What 2 Guitar Styles Are Both Used in Hip-Hop Music?

by Patria
Rock Guitar

Hip-hop music is a genre that has continuously evolved since its inception in the late 1970s. While traditionally dominated by beats, samples, and rapping, hip-hop has always been open to incorporating diverse musical elements. One of the most intriguing aspects of its evolution is the inclusion of guitars, which have brought a new layer of depth and texture to the genre. This article explores two prominent styles of guitar used in hip-hop music: Funk Guitar and Rock Guitar. We will delve into their characteristics, historical contexts, notable examples, and their impact on hip-hop music.

1. Funk Guitar in Hip-Hop

Characteristics of Funk Guitar

Funk guitar is characterized by its rhythmic and percussive playing style, often using techniques like “chicken scratch” and muted strumming to create a groovy, danceable rhythm. The guitar in funk music emphasizes syncopation, which is the displacement of beats or accents in the music, creating a feeling of offbeat rhythm. This style often incorporates clean, bright tones, with minimal distortion, focusing on the clarity of each note.

Historical Context of Funk Guitar

Funk music emerged in the mid-1960s as a distinct genre, heavily influenced by soul, jazz, and R&B. Artists like James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone were pioneers of funk, with their music featuring prominent and innovative guitar work. The guitar in funk music was not just a background instrument but played a crucial role in driving the rhythm and energy of the songs.

Funk Guitar in Hip-Hop

Hip-hop artists began integrating funk guitar elements into their music as early as the 1980s. This was a natural progression given the genre’s roots in sampling and DJ culture, where funk records were frequently used for their breakbeats and grooves. The guitar riffs from these records found their way into hip-hop tracks, either through direct sampling or live instrumentation.

Notable Examples

Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” (1992): This seminal album featured heavy use of funk guitar, particularly in tracks like “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.” Dr. Dre’s production style, often referred to as G-funk, heavily borrowed from funk music, with smooth, melodic guitar lines played by session musicians like Mike “Crazy Neck” Sims.

Snoop Dogg’s “Doggystyle” (1993): Following the G-funk blueprint, this album included numerous funk guitar elements, enhancing the laid-back, groovy feel of tracks such as “Gin and Juice.”

OutKast’s “Aquemini” (1998): This album showcased a fusion of funk, soul, and hip-hop, with prominent guitar work in songs like “Rosa Parks,” where the guitar played a central role in the song’s rhythm and melody.

Impact of Funk Guitar on Hip-Hop

The inclusion of funk guitar in hip-hop has had a lasting impact on the genre. It brought a richer, more dynamic sound to hip-hop productions, making them more appealing to a broader audience. The rhythmic complexity and danceable grooves of funk guitar have influenced countless hip-hop tracks, contributing to the genre’s diversity and evolution.

2. Rock Guitar in Hip-Hop

Characteristics of Rock Guitar

Rock guitar is often associated with heavier, more aggressive sounds. It typically involves the use of distortion, overdrive, and various effects to create powerful, sustained tones. Rock guitar can range from simple, driving power chords to complex solos and riffs, making it a versatile tool in music production.

Historical Context of Rock Guitar

Rock music emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, evolving from earlier genres like blues, country, and R&B. It quickly became a dominant force in popular music, with the electric guitar becoming an iconic symbol of the genre. Bands like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix popularized rock guitar techniques that would influence generations of musicians.

Rock Guitar in Hip-Hop

The fusion of rock guitar with hip-hop began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, driven by a desire to push the boundaries of both genres. This fusion was marked by collaborations between rock and hip-hop artists, as well as hip-hop producers incorporating rock guitar elements into their tracks.

Notable Examples

Run-D.M.C.’s “Walk This Way” (1986): This collaboration with Aerosmith is one of the most famous examples of rock guitar in hip-hop. The song featured Aerosmith’s Joe Perry on guitar, blending rock and hip-hop in a groundbreaking way that appealed to fans of both genres.

Beastie Boys’ “Licensed to Ill” (1986): This album was a significant milestone in the fusion of rock and hip-hop. Tracks like “Fight For Your Right” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” featured heavy use of rock guitar, contributing to the album’s raw, energetic sound.

Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” (2003): Produced by Rick Rubin, this track features a prominent rock guitar riff that drives the song’s aggressive, confrontational tone. Rubin’s background in rock production helped bring a distinct edge to the track.

Impact of Rock Guitar on Hip-Hop

The incorporation of rock guitar into hip-hop has expanded the genre’s sonic palette, allowing for more diverse and innovative productions. It has also facilitated crossover appeal, drawing rock fans into the hip-hop fold and vice versa. The energy and intensity of rock guitar have added a new dimension to hip-hop, influencing the development of subgenres like rap rock and nu-metal.

3. Comparing Funk and Rock Guitar in Hip-Hop


Both funk and rock guitars have contributed significantly to the evolution of hip-hop, albeit in different ways. They have provided new textures and layers to hip-hop music, enriching its sound and broadening its appeal. Both styles emphasize rhythm and groove, albeit through different techniques and tones, and have been pivotal in creating some of hip-hop’s most memorable tracks.


Funk guitar in hip-hop tends to focus on clean, rhythmic playing, contributing to the groove and danceability of the track. It is often used to create a smooth, laid-back vibe. In contrast, rock guitar brings a more aggressive, distorted sound, adding intensity and power to hip-hop tracks. While funk guitar often supports the rhythm section, rock guitar can take on a more prominent, soloistic role.

See Also: Hip Hop vs Trap Rap: What’s the Difference?


The use of funk and rock guitar in hip-hop music has enriched the genre, adding depth, diversity, and new dimensions to its sound. Funk guitar has brought rhythmic complexity and groovy, danceable elements, while rock guitar has added power, intensity, and a raw edge. Both styles have played crucial roles in the evolution of hip-hop, influencing countless artists and tracks. As hip-hop continues to evolve, the fusion of these guitar styles with other musical elements will undoubtedly lead to even more innovative and exciting sounds.

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