Lo-fi hip-hop: Six playlists to listen to while working remotely

The subdued musical genre has become a favourite during the pandemic

The crackling soundscape of countless home offices and study desks, lo-fi hip-hop has seen a monumental surge in popularity in the last year. Unsplash
The crackling soundscape of countless home offices and study desks, lo-fi hip-hop has seen a monumental surge in popularity in the last year. Unsplash

The crackling soundscape of countless home offices and study desks, lo-fi hip-hop has seen a monumental surge in popularity in the last year.

Between its languid drum beats and gently-lilting melodies – often peppered with low-key piano and synth licks – it's easy to see how the genre became the go-to for many during the pandemic, when remote working became the norm.

The music is not intrusive, but still groovy. You can bob your head while listening to it but it won’t detract you from clearing out your inbox or meeting deadlines.

A broad stroke on the history of the genre: the roots of lo-fi hip-hop are diverse and difficult to pinpoint. The term lo-fi is an abbreviation of low-fidelity and has been around since the 1950s as a contrast to the high-fidelity audio reproduction that became widespread at the time, thanks to reel-to-reel tape recording and the advent of LP vinyl records. What constituted lo-fi audio varied greatly in the following decades.

When it comes to its hip-hop variation, there are a broad range of influences that led to the sound many have come to associate with the genre today. But if we had to identify its pioneers, they would likely be: US producer J Dilla and Japanese producer Nujabes, both of whom were active during the 2000s.

A few years ago, the genre became the basis of a thriving live-stream YouTube community, where users virtually gathered to goad each other out of procrastination, talking to each other in chat boxes beside endlessly looped videos of neon-lit coffeeshops or animated characters studiously hunched over their workspaces.

As the pandemic took hold, many found the laid back style of the genre a perfect companion while working from home. Many recognisable names began curating their own lo-fi hip-hop playlists, from Will Smith to the gaming company Blizzard Entertainment.

As we don’t seem to be any closer to extricating ourselves from our work-from-home environments in 2021, the genre’s popularity only seems to be rising.

Whether you’re new to the world of lo-fi hip-hop or are on the hunt for new playlists that aren’t by the massively popular , here’s our pick of six to get you started.

Japanese lo-fi playlist

This playlist began live-streaming on YouTube on January 11. The songs are reportedly all produced by the owner of the YouTube account lofi geek. The playlist is dominated by dreamy ethereal beats often featuring samples of traditional Japanese instruments.

Chill Beats Vol 5

A playlist by the collective Stereofox, Chill Beats Vol 5 puts the lo-fi flavour on jazz. The 10-song playlist has plenty on sizzling brass lines and trickling guitar melodies. Some gems to keep an eye out for are: 5 am, a collaboration by producers Ruck P and Shuko, and Amble by Matchbox Youth.

Study with me

Any of MDprospect’s playlists are great companions if you want ensure long stretches of uninterrupted work or study time. The Canadian medical student segments his playlists, which range from muted lo-fi songs to more ambient works and sounds, with five to 15 minute breaks to really help keep your focus honed when you sit down to work.

Lo-fi hip-hop mix

A three and a half-hour long playlist with long-drawn leisurely beats that help keep your stress levels at a bare minimum. The works, posted by South Korean YouTube account Lofi, features a number of works that put some interesting twists to the lo-fi hip-hop genre such as the Sadtoi’s spacey A Beautiful Salad Bowl and brillion.'s shimmering Hibernation.

Lofi Classical

Bach and Beethoven are given the lo-fi treatment in this playlist. Continuously updated, the works by Canadian artist David Park takes some of the greatest pieces of classical music – such as Chopin’s Nocturne in Fm and Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C#m – and couples them with “a beat that slaps”, to quote Park’s own description.

Endless Sunday 2

A playlist by one of the more popular lo-fi hip-hop accounts on YouTube, Endless Sunday 2 has a lot of enticing sonic elements that make it great for not just background music but for active listening as well. Featuring booming brass lines and punchy keyboard riffs on top of the genre’s signature boxy beats, the playlist is a great one to end the work day on.

Updated: February 28, 2021 02:25 PM

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