SoundCloud Rap is Here to Stay…. and it’s Your Fault
Since you’re reading this here at Control Forever, I assume you know who Lil Pump is. He recently celebrated his 18th birthday, and he had a “who’s who” of celebrities attend the South Florida function. If you know who Pump is, I also assume you know what SoundCloud and SoundCloud rap is. If you don’t, the de facto founders and current leaders are Pump, Smokepurrp, Ski Mask The Slump God, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, 6ix9ine, and the since deceased XXXTentacion. Juice WRLD, a recent newcomer, is the fourth most listened to artist in America right now. Lil Skies, Playboi Carti, Trippie Redd and more have helped establish themselves via the free download listening platform—one of the first being Fetty Wap whose most recent singles are made for radio.
Some of these artists are earning six figures a show. Lil Pump tallies 15M+ followers on Instagram. Some are even household names, and Juice WRLD is being featured on Top 40 radio right now with his hit “Lucid Dreams.” In October of last year, Lil Pump landed at number two on the Billboard charts with 46,000 equivalent album units in the first week.
These artists are big, although the average music listener might qualify a lot of these guys as “mumble rappers.”
…And there is no debating that. In an interview on YouTube that predates his fame, Pump stated, “I make ignorant shit that’s catchy that people fuck with.” Lil Pump has racked up over a billion listens on his hit, “Gucci Gang,” where most of the chorus is him repeating the words “Gucci Gang” multiple times. Shortly after releasing his first three songs, “LIL PUMP,” “ELEMENTARY,” and “Drum$tick,” they had all amassed over three million streams on SoundCloud (which was the only place they were available at the time). Also, the productions are just that, elementary. Two of the three aforementioned songs were produced by Smokepurpp who has been friends with Lil Pump since the age of 13. Pump got kicked out of multiple schools, and essentially fell into rap as a backup plan. Once he no longer could get accepted back into any schools in his area, he focused on recording his music instead of just freestyling. This was in 2016, and Pump was just 16 years old. All of his success has happened in the last two years.
One of the main reasons for the overnight success story is the accessibility of SoundCloud, which is a free platform where you can upload your audio content at any hour, on any given day. The platform was established in Berlin in 2007, and launched in October of 2008. Shortly after its inception, SoundCloud began threatening MySpace as the go-to destination to stream music online for free as as well as new music discovery. In 2009, Wired magazine predicted and detailed the changing of the guard before SoundCloud even reached its millionth user, and the platform has since reached 76 million monthly users. SoundCloud’s accession as a digital streaming service happened as quickly as Pump’s, Purpp’s and Juice WRLD’s rags-to-riches stories.
These guys weren’t primed for radio or built for a mass audience. The fact that Juice WRLD is on the radio is a bit of an anomaly. Though these guys accumulate exorbitant streaming numbers, they are typically not accepted by the mainstream media, radio, or the public at large. They are looked down upon, meme’d about, and laughed at. Some fans aren’t even proud to be fans. When I tell my friends how much I enjoy Smokepurpp’s new single, “Nephew” featuring Lil Pump, they look at me as if I am saying I voted for Donald Trump. Even for the younger generation, they are polarizing. For every Lil Pump fan, you have a J. Cole fan or a Drake fan ready to discount these SoundCloud rappers. However, somehow through the democracy that is SoundCloud, these guys rose from the dust and forced their way into the hip-hop lexicon whether you like it or not.
These guys are the most in demand artists alive right now. Seriously, and that says a lot about American society as a whole.
The mere fact we call them “SoundCloud rappers” should be a praise of the highest esteem, though it’s typically used to demean them.
They have gone completely viral without any gatekeepers or promoters introducing them or pushing them to the forefront. They created, and we discovered, shared and recited. Now, they are millionaires.
We choose these guys; we made them; and when I say “we,” I mean the largest contingent of hip-hop fans. SoundCloud is one of the most democratic platforms on the planet. Anyone can upload a song, send it to a few people, and if it’s really good, it will be shared. Let the subjectivity reign in, but at the end of the day, without radio stations pushing their agenda, these guys rose to the top with little to no help other than their personas and their music acumen. When XXXTentacion passed away, most news outlets did not even cover the incident—even with the riots happening in the streets and streaming records being broken hourly.
I understand that the “old heads” and a vast majority of music listeners at large poo-poo these guys and their efforts, but millions of listeners have spoken. “SoundCloud rap” is the new punk rock. It’s an anti-establishment, “do whatever you want,” drug-fueled culture where its leaders are often teenagers. I won’t defend their lyrical abilities, but I will say, we (members of hip-hop culture) anointed these artists through mouse clicks and streams.
And they are here to stay.