Hip Hop is diverse and has a variety of different sounds and influences compared to many genres just like rock music does. Do you feel that the lack of definitive sub-genres in hip hop has had more of a positive or a negative effect on how hip hop is viewed?
Well, first off, who are we talking about that is viewing hip hop? I’m going to assume you’re talking about the masses who may not be involved in the culture at all.
I don’t think the lack of easily definable sub-genres has anything to do with how hip hop is viewed. Hip hop has plenty of sub-genres. I think the problem is artists rarely ever coin these sub-genres. Critics and fans do. The artists just sit back and make whatever music they feel like making. The critics and fans are the ones who are so bent on having some concrete term for the music they’re listening to. Whether it’s indie rap, backpack rap, boom bap rap, swag rap, conscious rap, noise rap, it’s all rap. I don’t think the fact that Brother Ali is not separated from Lil B by a plastic card in the record store has any effect, positive or negative, on how the culture is viewed by anyone.
Same goes for rock & roll. I doubt bands set out with the purpose of being labeled shit like glam rock, pop rock, indie rock, hard rock, etc. These stupid terms can’t really be nailed down to a science anyway. There’s no formula saying that “pop rock has to sound exactly like this otherwise it must be hard rock.” Again it’s just critics and fans doing this shit.
It might be a little different with metal bands. Some metal bands set out to specifically be involved in a certain part of the metal world. I think this aspect really applies to black metal bands. Some of them set out to play traditional first wave black metal like Venom or Bathory. Some of them set out to emulate the second wave of black metal like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Satyricon, Emperor, etc. Typically, with these types of bands, they have no desire to deviate from the formula that was created by those original bands. Therefore, there would be no need for a sub-genre there. However, people still find a way to sub-categorize it by labeling it “traditional black metal”, “cult/cvlt black metal” or “pure black metal.” Then you have bands like Krallice, Enslaved, Panopticon, Agalloch, etc. who set out to just play what they feel like playing. Death metal has the same thing going on. Some set out to play the same type of death metal that was created by the pioneers of the genre, while others feel the need to experiment and incorporate other types of music into their own. Does that make the music better or worse? That’s all up to the listener. But does it change the way the parent genre is viewed? I sincerely doubt it.
I really don’t think sub-genres are important. All they do is help you categorize bands to either dismiss them by saying shit like “I don’t listen to blah blah music”, praise them by saying shit like “I only listen to blah blah music” or describe them by saying “they sound like blah blah music.” Personally, I think the last is the only acceptable reason to focus on sub-genres. If you play a certain type of music and you want to describe it to me, it’s cool to use certain terminology to accomplish that. But, even then, half the time people use the wrong terminology to describe something. To be honest, I think a lot of the reason people focus on sub-genres is to make themselves sound smarter than someone else because they labeled an artist something that other people may not be familiar with causing them to say “what’s that?.” Then you have the pleasure of explaining it to them. You call something “anarcho-punk” while someone else calls it “crust-punk” while someone else calls it “grindcore” while someone else calls it “d-beat.” Who fucking cares? Just listen to the damn music.
All-in-all, I really don’t see how having easily recognizable sub-genres benefits hip hop, or music in general, as a whole. It’s mostly viewed by the actions of its audience. Not the titles thrown at it.