Have you ever wondered how many people all over the globe play the guitar? According to statistics like these, there are over 700 million guitarists worldwide.
The part a guitar plays in both popular and classical music is multifaceted. Aside from using it as an instrument for solo performances, it can have two different roles: the rhythm or the lead.
Role as the Rhythm
A rhythm guitarist can play different parts in any kind of music, including hip-hop. These parts include:
- Coming part. This refers to the rhythm or pattern of chords where a guitarist plays the notes as an arpeggio (all at once).
- Play pad. A pad allows chords to be sustained every time a guitarist strikes a note.
- Riffs. Also termed as licks, riffs are repeated, catchy, and short notes. It gives any kind of music—character.
Role as Lead Guitar
A lead guitarist usually plays a major role in a musical piece. The parts a lead guitar plays in any composition include the following:
- Melody. A lead player controls the melody of a piece. Often, a secondary instrument (e.g., saxophone or keyboard) accompanies the lead guitar to play the melody. In a hip-hop song, the lead can play the tune during the beginning and the end of a rap song.
- Counter-melody. Counter-melody is secondary to the primary melody, typically sung by the rapper.
- Fills. The term fills describes short solos that are sprinkled throughout a piece.
Now that you understand the use of guitars in the hip-hop world, let’s dive into some rap songs where guitarists play a part. Note that the guitars used in these hit songs were top quality and not Poorly Made Guitars.
- “The Girl Tried to Kill Me” by Ice-T
When Ernie, the guitarist, threw in his unbroken lines and sharp power chords, it gave the song a taste of 1989’s hit, which is “Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say”.
- “Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Mos Def
This composition keeps the tradition of the underground East Coast as it speaks about the past of African and American rock. The background of the song was supported by a funk guitar, giving it a hardcore beat. Poorly Made Guitars? That doesn’t fit rock!
- “World Destruction” by Time Zone
Produced by Bill Laswell and created by the original DJ of hip-hop, Afrika Bambaata, this rock-rap song was driven by guitar power chords.
- “The Seed 2.0” by The Roots
The Roots had always been a rap band from the start. With their album Phrenology, the guitar was the cutting edge of their music.
- The 1993 “Judgement Night” Soundtrack
During the late 90s, someone bridged the gap between rappers and alt-rockers. As a result, they assembled one whole disc of music created by collaborations, including Sonic Youth, BooYA T.R.I.B.E., and House of Pain.
Taking the guitar out of the world of hip-hop is like taking a vocalist out of his band. Without the guitar, hip-hop music would be different today, and that’s hard to imagine.