Updated: Jul 4, 2020

What's the difference between a Rapper and an Emcee?

Okay so here it is. The Hip Hop culturalists at Soul Trust Records are giving you our list of the 9 differences between the Rapper and the Emcee. This list is not just coming out of thin air. We are very experienced in the art of Emceeing and take the opportunity to move the crowd very seriously.

We recognize that Rappers and Emcees do share a lot of similarities. Both may spit rhymes. Both may do shows. Both may make music. But there are also mad differences between them. Some differences are small and some are huge. So without any further ado, let’s get into the 10 differences between the Rapper and the Emcee.


1. Cultural Awareness

The Rapper may or may not be aware that Hip Hop is an actual culture. The elements are not a must know subject for The Rapper - and if they do know the culture- it’s hard to tell by the way they carry it.

Rapping is a job. Really, anybody can do it. If you recite words that rhyme, in an attempt to get paid, your a rapper! A Rapper can stop being a rapper at any time. A Rapper can even get fired. But not an Emcee. An Emcee embodies Hip Hop.

The Emcee MUST be thoroughly versed in Hip Hop culture to even be called an Emcee. In fact, many true Emcees often practice multiple elements of Hip Hop. When you see any real Emcee they emanate Hip Hop. It's not an act. It's a spirit. A certain cultural awareness that every Emcee possesses.


2. Ghost Writers

Some Rappers may use a ghost writer to pen their rhymes. To many Rappers, this is just a part of the game. They don’t think it takes away from their Hip Hop credibility at all. The label shops the underground to buy lyrics from real Emcees, so fake rappers can spit em and get the credit. In the music industry, its all just a product.

On the other hand, most true emcees would never dream of allowing anyone else to write their lyrics for them. The Emcee sees having a ghost writer as completely destroying his/her credibility. Emcees know that Hip Hop is all about SELF expression, and speaking from the heart. Using a ghost writer goes against the principle of originality that Hip Hoppers hold so dear.


3. Artistic Motivation

The Rapper is usually motivated by fame and money. It’s not that the Rapper doesn’t like Hip Hop, but the paycheck and mega-popularity is his/her end game. The art is secondary.

The Emcee wants money and popularity too, but blowing up and getting paid comes second to the art-form. Emceeing is the craft they take pride in, above all else. No true Emcee wants to lose his/her flavor for the dollar. Many Emcees have gone unsung in the mainstream because they refused to sell out.

Some Rappers are willing to sell their very souls for Rap stardom. An Emcee’s soul is not on the market - Period.


4. Taste in Music

A lot of Rappers listen almost exclusively to rap. They don’t broaden their musical horizons too much. Rappers love rap.

Emcees have a tendency to enjoy many genres of music. They are open-minded and they pull their influences from various sources. They see themselves as poets and musicians, and their musical palette usually reflects that.


​5. Hip Hop History

The Rapper isn’t usually too concerned with the history of Hip Hop. They may not know much about the contributions of people like Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, Busy Bee or even Mos Def, Raekwon, and Redman. He/She doesn’t see the importance of taking time out to learn about the legends who paved the way.

Emcees are the living embodiment of Hip Hop. So it goes without saying that the Emcee connects with the lineage of influential Emcees from the past.


​6. Community Activism

Many times Rappers don’t feel a connection with the community. The Rapper is an individual and doesn’t see him/herself as a role model. They don’t feel a sense of responsibility to their hood. In fact, a lot of Rappers can’t wait to get as far away from the hood as possible.

Emcees stay close to their community. They see themselves as hood spokesmen. They rep their origins to the fullest. Emcees feel responsible for their supporters and followers and wouldn’t do anything to let them down. An Emcee makes sure that his/her hood pass is always valid.


​7. Moving The Crowd

Rappers rely on the success of their hit songs to move the crowd.

Emcees rely on Emcee skill, technique and personality to move the crowd.


​8. Crowd Synergy

The Rapper’s stage show is one-sided. They rap at the audience. The audience is there to see them.

The Emcee’s stage show is an exchange. They want the audience’s energy. The Emcee and the audience are a part of one big experience.


​9. Freestyling

To a Rapper, a freestyle can be pre-written and still be considered a freestyle.

To an Emcee, freestyling is always done “off the top of the dome”. Or in layman’s terms – unwritten- made up right there on the spot.

Love studying the ins and outs of Hip Hop History and Culture?

Immerse yourself in:


The Culture Of Hip Hop- Before the Elements EBOOK


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