The Chill World of Lo-fi Hip-Hop

A niche genre that is easily recognizable by an animated girl doing her homework


Lo-fi-hip hop or low fidelity hip hop is an aesthetic sub-genre that came to fruition because of the internet, much like other aesthetic sub-genres such as Vaporwave, Future Funk and Outrun. Although it gained popularity back in 2017, this is not entirely a brand new genre. Some credit Japanese record producer Nunjabes and American rapper and record producer J Dilla as the “godfathers” of lo-fi hip hop while others point to further back in time to the 80s, 90s or even 50s. Despite where it originated from, the impact and popularity that has emerged from this genre is clear.

Its rapid popularity can be thanked in part to the YouTube algorithm. A simple search of “lo-fi”, “chill beats”, or the obvious, “lo-fi hip hop” can bring you the massive amount of live streams and playlists that Youtube channels have curated, ready for you to study/relax to, and because of those recommendations and algorithms, many channels who upload this niche genre of music have gained millions of followers and counting.

According to the 2019 Music Consumer Insight Report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 77% of people around the world have used Youtube for music in September of that year. This can be proven true by how many people are subscribed to these Youtube channels who are uploading songs from various artists and having live streams that go on for 24 hours for anyone to come in and out whenever they want.

Screenshot from Youtube

One of the biggest Youtube channels, Chilledcow, has almost 4 million subscribers as of December 10th, with around 18,000 to 20,000 active daily listeners on its 24-hour live stream leading the way. Chillhop, another massive Youtube channel, has 2.5 million subscribers with a combined 5,000 daily listeners on both of its live streams. Lastly, College Music and STEZZYASFUCK with their respected number of subscribers of 1 million and 690,000 with other channels tagging along.

Artists such as Tommpabeats, BSD.U, Jinsang, The Deli, Nymano, and Eevee, to name a few, have become well-known underground lo-fi artists/producers artists due to those exact playlists. Not only it has reached to high regards by but a handful of artists such as Bishop Nerhu, Chester Watson, and Joji, have their own spin on using this style of music with their lyrics. All these individuals give you a glimpse of what it’s like being in this niche world.

The niche genre has sprawled countless memes about the long titles used for the genre and questioning whether the girl will ever finish her homework. It has been made fun of by YouTubers such as FrankJavCee and Imagaginary Ambition on how anyone can simply make a lo-fi hip hop beat by grabbing a sample drum beat and piano keys, and sandwich it all together with an anime character, sprinkling a bit of “depression aesthetic” and boom, you got yourself a Lo-fi Hip Hop song to chill/study to.

Via: Youtube, Opus the Fox

Even popular late-night television program block, Adult Swim, has given their take on the genre by uploading their own lo-fi hip hop playlist to relax/study to.

Via: Youtube, Adult Swim

Despite all the memes, it is still loved by many people because of its calm, catchy melody, and soothing sounds. The genre itself is not meant to be in your face with guitar riffs, bass drops, or heavy lyrics — it was meant to be background music with relaxing energy that often accompanied by short audio clips of well-known rappers like Biggie Smalls or cartoon characters saying something uplifting. These extra add-ons play on the nostalgia factor, drawing in their audience more by having the listener harken back to better times.

Artists such as Tommpabeats, BSD.U, Jinsang, The Deli, Nymano and Eevee have become well-known underground lo-fi record producers due to those YouTube playlists. More than a backing track, a handful of artists such as Bishop Nerhu, Chester Watson and most of all Joji have developed their own spin on the genre with their lyricism. All these individuals give you a glimpse of what it’s like being in this niche world.

Via: ChilledCow’s Facebook Page

Lo-fi Hip Hop YouTube channels are still thriving in live streaming with daily listeners getting their fix of lo-fi hip hop whenever they need it. The fan base is still alive through fan art and cosplay. It’s a genre that is by the Internet, for the Internet. Will we be hearing it soon on the Top 40 charts? Maybe. Is it another passing fad, reduced to a meme and soon to be replaced by the new hot thing? Possibly. One thing is for certain, it’ll be there waiting for someone in need of chill beats to study or relax to, and the girl in the endlessly looping video will continue her homework nonetheless.