How To Differentiate Different Types of Hip-Hop/Urban Music

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How To Differentiate Different Types of Hip-Hop/Urban Music

In this second part in a series presenting the different nightclub music styles to beginners, this article presents urban music played in nightclubs - Hip Hop, Contemporary  R&BReggaeton, and Funk. Again, depending on your location, urban music could be the most popular style in the clubs. Its roots stem from black culture and is fantastic to dance to because of the freedom in style and interpretation.

Regardless of the music categories, dancing to Urban Music can generally be placed under hip hop dance, which includes breaking, popping, locking, and freestyle, amongst  other styles.  I use elements from all these styles in my nightclub dance syllabus.

Whatever style of dance you do, what's important is musicality - how well a dance move fits the song.  For example, if the song has a hard, pronounced beat, then you definitely want to pop (flex your muscles to come to abrupt stops) at times.  If it has some soulful vocal sections, then perhaps some body waving or a slower, smooth dance move should be used.

Contemporary R&B

Also known as Urban Pop, R&B is so popular these days that it takes up most of's Hot 100 Chart.  If you don't know what R&B is, rather than describe it, just listen to the playlist below as well as some of these established artists: BeyonceKanye WestRihannaJustin Timberlake, and sometimes Drake.  Although R&B and Hip Hop can be considered separate genres, what's played in the nightclub is usually more a mix of Hip Hop/R&B than just pure R&B.  To better showcase your musicality, change your dance style during the hip hop sections.

Expect a lot of Contemporary R&B in nightclubs and focus more of your dancing here if you're planning on visiting different nightclubs.


Hip Hop

Also as popular as Contemporary R&B, it is also sometimes referred to as rap, though less and less these days.  Because hip hop is based on a rhythmic style of speaking, danceable hip hop songs must have other solid musical elements or a pop/R&B influence.   Otherwise, it may get repetitive without a vocal chorus, anthem, catchy beat, clear changes in the song, or faster tempo.   

I'm not a huge fan of pure hip hop clubs as my dancing becomes somewhat repetitive and the dance steps tend to be smaller.  That said, any music gets repetitive to dance to after a while, but for me, pure hip hop gets there a bit faster. 

Some old school hip hop songs make great breakbeats - songs good for breaking (or breakdancing, b-boying).  As fun as breaking is to watch, full-on breaking isn't what you want to learn for nightclubs.  Girls much prefer a dancer that interacts with them than doing showy moves in front of them.  However, the basic breaking steps are appropriate, and I use them for higher energy songs.


Though considered Urban Music, I've moved this to my "Basic Nightclub Music Styles - Latin" article since it receives more club play in Latin music clubs.


Not exactly considered Urban Music, thought the roots of Funk and R&B are both Soul.   Recently, dance shows have showcased funky street styles such as popping and locking more, which in turn has made them more popular. 

I give my dancing a unique twist with funky moves, which can range from being very stylized to cheesy fun.  Disco can be danced similarly.   It takes a bit more courage to pull off funky dancing, but they're always well-received.  If you're just starting out, try making your steps lower and more exaggerated.

If you're in a typical nightclub, you won't hear a lot of disco and funk since most songs date back over 20 years.  At the least, you're likely to encounter an Earth, Wind, and Fire song in a nightclub, probably the above track "September".  However, you'll hear the disco-funk influence in many urban pop and house songs. The below Justin Timberlake track is modernized funk.