Opera and Hip-Hop: Uniting Musical Worlds

By: Lyric Opera Staff

Last updated:

by Beth Wamsley

In the vast realm of music, seemingly distinct genres often find common ground. One such fusion lies at the crossroads of opera and hip-hop. While these genres may appear worlds apart, they share more than meets the ear!

Storytelling and Emotion

At their core, opera and hip-hop are mediums for storytelling and emotional expression. Opera communicates profound feelings through soaring melodies and dynamic vocal techniques, while hip-hop lyrics often serve as poignant reflections of personal experiences, societal issues, and cultural narratives. Whether it's the tragic love story of La bohème or the raw confessions of Kendrick Lamar's verses, both genres captivate audiences.

Lyricism and Wordplay

Both opera and hip-hop rely heavily on the art of wordplay. In opera, librettos often showcase intricate poetry and prose to convey nuanced meaning and emotions. Similarly, hip-hop artists are celebrated for their lyrical dexterity, using metaphors and rhyme schemes to deliver their messages with impact. The skillful manipulation of language unites these genres.

Musical Innovation

This relationship demonstrates the ability to push the boundaries of musical creation. Many artists have explored the collaborative potential between opera and hip-hop, bridging the gap between these worlds. Collaborative projects often showcase the versatility of both genres and open doors to new audiences, inviting them to experience music from different cultural perspectives.


One of the most intriguing connections between the two genres is hip hop's practice of sampling. Hip-hop producers frequently turn to classical and operatic compositions, sampling melodies to infuse with their works. This creative borrowing highlights the timeless beauty of operatic music and gives it new life in hip-hop tracks.

Artist Kelis’ song “Like You” samples one of the most iconic and well-known pieces in the operatic repertoire, the “Queen of the Night” aria from The Magic Flute. Kelis' smooth vocals join in with the coloratura soprano’s acrobatics in the chorus.

Another great example of this is in “Lord Knows (ft. Tory Lanez)” by Meek Mill. This newer piece of music samples “Lacrimosa dies illa” from Mozart’s Requiem! Though Mozart’s music is over 200 years old, his work lives on and continues to be used in new, creative ways!

Hip Hopera

An interesting collaboration of the two genres is the concept of “Hip Hopera” or “Rap Opera:” A musical work in hip-hop style with operatic form. The terms have been used to describe both dramatic works and concept albums, and Hip Hopera has also been used for works drawing more heavily on contemporary R&B than other hip hop such as rap.

An early example of the use of the term is the 1994 album Hip Hopera. Later in 1997, The Fugees and Bounty Killer collaborated on a musical single title “Hip Hopera.”

In 2001, the term was used in Carmen: A Hip Hopera, a television film produced by MTV that starred Beyoncé Knowles in her acting debut. Based on the beloved opera Carmen, this adaptation is set in modern-day Philadelphia set to a hip-hop/R&B score.


Opera and hip-hop may originate from different eras and cultural backgrounds, but their shared focus on storytelling, emotional expression, lyricism, and musical innovation brings them together in remarkable ways. Whether you find yourself immersed in the grandeur of a Wagnerian opera or the rhythmic cadence of a hip-hop track, remember that these seemingly disparate worlds are intricately intertwined by their shared dedication to the art of musical storytelling.

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Can't get enough? Don't worry! We created a whole playlist full of music that bridges the gap between opera, classical music, hip-hop, rap, and R&B.