Coming in as the most widely listened to genre, hip-hop can be found on music streamer’s playlists all over the world, regardless of language or geography. According to Nielsen’s 2017 U.S. Music Year-End Report, R&B/hip-hop is, for the time ever, the most popular music genre in terms of streams. From Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” to Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” to Migo’s “Bad and Boujee,” songs like these are dominating the music charts.
Many of today’s mainstream hip-hop artists started out by reaching listeners on SoundCloud. Reported to reach over 175 million users worldwide, SoundCloud has become one of the largest free audio distribution platforms for musicians to upload and stream music. Emerging hip-hop artists that became established on SoundCloud gained attention after the rising popularity of what many people refer to as “clout rap” or “SoundCloud rappers.” Some of these major artists include, but are not limited to, Travis $cott, Trippie Redd, Post Malone, XXXTentacion (pronounced “x-x-x-ten-tah-cee-own”), 6ix9ine (“six-nine”), Lil Yachty, Lil Peep, and Lil Xan, (notice the abundance of ‘Lil’s). All of the aforementioned artists are breaking the barriers on the classification of music genres. Every single one has been featured on the Billboard charts or taken a high position in the Top 50 playlists via Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, etc. Gaining millions of streams and followers on social media, whether you love or hate them, they are continuing to re-define hip-hop, while grabbing the attention of the world .
Okay so now you may be wondering, if you aren’t already familiar with the term, what is “SoundCloud rap” and what does it sound like? There’s really no exact definition of what is it (since the possibilities are endless), but according to Wikipedia, the genre consists of “simplistic, subdued beats, often with snippets of strings and sometimes complemented with emo chords, paired with lyrics that ping-pong between braggadocio and nihilism, with lots of sex and odes to heavy narcotics.” In addition, the production will typically feature heavily distorted 808 bass lines, compressed hi-hats, and claps/snares with reverb, followed by a basic melody looped throughout. Again, don’t let this general description fully define the parameters of what “SoundCloud rap” is.
Today, many of these young artists are incorporating a blend of different genres into their music, creating a unique sound that immediately grabs the attention of its listeners. Before his death in 2017 (which earned him the title of the “New Kurt Cobain”), the iconic Lil Peep had an active rap career for only about two years. In that short time, he heavily influenced artists in the hip-hop, EDM, and rock community. Known for his “emo-trap” sound, Peep’s music contained lyrics often revolving around dark themes including suicide, drug use, and depression while being implemented into a catchy sound. Often using samples from artists such as Blink-182, Radiohead, Oasis, Three Days Grace, and Slayer, Lil Peep further contributed to the fusion of rap and rock that hip hop artists are using today.
In conclusion, there was a point in time when the term “SoundCloud rap” was commonly referred to young artists that used the platform and had very similar sounds. In less than two years, that term has now changed. These artists are now ranking high streams on various music platforms, and the sound has evolved by branching out to new styles and genres. Today this “SoundCloud rap” can be heard on charts, on radio, and plays a role in mainstream culture. Ultimately, the blending of genres that can be heard in hip-hop music today allows anyone to discover their own lane in regards to what sounds appealing to them.
– Submitted by Daniel Pesina, Music Design