The Gangsta Nancy Sinatra: 9 Lana Del Rey Songs That Experiment With Hip-Hop
Lana Del Rey’s new single “Coachella - Woodstock in My Mind” is just the latest example of how her songs incorporate hip-hop influences.
Cloud rap, trip-hop and trap-pop are three subgenres of hip-hop that often appear in the discography of the self-monikered Gangsta Nancy Sinatra. Here are nine times Lana Del Rey provided tracks that mix alternative indie pop with hip-hop.
An ethereal style of hallucinogenic hip-hop, containing drawn-out vocals and the lo-fi qualities of Chicago's trill trap.
It’s fitting that the music video for this Born to Die cut features A$AP Rocky – who, after Lil B, popularized cloud rap for the mainstream. The rapper plays JFK opposite Lana Del Rey’s Jackie O in the heartbreaking visual, symbolizing a ‘hood romance of sorts. “National Anthem” features the lead vocalist rap-singing over a bass-bumping beat co-produced by Jeff Bhasker, an instrumental contributor to Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreaks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
“Off to the Races"
An element of cloud rap that sticks out in "Races” is the distinct echoing of a hypeman in the background. Similar to “National Anthem,” Lana raps with a drawn-out voice – referring to herself as the “Queen of Coney Island” and “a little harlot, scarlet” – as the instrumental crescendos with a sparkling rags-to-riches, Mafioso vibe usually found in East Coast hip-hop.
Teetering on the lines of dreampop and desert rock, “Radio” ventures into the hard-knock boom baps frequently heard in cloud rap. If she weren’t signed to Polydor, Lana Del Rey could have vied for “First Lady of the A$AP Mob,” as the song's hook – “Now my life is sweet like cinnamon/ Like a f—ing dream I’m living in/ Baby, love me 'cause I’m playing on the radio” – recalls the hip-hop clan’s lyrical flow and daydreaming subject matter.
Hybrid genre from the U.K. that mixes trippy, electro synths with the drumbeats and vocal rhythms of hip-hop. Songs are a little jumpy as they blur the lines between the two genres with an acid house and jazz sound.
“Born to Die”
The opener to Lana’s debut starts with a grandiose strings section before launching into a bouncy, drum loop. The singer’s suggestion to “come and take a walk on the wild side” relates to the thematic climate of the trip-hop music scene, which usually plays on the confusing dangers of love and personal ecstasy.
One line in particular expresses Lana’s hip-hop backbone: “You were sorta punk rock, I grew up on hip-hop." This noir ballad features a stunted beat, which is enhanced by Lana’s occasional vocal stumbles along with the beat ("You’re so fresh to death/ Sick as ca-cancer”). The end rhymes (for instance, “You fit me better than my favorite sweater”) are also contingent of trip-hop vocal patterns.
“Diet Mountain Dew”
The melodic piano scaling heard behind Lana’s singing, “Diet Mountain Dew, baby, New York City/ Never was there ever a girl so pretty/ Do you think we’ll be in love forever?/ Do you think we’ll be in love” recalls a similar one used in the '80s hip-hop classic “Friends” by Whodini.
Like other genres, pop has borrowed trap’s high-paced, repetitive spitting, slower-paced singing, and 808/hi-hat production (think Katy Perry’s Migos-enriched "Bon Appétit").
“High by the Beach”
Lana’s sophomore effort Ultraviolence steered clear of hip-hop undertones presented on Born to Die, instead focusing on classic rock and cinematic pop. Its follow-up Honeymoon returned to the artist’s debuting sound. On the album’s first single, the prolonged, breathy chorus “all I wanna do is get high by beach” floats in front of thumping 808s and rattling hi-hats. “High" borrows from trip-hop and cloud rap, while its de facto trap influences stick out the most.
Juxtaposing luxury (“You’re so art deco”) with poverty (“Baby, you’re so ghetto, you’re looking to score”), Lana Del Rey harps on the common rags-to-riches motif of the trap genre. This Honeymoon cut was rumored to be about controversial femcee Azaelia Banks – although Lana denied the claim, saying, “That song is actually about a group of teenagers who go out every night.”
“Coachella - Woodstock in My Mind”
Lana’s airy vocals and the need to “give it all away just to ask him one question” is punctuated by a stripped trap beat. In this song’s case, the hip-hop subgenre is used to give it more of an upbeat flare nicely counterbalancing the Shangri-Las’ easiness expected to grace the singer’s upcoming LP Lust for Life.