The Rise of SoundCloud Rappers

A colossal stream of rappers have been hitting the big time in recent years, coming at us left right and centre with contemporary and innovative music; so much so that other genres such as rock have a hard time keeping up. One thing that some of these rappers have in common is that they emerged from the online streaming service SoundCloud.

Specific web platforms have helped spread specific genres over the years. The now dormant MySpace was particularly instrumental in propelling the success of emo acts such as Panic at the Disco and Bring Me the Horizon as well us UK indie artists like Lily Allen and the Arctic Monkeys.

It could be argued that the growing success of the SoundCloud rappers has kept SoundCloud intact. The site has been experiencing difficulties this year, having laid off 173 staff this year. There were even rumours that SoundCloud was struggling to survive until the end of the year although some reports have suggested otherwise. Regardless of its future, the website is guaranteed a legacy for being a launching pad.

So what sets apart SoundCloud rappers from their counterparts, stylistically speaking? The style of rap is distinct and often characterised by lo-fi, production, electronica, mumbled vocals and distorted bass. It has its roots from Atlanta trap music and cloud rap. The rappers often have ‘lil’ in their name, don coloured dreadlocks and are covered in tattoos. Their lyrics are laced with aggression and rodomontade.

The most prestigious SoundCloud rapper has been Lil Uzi Vert (pictured above). he released a prequel EP Luv Is Rage 1.5 exclusively on SoundCloud which garnered millions of plays. Six months later, his debut album Luv Is Rage 2 went straight to number one in the US Billboard 200 chart.

Funnily enough, in the same week, XXXTentacion charted at #2 with his debut LP 17. The controversial rapper is considered a cynosure of SoundCloud rap. He hails from South Florida where the microgenre is most prevalent. XXXTentacion’s song ‘Look at Me’ premiered on SoundCloud in December 2015. It currently has over 80 million plays on the site and the song went platinum this August with over 1 million sales.

There’s also Lil Peep whose idiosyncratic style has led him to be dubbed as the ‘Kurt Cobain of modern rap’ with the mix of trap and emo. He’s not to be confused with the pink-dreaded Lil Pump whose music is haunting and intriguing in equal measure.

SoundCloud rap is a polarising genre. While many will inevitably cast if off as obnoxious, it’s hard to deny that this is one of the most avant-garde and cutting-edge underground music scenes to spring up in recent times.


Adam Bielenberg – Music Editor

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