Whether you are just looking to relax, study or need something to read or play games to, you can’t do better than listening to some lo-fi hipp-hop. Applying dainty melodies – often on the piano, harp, guitar or saxophone – over a simple 4/4 beat, with artificial vinyl crackles, rain sounds and tape hisses added on top, lo-fi hip-hop is the aural equivalent of sitting by a warm fire on a rainy night.

Often accompanied by unashamedly twee and sentimental descriptions and generally friendly message boards, it represents some of the nicest and calmest parts of the internet. The effect of the music is not to really evoke anything in particular – descriptors of its sound often using vague words such as ‘mood’, ‘vibe’, ‘chilled’ and ‘comfy’ – yet the undeniably relaxing feel of the music can’t help but make one want to lie in bed and read books all day.

This guide has been created to help you find some of the best lo fi artists around. But for the uninitiated, perhaps it is worth asking:

What is Lo-Fi Hip Hop?

Lo-fi hip-hop is a polymorphic genre, different takes intersecting with jazz, synthwave, Studio Ghibli soundtracks, city pop and vaporwave. Its massive popularity can be put down to the relaxed copyright rules of YouTube, and the easy DIY aesthetic it encourages. Lo-fi hip-hop really took off with the rise of 24/7 channels, allowing people to listen to a continuous loop of laid-back tunes. Channels such as ChilledCow’s “lo-fi hip-hop radio – beats to relax/study to” are tremendously popular, with thousands of people listening at any given time. To help you find the best lo fi artists to listen to, we have created a list of who we consider being the 10 finest. Read all about it below.

Top 10 | Lo Fi Artists | Hip Hop

1. Jinsang

With his polished beat tapes reaching millions of views on YouTube, Jinsang is one of the most popular lo fi artists around. In a common theme, he adopts lower case letters describing his beat tapes – the most popular of which are solitude and life. With a strong focus on contrasting textures, his beats will often feature both earthy drum patterns against ethereal melodies. As is normal for the genre, his songs are rarely very long, with even his most popular track “affection” only lasting two minutes long. While lo-fi hip-hop is more about instrumentals than actual rapping, Jinsang will often drop in a brief vocal sample from classic 90s hip-hop, such as The Pharcyde’s “Passing Me By“. The effect of this is to create a hazy, nostalgic memory of the genre’s golden age, imbuing his beats with a certain type of wistfulness.

2. Knxwledge

One of the hallmarks of lo-fi producers is how prolifically they work. A great example of this is Knxwledge, who has released a remarkable 95 records on Bandcamp since 2009. Inspired by the beat-making of J Dilla – often considered one of the patron saints of lo-fi hip-hop – his songs often combine jazz, soul, and old-school hip-hop to create a uniquely layered sound. He has a crate-digging approach to creating music, pulling out obscure samples from 70s soul records to give his beats character. His success as a lo-fi producer translated across to contemporary hip-hop when he produced the beat for Kendrick Lamar’s “Momma” on To Pimp a Butterfly in 2014. Now, alongside Anderson. Paak, he is one half of duo NxWorries, a neo-soul experiment rooted in a similar lo-fi aesthetic.

3. Nymano

Nymano is one of the top lo fi producers on STEEZYASFUCK, a YouTube channel with over 469,000 subscribers. He creates a late-night, nostalgic sound, employing delicate keyboards, lush strings, evocative saxophones and samples from films discussing the nature of love. His track names – “Jazz & Rain”, “Comfy” and “Women” – evoke a certain kind of sentimental sadboy mood, often using jazzy, soul-searching melodies one can easily reminisce about past relationships to. And his beat tapes aren’t merely a collection of tracks, but expertly meld into one another, creating a kind of emotional narrative. Nymano is typical of a lot of lo fi artists in that his music is created for people to listen to alone, his hit “Solitude” starting with a vocal sample of a woman saying its better to be by oneself. To get started with his work, check out his beat tapes “Romance” and “Short Stories”.

4. Plusma

Plusma loves to make heavily distorted sounds, heavy on crackling beats and flanged melodies. The Hamburg-born producer is a great fan of creating atmosphere, often using natural sounds such as a coffee cup being put down or a train passing by to evoke the feeling of being alone in a big city. Unafraid to experiment with his beats, he often creates syncopated rhythms, giving his tunes somewhat of a disjointed feel. Not all his work could be described as lo-fi hip-hop, with many songs, such as “Borde”, moving into full-blown house territory, but they still come from the same wellspring of lo-fi sounds, especially by incorporating human sighs, vinyl hisses, and brief vocal raps. In fact, the success of Plusma’s music shows how lo-fi hip-hop can be a great starting point for producers, using that aesthetic to experiment when playing with other genres.

5. Ninjoi

Queens native Ninjoi was inspired by the jazz-hop music – in particular, the legendary Nujabes – coming out of Japan in the early 00s to create his own sound. This jazz inspiration gives his music a lot of souls, encompassing everything from the saxophone sounds he uses, the natural type of percussion that is layered on top of his hip-hop beats, and the seemingly improvised minor scale piano melodies. Additionally, as is incredibly common in the lo-fi world, Japanese anime is used to adorn his song and album covers, helping to create a certain melancholy vibe. To get started with his music, listen to mixtapes such as Kami Sama and benkyou. If you are short on time, then check out “Misty”: heavy on the rain sounds and featuring an evocative piano melody, and with lots of scales and strong jazzy harmonies, it is his biggest hit with nearly 300k views.

6. Aekasora

Its impossible to talk about lo-fi hip-hop without eventually mentioning the music of Studio Ghibli. Among other things, both the Japanese film studio and hip-hop are about creating spaces for calmness and contemplation, so they make a natural fit. This is especially true of the music of aekasora, who’s biggest hit “Path of the Wind” samples the main melody from My Neighbor Totoro to create an unmistakably relaxed and joyful sound. In a similar vein, the music from video games is especially important to the nostalgic mission of lo-fi hip-hop, aeksora’s quite literally titled “nostalgia” taking a melody from Zelda to evoke memories of rainy days spent playing video games. Other lo-fi tunes also show inspiration from Japan, such as the aptly titled “one day in Japan” which uses the traditional koto to create an explicitly oriental mood.

7. Coubo

Coubo’s immaculate productions seem both futuristic and backward-looking, combining old-school hip-hop samples with synthesizers to create a spaced-out, 3 am driving feel. With longer running times than most lo-fi artists, he creates complex and fully-fledged tracks that often reward repeat listens. Although anchored in the same familiar beats, there is a sense of progression here often missing in other artists, often leading him to be described as a vaporware artist — something also stressed in the clean LA feel of his album art. His most iconic hit is “Myrrh” — a regular on 24/7 lo-fi playlists — which loops a simple 80s style melody against swung downtempo beats to create an infinitely relaxed feel. If you are looking for a place to get started with his work, check out beat tapes “Selcouth” and “Savour“.

8. Engelwood

With over 43k followers on Soundcloud, the Wisconsin-born artist Engelwood is one of the most popular in the business. With a name that sounds like Inglewood in Los Angeles, he evokes a particularly sunny and beachside vibe. Often using gypsy-style guitar melodies, reminiscent of Django Reinhart, and combining them with cheery drumbeats, Engelwood’s sound is at once familiar and uniquely his. He also uses samples from Japanese City Pop bands such as Izumi Kobayashi & Flying Mimi Band, mining the bright late 70s, early 80s feel of this music to create a happy and easygoing city-by-the-sea feel. His most popular albums include “Hotel Wood“and “Boardwalk Bumps which perhaps in their generous genre-melding way, including full raps by artists such as Yung Gravy, and complex, rich instrumentation, points the way forward for lo-fi hip-hop to grow.

9. Kudasai

Writing tracks with titles like “The girl I haven’t met, “When I see you” and “She said, I wonder“, Kudasai represents the sappier, sentimental side of lo-fi hip-hop, often featuring vocals that stress the emotional isolation of his tracks. A lot of the microgenre’s success has come from tuning into a certain melancholy in younger people, helping them to deal with issues such as crushes and mental health problems. With an often bare-approach to song-building, sometimes featuring nothing less than a guitar, drums and atmospheric sounds, Kudasai’s tracks are raw and heartfelt. To get a full idea of what his sound is like, we recommend listening to his Falling EP, which is a masterpiece in creating a certain melancholy vibe and maintaining it throughout several different tracks.

10. Nujabes

You can’t talk about lo-fi hip-hop without mentioning the legacy of Nujabes, who is easily the most important figure in the entire movement. As an article on genius.com points out, his unique mixture of hip-hop beats and jazz samples helped to set the template for the genre. Starting many years earlier from any other artist we have mentioned began, he rose to prominence providing the soundtrack to Samurai Champloo along with American rapper Fat Jon now considered a key touchstone in the creation of the modern lo-fi hip-hop sound. What he did that was so influential was, place the importance of the beat and the melody ahead of any rapper’s bars, allowing atmospheric instrumental hip-hop to become a major genre in and of itself.

The popularity of this approach allows people to listen to the music without being distracted, making it perfect as background noise for other activities such as reading, working and gaming. Dying too soon in a traffic accident in 2010, his legacy lives on in YouTube where there are countless remixes of his work.

Where Can I Listen to Lo-Fi Hip-Hop?

We hope you have enjoyed reading our guide. The best place to start listening to these artists and more is YouTube, especially channels such as ChilledCow, STEEZYASFUCK and Chillhop music. Then if you want to buy the music directly from the artists, almost all of them have Bandcamp accounts. Soundcloud is also a good resource as it is usually the first place that they will drop new tracks. To discover even more artists, we would recommend tuning into 24/7 lo-fi radio stations as they have a rotating playlist of tracks that means they always play the latest and freshest beats. To learn more about lo-fi hip-hop, or even how to create some of the beats yourself, read our complete guide to all you need to know about lo-fi hip hop now!

Redmond Bacon

Redmond Bacon

Contributor

Redmond Bacon is a film obsessive and amateur music producer who can easily spend all day either at the cinema or making fresh beats. Catch his writing over at redmondbacon.co.uk.

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