Hype men had their peak in the 90s, but they are still a vital part of the urban music performance and recording world today.
A hype man is a backup singer or dancer who adds adlibs and interjections throughout a performance to help get the crowd excited.
This is almost exclusively done in the hip-hop world, but it is also seen in many other genres and just hasn't really had a name for it.
Being a background singer is not new in the music world at all, and you can think of a hype man as a type of background singer.
Instead of focusing mostly on melodic backing vocals, the hype man often throws out spoken words or small rap phrases that blend well within a song they're performing for.
They are also very high-energy in tone and with their body movements for performances.
Having a hype man (or a group of them) is a great way to get the energy right in a performance atmosphere.
This is especially true for crowds that are not that connected with the performer and could use some energy from multiple people in the room to get into the vibe.
While a hype man can help bring the energy up, having an enjoyable performance is still critical here. A hypeman getting excited in the background while the lead singer or rapper sounds bad won't be of much help!
A hype man is also helpful for rappers and singers with word-heavy lyrics that are hard to pull off while performing live. You've probably seen a few performers trying to get the crowd to sing or rap a part to take a quick breath.
A hype man is great for filling in gaps for you if you can't rely on the audience to know your lyrics. Popular rapper Royce da 5'9 talked about this back in 2009.
"A lot of my verses be so constant with the flow, I'd need somebody to help me," he said in an interview.
Sometimes when recording, you want to feature someone else in the background of your song to do adlibs that will add to the energy of it all. This can be relevant for hip-hop, R&B, pop, and dance songs.
While many songs have featured rappers or singers, some songs have background vocalists that are more like hypemen instead of official features.
Many times, a song's producer can act as a hype man for the track's recording.
One example I can think of is the late and very talented Lashawn Daniels, who produced Erica Campbell's gospel hit "I Luh God". I didn't know who was doing the hype man adlibs at first.
Once I did some research, I found that he had the nickname of Big Shizz in the gospel world but still went uncredited for the vocals. Other producers that have also done this include Swizz Beatz, Jermaine Dupri, and Lil Jon.
Did you know that Jay-z was first a young hype man? He would often back up for lead rapper Jaz-O The Jaz, who was prominent in the late 80s and early 90s.
Flava Flav also acted as a hype man for Chuck D's raps when the duo performed as Public Enemy. We all know that Flava Flav was always on 100% with his energy levels on his recordings and in his performances!
Many will say that Puff Daddy, AKA Diddy was a huge hype man for B.I.G, even though Puff was the producer. One of the most well-known and respected hype men mentioned in hip-hop is Spliff Star, who is best known for his work with Busta Rhymes.
Another two notable examples are Creole and MC Cowboy from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
The slang term "hype man" began to influence culture so much in the 90s that people made it relevant to other things outside of the music world.
A hype man could be a friend or family member who helps you build your confidence for an event or photoshoot, for example.
A hype man can also be relevant for sports or movie stars who have a group of die-hard fans who will scream for them as hard as they can for events and appearances.
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As a hypeman, your role is to hype up the audience and support the main performer. Bring high energy and exude confidence on stage.
Engage with the crowd, use expressive body language, and maintain an enthusiastic stage presence throughout the performance.
Familiarize yourself with the songs and lyrics of the main performer. This will allow you to seamlessly complement their performance and know when to step in with ad-libs, call-and-response moments, or hype phrases.
Practice coordinating your movements and timing with the main performer to create a dynamic and cohesive stage presence.
Interact with the audience to get them involved and excited. Encourage them to participate through call-and-response, hand gestures, or getting them to chant along.
Connect with individuals in the crowd, make eye contact, and create a sense of personal connection to amplify the energy in the venue.
Related Post: Audience Engagement - 9 Ways To Get The Crowd Involved
Develop a repertoire of ad-libs and freestyle phrases that complement the main performer's lyrics and enhance the overall performance.
These improvised lines can add spontaneity and excitement to the show. Practice and experiment with different ad-libs to find what works best for each song and audience.
Remember that your role as a hypeman is to support the main performer, not overshadow them. Strike a balance between commanding attention when necessary and stepping back to let the main performer shine.
Understand the dynamics of the performance and be responsive to the main performer's cues, ensuring that you enhance their stage presence rather than distract from it.
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