Hip hop soul evolved directly from new jack swing, a form of contemporary R&B popularized by artists and producers such as Teddy Riley and his group Guy, Keith Sweat, and Bobby Brown. New jack swing had incorporated elements of hip-hop music—primarily hip-hop-inspired drum tracks and rapped verses—into contemporary R&B music also heavily inspired by the work of Prince.
 Hip hop soul took the hip-hop/R&B synthesis further by having R&B singers sing directly over the types of sample-heavy backing tracks typically found in contemporary hip-hop recordings.
The creation and evolution of hip hop soul led to an increasingly symbiotic relationship between its parent genres. Hip hop soul acts presented themselves in styles and personas comparable to those of rappers—dressing in hip hop fashions and adopting a tougher image than the traditional pop-friendly personas of R&B artists (the existence and popularity of hip hop soul also had the opposite effect on mainstream rappers, who took on some of the elements of the R&B artists' personas to become more palatable to mainstream audiences). The subgenre increased the popularity of R&B music among the younger hip-hop audience, leading to better sales and airplay success for hip hop soul recordings versus previous forms of post-disco R&B, on the Billboard pop music sales charts. It also increased the popularity of hip-hop music and culture with older audiences and corporations looking to market urban music. However, the creation of hip hop soul has been argued by music journalists and fans of R&B music to have "killed off" traditional styles of R&B.
Other than the vocals, hip hop songs such as Hate It or Love It, contains soul samples and would be considered a "hip hop soul beat".