Unless you have been asleep for the last few years (and have not used Lofi music to help you sleep) then you will have noticed the viral sensation that has swept across YouTube and into a ton of playlists, Lofi music.
Most notably often accompanied by an anime animation of a girl "studying" at her desk...
But what is Lofi music? Let me show you...
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What is Lofi?
Lofi music is a combination of many sub-genres (jazz and hip-hop being two of the biggest) that have come together to create music that is nostalgic, warm, cosy and relaxing.
Lofi music is inoffensive, easily ignored, background music and yet, it imparts a lovely relaxing mood when you listen to it.
It creates a vibe.
Lofi is a musical cup of warm milk in a comfy chair next to a fire on a cold winter's night.
Within the umbrella of "Lofi music" there are many sub-genres; ambient lofi, lofi indie rock, chillhop, lofi house, vaporware, vocal lofi and lofi hip-hop to name but a few.
What does "Lofi" mean?
I grew up in the 90s when we all had hi-fis which was the abbreviation of "high fidelity". Which means high quality.
Lofi on the other hand is the abbreviation for "low fidelity" which, you guessed it, means low quality.
This is not a reference to the quality of the composition or songwriting, only a reference to the audio quality.
This low quality was often an unwanted sound of mild distortion, tape worbles, digital noise etc that would have been a by-product of some analogue audio gear.
At some point, a handful of producers started to embrace this lofi sound and make it the star of their production.
A Short History of Lofi Music
Back in the 50s when audio gear was expensive, some college musicians started making music on a budget, usually in a rush, using cheaply made equipment. This often produced recordings with imperfections and characteristics that were unique.
Over the next four decades indie and hip-hop artists, in the pursuit of imperfection and rawness, began to seek out the same unique characteristics of the recordings produced in the 50s.
Slowly but surely lofi was born with many modern lofi artists crediting artists like J Dilla and ... as the godfathers of modern lofi.
Characteristics of Lofi Music
The lofi aesthetic is characterised by a few things:
- A down-tempo feel to "chill" out to
- The crackly and imperfect sound of something vinyl or homemade
- A simple hip-hop-inspired beat
- The inclusion of "unwanted" sounds like hiss, hum, or misplaced tuning
- Often, but not always, utilising jazz-inspired chord progressions
All-in-all it has the feel of something DIY about it and this is exactly what has attracted me and many others to produce it.
The usual rules for audio quality are out of the window, what matters is the vibe you create.
Influential Lofi music artists
The Godfathers of Lofi, J Dilla and Nujabes, have spawned thousands upon thousands of artists who specialise in Lofi music. Here are some notable artists who are worth your attention:
A producer and DJ based in the Netherlands. She has been creating her own unique warm, fuzzy lofi music since 2013.
I love how heavy-handed she is with her side-chain compression it gives her tracks a very distinctive style.
Idealism, the moniker of Finnish producer Lassi Kotamaki, creates beautifully delicate and soft lofi soundscapes of piano and guitar.
Sticking a lot more closely to the sample-fuelled world of lofi hip-hop, J^p^n creates something more akin to ambient electronica with a lofi twist.
The musical samples often form an atmospheric and somewhat sombre sound bed for the deep, side-chained beat.
He has mastered the wonderful balance of hip-hop, jazz and breakbeat, blending them beautifully into a warm and familiar lofi sound.
Popular Lofi Music YouTube channels
For me, YouTube was and still is the best place to sit in the wonderful world of Lofi music and just chillout.
These channels below are all great resources for lofi music and have been champions of the genre for a long time now.
Lofi Girl (formerly ChilledCow)
The girl endlessly studying by the window has become somewhat synonymous with lofi music and if you spend a little bit of time watching you will quickly see that this channel constantly showcases the finest lofi tracks.
What started with a couple of teenagers in their bedroom has quickly become a hugely successful YouTube channel and record label that represents the best of jazz, hip-hop and the world of beats.
"Oh, it's that racoon with headphones!" I hear you saying. Yes, that racoon is the mascot of Chillhop Music - "laidback beats for a more relaxed everyday life".
I have written an article that goes through the 10 simple steps that you can follow to create a lofi track with ease.
You're a legend!
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