Hip hop music goes far beyond the boundaries of its native New York, or even of North America. Anyone who traces the story of the genre around the world is fascinated by the range of styles it encompasses, or the social and political meaning it holds for its followers. In Greece, a particular flavor of hip hop has evolved from the signature style of one group into an entire culture that with its own brand of fashion, movies, and even literature.
“Low Bap,” as the music is called, is characterized in large part by a relatively slow tempo and lyrical focus. The rap isn’t as fast and the beats aren’t as strong, and there is more focus on the words to the song than to its melody. Like many of its global counterparts, its words offer perspectives on politics and society, with hints of existential thinking in many popular pieces. The group Active Member, which rose to popularity in the 1990s, is credited with popularizing the style, although it had been around for decades before. Today, Low Bap bookstores, concerts, shows, and festivals have sprung up alongside the music.
The name itself doesn’t mean anything; it was coined by Active Member to refer to its own brand of hip hop. However, it has come to represent the specific views of the Low Bap movement, which is to practice what you preach and vice versa. The groups that have followed Active Member don’t necessarily follow the so-called Low Bap Manifesto, although many do, but their main characteristic is still their “mellow rap” style.
Many followers of Low Bap differentiate it from hip hop itself, although strictly speaking, the music fits into the genre. It does hold a much larger influence on Greek culture than American hip hop does in North America; one important reason is that Active Member has become deeply involved in the community and encourages youth to participate in its endeavors. It also has a stronger “music as a way of life” approach; as a case in point, hip hop bookstores are relatively scarce in the U.S., whereas they are the norm in Greece.
Because of its focus on youth and community activities, Active Member has largely dissociated itself from groups that have sprung up from its influence, although they continue to make music. Nonetheless, they have started a movement that has touched young and old fans alike, and made themselves an indelible part of Greek culture.