Hardcore hip hop (also hardcore rap) is a genre of hip hop music that developed through the East Coast hip hop scene in the 1980s. Pioneered by such artists as Run--D.M.C., Schoolly D, Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy, it is generally characterised by anger, aggression, and confrontation.
Run--D.M.C. have been credited as the first hardcore hip hop group. Other early artists to adopt an aggressive style were Schoolly D in Philadelphia and Too $hort in Oakland. Before a formula for gangsta rap had developed, artists such as Boogie Down Productions and Ice-T wrote lyrics based on detailed observations of "street life", while the chaotic, rough style of Public Enemy's records set new standards for hip hop production. In the late 1980s, hardcore rap became largely synonymous with West Coast gangsta rap, with artists like N.W.A infusing Gangsta themed stories of gritty gang life. In the early 1990s, Wu-Tang Clan emerged with minimalistic beats and piano-driven sampling, which became widely popular among other hardcore hip hop artists of the time.
Gangsta rap has been associated with the style; however, not all hardcore hip hop revolve around "gangsta" lyrical themes, even though there is a great deal of overlap, especially among hardcore rappers of the 1990s. Hardcore hip hop is characterised by aggression and confrontation and generally describes violence or anger. Russell Potter wrote that while hardcore rap has been associated with a "monolithic 'gangsta' outlook" by the popular press, hardcore rappers have "laid claim to a wide variety of ground".