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How I’ve made it this far in college: an ode to lo-fi hip-hop

Often I find myself with several assignments due and very little focus, but I have a trick that quickly turns my procrastination into productivity.

I’m not usually able to listen to music while doing homework because it distracts me, but something about ChilledCow’s “lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to” playlist on YouTube does the exact opposite.

Maybe it’s the video loop featuring an anime girl doing her own studying. Maybe it’s the smooth simplicity of the songs that melt away the anxiety around my schoolwork, giving me the courage to actually get it done. Maybe it’s simply my association of the playlist with studying.

Whatever it is, when I turn on lo-fi hip hop, something comes over me and I’m suddenly motivated and focused with enough energy to do what I need to do. It’s on as I’m writing this.

Lo-fi hip-hop, also known as “chillhop” is a downtempo genre that combines “chill-out” music with hip-hop. It became popular on YouTube in 2017 with 24-hour live streams, like ChilledCow’s, dedicated to the genre.

The stream is like a radio station, only without the ads. Users can pull up the livestream on YouTube whenever they want and start listening to what’s on at the moment.

There’s many different playlists on ChilledCow’s channel, as well as other similar YouTube channels, but I’ve never had a reason to stray away from ChilledCow’s “beats to relax/study to.” 

ChilledCow also features the playlist on Spotify. It’s not live music like on YouTube, but the playlist is updated every day. 

As “chill-out” music, the songs tend to be fairly simple and easy to listen to. This makes them the perfect background music for studying. The music is low-stakes, with no harshness or surprises. There’s also very little vocals.

Most of the time, I can’t tell when one song ends and another starts because of the simplicity and soft melodies.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a problem with procrastination. I tend to put things off until the last minute, no matter how menial they are. 

While this is a whole other problem I need to work on, lo-fi hip-hop is perfect for the nights where I have a big paper due at 10 a.m. the next day that I haven’t started.

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It pushes me through late night/early morning study sessions. It keeps me focused for longer than I’d be without it.

Studying can get boring, yet the music isn’t actually distracting me from my work, but rather it acts as background noise that keeps me focused by offering stimulation outside of my homework.

Lo-fi hip-hop has become kind of an internet meme, and because of this producers tend to stray away from the genre. I don’t know if the music is necessarily “good” (I can’t say I listen to it outside of my study sessions), but I don’t really care. All I know is that several papers would not have gotten turned in without it.

@nwlexi

whitehan@miamioh.edu 

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