet on Hip Hop. In Encyclopedia.
Xu, Handwiki. "Impact of the Internet on Hip Hop." Encyclopedia. Web. 30 November, 2022.
Impact of the Internet on Hip Hop

The World Wide Web has changed the genre of hip hop. It has given hip-hop artists the ability to create and share music at incredible rates. Through the constant influx of new music being posted online by artists, new styles and genres of hip hop have been created.

hip hop hip-hop music

1. Hip Hop before the Web

According to media analyst Kembrew McLeod, before hip-hop artists could upload music online to be shared with large audiences, they had to rely heavily on record labels, which agreed to sell an artist's music, under certain conditions which usually gave the record label more money from each sale than the artist.[1] To this day, hip-hop artists still make only a small percentage of profit from the royalties of record sales. In some cases, creating and selling an album leaves an artist in debt, because they are responsible for funding the recording of the album, as well as the production of the music videos that are used to promote these albums.[1] Some hip-hop artists end up only breaking even with record companies after they produce an album, because of all of the expenses that they pay to effectively market and produce their albums and the small percentage of royalties received.[1]

2. Impact of the Web on Hip Hop

2.1. Hip-Hop Artists' Web Usage

At the beginning of the 21st century, record sales began to dip quickly, because of the rise of peer-to-peer file sharing.[2] In order to offset the revenue lost to illegal downloading, record companies began restructuring the traditional deals. As a result, fewer record deals were offered to hip-hop artists, and those that were offered were even more favorable to record companies. A common deal offered to artists was the "360 deal", which gave the record company complete artistic and business control over their artist's music.[3]

Hip hop started out as an underground genre, with very little support from the general public. Over the years, it garnered massive mainstream success; and hip-hop artists, like artists of all genres, began to depend heavily on the record companies to get their music out. The Web provided artists with a new way to sell music, without dealing with record companies. The do-it-yourself ethic propagated by the Web encouraged many artists to produce and sell music on their own or collaboratively with other artists.

2.2. Impact of Digitally Released Mix Tapes

With the ability to share music with large audiences across the web, hip-hop artists began creating and distributing mix tapes on the web. In 2007, rapper Lil Wayne rose to fame for releasing hundreds of original songs online to the public. The songs were free downloads in the form of mix tapes, on which he built songs from the beats of other artists. An example of this was his double-mix-tape release Da Drought 3.[4] All of his mix tapes were either unofficially leaked or posted on the Web. Although Lil Wayne did not profit directly from these free mix tapes he did benefit indirectly: the ideas and feedback that he collected while making the mix tapes helped him create his bestselling commercial album Tha Carter III.[4] Released in June 2008, Tha Carter III sold nearly three million copies, making it the top-selling recording of the year in the United States.[5] It also won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album that year.[6] Since then, hip-hop artists have followed in the same path as Lil Wayne, using freely released mix tapes to develop their skills and build popularity.

2.3. Impact of Blogs

Modern-day hip hop has been greatly impacted by the availability of blogs on the Web. Various blogs, such as XXL, Thisis50, HotNewHipHop, Rap-Up and Raptology feature services for amateur artists to post their music to audiences on their website.[7] These services usually have a rating system or comment section for the amateur artists to receive feedback about their submitted music.

Record companies also rely on hip-hop blogs to promote the music of their artists, often leaking the songs off of their artist's albums in order to build momentum for their album releases.[8]

Rise of blogs

The rise of the internet and blog culture caused the rates for print advertising to decline rapidly. Originally, few of these magazine publications were unwilling to make the jump fully from print to web-driven direction due to the lower rates for online advertising. However, more than and unlike other genres of music, hip-hop's 24/7 news cycle has a constant churn of news and music - diss tracks, radio freestyles, rumours, and illicit mixtapes that has long been the culture's hidden backbone. This market flourishes outside the market of radio singles and major label albums.

Likewise, the nonstop drip-drip-drip of music leaks had become a flood. With the music industry helpless to stop up the dam, the genre had a massive, invested audience, a surplus of product, and no platform.

This was the empty space a new generation of personalities and enthusiasts clambered to fill in 2009. And soon business was booming. As more and more readers shifted to the Internet for daily news and music, there was a huge opportunity to shape the conversation—and few magazines aggressively pursuing online audiences. In their place grew an ad hoc collection of independent hip-hop blogs, which rose in influence disproportionate to their small size, when compared with the fully staffed magazines that came before them. In 2008, while print media foundered, seven of the biggest brand names in hip-hop blogging came together to form the New Music Cartel, whose members became the gatekeepers in a new era for hip-hop media: 2DopeBoyz, RapCastle, YouHeardThatNew, Xclusives Zone, AllRapNews, Miss Info, DaJaz1, and the father of them all, Raptology. [9]

2.4. Impact of Social Media Outlets

In order to promote their music, both independent and mainstream hip-hop artists have begun to utilize social-networking sites. Independent artists rely heavily on social networking sites as a medium to give their fans music, and to get instantaneous feedback on it. For example, the former-underground rap group Odd Future relied on the social networking site Tumblr to release free mixtapes to their fans.[10] Their Tumblr releases and mixtapes were met with such acclaim and positive feedback that they were able to start their own record label and go on a North American tour.[11][12] Twitter especially has become a platform for hip-hop artists. Unlike any time before, artists now have the ability to remain constantly in contact with their fans through continual updates and new content, and to further grow their initial fan base on a massive scale. According to a hip-hop panel at the music festival South by Southwest called "From the Blocks to the Blogs", Twitter can be "used as a tool to connect to fans but also as a way to prove to labels and tastemakers that they actually do have a following."[13] Major artists also used social-networking sites to promote their music. For example, in the summer of 2010, mainstream hip-hop artist Kanye West used his Twitter page to announce that he would be giving out free music to fans via the G.O.O.D. Fridays series that he created, as well as using it to announce release dates and details about his future commercial releases.[14][15]

In a relatively short period of time, social media software, apps and sites have become another audience-building resource available to artists, allowing them to release music and sell products − without being forced to rely on often reluctant or short-sighted record label executives to do all this for them when they decide get around to it or find the funds. Today's social media-astute artist is no longer a record label's product or property as in the past. Instead, today's artist-entrepreneur can become master of his or her own brand on his or her own terms.

With the widespread adoption of social media platforms, the veil of mystery that once served as a buffer between artists and fans has now been lifted. Through photos, videos and tweets, you can see what your favourite artists are doing day to day and hear their opinions on a variety of topics. It's a relationship that's become more than just the music. It's personal. Fans learn to appreciate the person behind the music. This strengthened connection between artists and fan fosters a new level of investment in artists. [16]

2.5. Impact on Rap Beef

As a genre that was born from battling and competition, beef has always been at the backbone of hip-hop culture. However, as the Internet has completely revolutionized everything from how artists build buzz to how they promote and distribute their albums, social media in particular has changed how rappers argue with one another. In 2014, you are hard pressed to find a nice piece of rap beef that didn't play out at least partly over Twitter, Instagram, or Vine. There's the blatant Twitter call-outs that lead to in-song and online back-and-forths, the sub-tweets and sneak disses that take a conflict from 0-100 real quick, the confusing fight Vines, the ominous unfollows, the passive aggressive Instagram likes, and much, much more.[17]

With the millions of followers an artist has, there is no surprise how much attention their tweets get – especially if it is a war of words against another rapper. Twitter and Instagram are both public arenas and when rappers are feuding, fans and other celebrities will also voice their opinions and take sides.

The most talked about rap feud in 2015 was Drake versus Meek Mill. It all started when the Philly rapper insulted Drake on Twitter for allegedly using ghostwriters. After receiving no response from Drake, fans, other rappers, producers, and radio personalities quickly took sides on social media. The anticipation to hear from Drake was real. After a week of silence, Drake responded with the song “Charged Up”.

And with the unenthused articles and tweets about the track, Drake hit back with “Back to Back”. Then came the memes, viral tweets and Instagram responses. When Meek released his “Wanna Know” comeback, the conversation that ensued went viral and kept that status for weeks. Drake could not help but become a part of it and he ended up posting an Instagram response by uploading a caption-less photo of him laughing.[18]

On the positive side, arguments taking place largely over the Internet means the disputes are kept mostly on the e-streets and out of the real streets, avoiding the violence that has tragically plagued hip-hop in the past. On the other hand, the general ease and lack of accountability of social media mean these arguments are becoming incredibly common and extremely repetitive.[17]

3. Independent Web Artists Challenging Old Ideas

Hip-hop music blogs and e-communities brought about the creation of new subgenres and styles within hip hop. An example of a new style coming into existence because of the Web is rapper Lil B, who is known for his unconventional use of flow-and-rhyme scheme in his rap music. Lil B's music is very different from most mainstream hip-hop music. However, he built a solid following partially because of his extensive use of social media sites, and also due to the constant controversial and thought provoking music, which he makes available for free online.[19]

In 2011, Lil B decided to challenge the hegemonic attitudes that the hip-hop community has towards homosexuality when he announced that his next album would be entitled I'm Gay (I'm Happy). Lil B's album title garnered caused so much outrage in the hip-hop community that he began receiving death threats.[20][21] Once released, Lil B's album I'm Gay (I'm Happy) garnered positive feedback from critics and hip-hop artists alike. Successful mainstream rapper Lupe Fiasco went so far as to call the album "genius".[22]


  1. McLeod, Kembrew (November 2005). "MP3s Are Killing Home Taping: The Rise of Web Distribution and Its Challenge to the Major Label Music Monopoly". Communication Studies Publication. Popular Music and Society 28 (1). 
  2. Baym, Nancy K. (July 2010). "Rethinking the Music Industry". Communication & Mass Media Complete 8.3 (Popular Communication): 177–180. 
  3. Mcgee, Alan (25 October 2007). "Recording contract? Rip-off, you mean". Music Blog (London: The Guardian). 
  4. Thibeault, Mathew D. (October 2010). "Hip-Hop, Digital Media, and the Changing Face of Music Education". General Music Today 24 (1): 46–49. doi:10.1177/1048371310379097. 
  5. Hasty, K.. "Taylor Swift reigns again on Billboard 200". Billboard Underground. 
  6. Parele, Jon (9 February 2009). "Full-Tilt Performances and Defiant Bravado". The New York Times Company. 
  7. "XXL Launches Reviews & The Break Sections". XXL News. XXL. 
  8. Suddath, Claire (8 July 2010). "Album Leaks: A Nightmare, or Opportunity?". TIME Entertainment (Time).,8599,2002094,00.html. 
  9. Drake, David. "How the New Music Cartel Redefined the Music Industry". 
  10. Breihan, Tom. "Odd Future Mixtapes". Pitchfork Media. 
  11. Kavner, Lucas (27 April 2011). "Odd Future: The Popular L.A. Hip-Hop Collective 'Sign To Themselves'"., Inc.. 
  12. Horowitz, Steven J.. "Odd Future Announce North American Fall Tour". HipHopDX. 
  13. "SXSW 2012: Panel Addresses How Social Media is Affecting Hip-Hop and the Music Industry". 
  14. Stiernberg, Bonnie. "Kanye West Announces "Good Fridays" Song Giveaways". Paste Media Group. 
  15. Lipshutz, Jason (5 October 2010). "Kanye West Announces 'Dark Twisted Fantasy' Title and Details". Billboard. 
  16. Pugsley, Adam. "Trigger Fingers Turn To Twitter Fingers: How the internet is remaking rap beefs". 
  17. Slavich, Ben. "How Rap Beefs Played Out on Social Media in 2014". 
  18. Rodrigues, Chenae. "The Height of Social Media Beef". 
  19. Noz, Andrew. "Lil B: Understanding Rap's New Rebel". NPR. 
  20. Iandoli, Kathy. "Lil B Titles New Album 'I'm Gay,' GLAAD Reacts". MTV. 
  21. Soderberg, Brandon (22 April 2011). "The Debate About Rap, Misogyny, and Homophobia". SPIN Magazine. 
  22. Ramirez, Erika (30 June 2011). "Lil B Releases 'I'm Gay' Album Without Warning, Lupe Fiasco Says Title Is 'Genius'". Billboard. 
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