The lofi (low fidelity) aesthetic is typically characterized by nostalgia and relaxation, typically in the form of music accompanied by similarly nostalgic imagery. Within the music, a slow minimalistic melody is used to create a soothing atmosphere that helps to encourage the listener to relax. This type of music is generally combined with other calming sounds such as ambient noise like rain or scratching vinyl noise. The simplicity of the environment that is created by this aesthetic is usually used to help listeners concentrate on homework or other activities. The most popular form of this aesthetic is lofi hip-hop which fuse rhythmic elements of hip-hop with the mellow vibes of lofi.
The history of lofi is generally muddy as the term is so broad that many musical influences can be contributed to the modern sound that is heard today. Historically, the term “lofi” or “low fidelity” can be traced back to the 1950s where records were made cheaply which created small distortions in the music which was why it was termed as “low fidelity” music for low quality sounding music. The popularization of the term is usually credited to a radio station host by the name of William Berger who frequently used the term to describe home made recordings in 1986.
Skipping to the modern lofi aesthetic of the popular lofi hip-hop, 2 musicians are stated as the godfathers of this genre. These 2 musicians are Nujabes and J Dilla who both produced music in the 1990s through the 2000s until their tragic deaths in the 2000s. Nujabes is credited for his early work with the laidback hiphop sound and J Dilla for his unconventional sampling and stripped back music production method. The growth of the modern lofi hip-hop aesthetic was due to the popular anime “Samurai Champloo” that used Nujabes for their theme song. This popularization of the anime is a major reason why anime and cartoons are usually the main imagery associated with lofi music.
The mainstream rise of lofi music can be attributed to the rise of youtube channels that would livestream lofi music to audiences to study along with. A major figure in this era of lofi music is the channel “ChilledCow” and their “lofi girl” cultural icon. This channel played lofi music with the iconic girl studying in the background and became a popular destination for people looking to relax in a community that was looking for a similar atmosphere, racking in millions of fans. The image of the lofi girl used in the livestreams was created by the artist Juan Pablo Machado when he was asked for a an image in the styler of famous japanese director Hayao Miyazaki and his studio ghibli aesthetic.