The Rise of Lo-Fi Hip-Hop

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a huge rise in lo-fi hip-hop, which has grown and grown thanks to an underground scene of YouTubers, Twitch streamers and DIY musicians.

These lo-fi hip-hop tracks, otherwise known as chillhop or lo-fi study beats, tend to run on infinite loops powered by YouTube’s recommendations, autoplay and Spotify’s radio features.

Lo-fi hip-hop tracks often share a familiar looking aesthetic. An image of an anime girl, studying or staring longingly out of a bedroom window onto a picturesque landscape is coupled with a downtempo mix of simple drum loops, chilled synths, unobtrusive vocal samples and nostalgia driving retro noises.

While there are loads of these channels out there, probably the most famous one is managed by ChilledCow, who has over 2.3 million followers and curates a live stream with a carefully chosen playlist which can have thousands of viewers at any given time.

So how did a relatively simple style of music find its way to be one of the most popular current genres?

Lo-fi’s roots go way back to the 80s. A generation of music producers chose to make music at home with a DIY approach, the opposite of overproduced ‘high fidelity’ sounds.

One of the main draws of creating this type of music is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, clicks, hisses, vinyl crackle and distorted sounds are all part and parcel of any decent chillhop mix.

This is, in part, thanks to the fact that there were no DAW systems out there in the 80s and 90s, and if you wanted to make your own music on a budget then you had to get creative to compensate.

Even though music software and hardware are more affordable and accessible than ever before, there’s a new wave of producers like Jinsang, Sugi.wa and j’san who are bringing the DIY approach back.

The hallmarks of lo-fi hip-hop

The main calling cards of lo-fi hip-hop that run through most of the tracks in the genre is a fusion between hip-hop and jazz coupled with mellow, nostalgic and atmospheric sounds.

As it relies heavily on a simplistic approach, most tracks only feature around four or five instruments or music samples, along with grainy sounds you expect from crackly tape or vinyl records, birdsong and other sound effects to keep your ears interested yet still be unobtrusive.

Clocking in at around 3 minutes per track, the endless loops of these chilled out mixes are ideal for zoning out and finding flow while you study, read or just relax.

Lo Fi Hip Hop Samples from Prime Loops

Sudden resurgence

While it’s tricky to put a point on exactly what has caused this sudden resurgence in lo-fi hip-hop, it’s no doubt been helped by YouTube’s Live video functionality, as well as the growing trend of radio streaming and recommendation services like Spotify and Soundcloud.

As related tracks are always queued up and played automatically, it’s ideal for leaving on the background while you get on with other tasks.

Samples for creating lo-fi hip-hop tracks

If you want to start creating your own lo-fi or chillhop mixes, it’s never been easier to get your hands on quality hip-hop samples which you can process and edit to give it your own spin.

Start with a simple drum loop, add an ambient synth or keyboard, some creative use of brass or strings and a vocal line to give it some interest and you’re on your way.

You don’t need the best vocal sample packs to make a decent chillhop track, just the imagination to take existing vocals or samples from just about any source and give it a lo-fi vibe by lowering the bitrate, sample rate or by adding a bit of extra distortion.

Gear-wise, make sure you've got a decent set of plugins, including EQ, compressor and distortion. Most DAWs will come pre-loaded with plugins but if you want to try some of the best free VST plugins, check out our previous blog post here.

Lo-fi sample packs from Prime Loops

We've a whole heap of killer lo-fi hip-hop loops and samples for you to play around with, all featuring the essential hallmarks and sounds you'd expect to hear in tracks from the likes of ChilledCow, EmotionalTokyo and AnimeVibe.

XXL Audio Lo Fi Hip Hop Samples from Prime Loops

XXL Audio's Lo-Fi Hop Hop and Lo-Fi Jazz Hop feature warm Rhodes samples and dusty vinyl static right through to jazz inspired melodies and lo-fi beats.

Digital Felicity Lo Fi Hip Hop Samples from Prime Loops

If you want even more versatility and atmosphere, Digital Felicity's Lost Without You: Lo-Fi Beat Kit and Lo-Fi Beat Tools have easy to use Massive and Serum presets that can be easily dropped into your DAW, as well as anime vocal one-shots and a huge collection of ambient and foley sounds to complete the lo-fi aesthetic.

Touch Loops and Origin Sounds Lo Fi Hip Hop Samples from Prime Loops

For straight up beat making with a lo-fi twist, Lo-Fi Hip Hop Elements by Touch Loops and Lo-Fi Beats by Origin Sound feature essential tape-driven drum one-shots and bass hits as well as dusty vinyl crackles and outdoor ambient sounds to give your mix a solid anchor point around your drum sounds.

Download music sample packs from Prime Loops here
Follow Prime Loops on Facebook, Twitter & Soundcloud
Need more inspiration? Create a Prime Loops account and get a free welcome pack of loops and samples




Related Articles

  • 5 Reasons Why Your Sample Pack Matters

    5 Reasons Why Your Sample Pack Matters

    Music sampling is becoming increasingly big business, with more and more commercial records throwing back to pop records from years gone by, crossing genres to borrow catchy hooks or reworking entire

    Read More 2
  • How To Create Unique Mixes Using Hip Hop Samples

    How To Create Unique Mixes Using Hip Hop Samples

    Few types of music allow you to experiment creatively with the freedom to cherry pick from just about any other genre quite like hip hop does. Since its emergence in the late 70s and early 80s, hip ho

    Read More 2
  • Top 10 Hip Hop Production Techniques

    Top 10 Hip Hop Production Techniques

    If you're looking for some useful hip hip production tips and tricks to make your hip hop tracks hit harder, you're in the right place. Untie your tongue and test out these 10 hip hop production tech

    Read More 2
  • How Did Hip Hop Influence The Music Industry?

    How Did Hip Hop Influence The Music Industry?

    Ah, hip hop. The start of popularised sampled music. As a wise man once said: "Hip Hop, it don't stop." ...But if it don't stop, there where is it heading? And what has it changed along the way?

    Read More 2