SoundCloud rap hits mainstream

Wes Willgrubs

Various rappers have launched their careers and risen to massive fame with just the click of a button.

Ugly God, Lil Pump and Ski Mask the Slump God are new recognizable names who found their starts on the audio and social media platform SoundCloud. SoundCloud allows any user to upload audio files, resulting in a cesspool of sound but occasional breakout stars. A new subgenre of music has arisen from the site, defined by peaking sound waves, genre-bending flows and a basis in online culture. 

As many eventually discover, it’s not as easy as just creating an account. Architecture freshman Pranav Subramanian, whose hip-hop pseudonym is Kid Curry and whose collective An Original Point of View drops their first EP Together on Feb. 6, talked about some of his experiences using SoundCloud as a platform. 

“It’s easier now, you don’t have to rely on a record label anymore,” Subramanian said. “One of the reasons why we’re primarily on SoundCloud is because we have to buy our beats online, and in order to get the full rights of the beat … we’d have to pay for that.” 

SoundCloud allows new artists to use already existing beats without having to pay for the rights of the production. Additionally, the platform allows artists ultimate freedom by sidestepping the traditional record label process. Subramanian acknowledges that SoundCloud has a smaller listening audience compared to traditional music streaming services and lacks the ability to promote yourself within the website, but chooses to promote outside of SoundCloud through social media, flyers and open mic events. Submaranian said cross-promotion is key to success. 

“I think it’s really important because it’s all about hitting audiences that you haven’t hit before,” Subramanian said. “At the phase we’re at, 90 percent of our audience is people we know personally and most of our own promotion is on our own social media … but hitting that other kind of audience (leads to) people who follow us. Then it becomes about people who follow Genius, or people who follow Cole Bennett or people who follow a music video producer.”

Nick Hanover, a journalist for Austin music journal OVRLD, compared the rising trend in rappers to the emo scene of the late 90s and early 2000s. 

“Back in that era you had this kind of — not necessarily hip — musical form that was popping up,” Hanover said. “A lot of emo bands were finding success mostly through, at that point, torrenting, MySpace or LiveJournal, and it was kind of critically maligned, but it became more and more popular.” 

Hanover sees these same attributes in the trend of SoundCloud rap with the help of a more advanced internet. Hanover said SoundCloud rappers seem to be a part of an internet monetization trend that multiple platforms such as YouTube and Instagram have been a part of, even acknowledging a similarity to the video blogging business model.

“Nothing legitimizes you more than the views you get on your music,” Subramanian said. “Even if I were to say I was a better artist than Lil Pump, not saying that I am, but there would be no way to prove it because he gets so many more views than me, and I think that’s what makes you more legit.”

Despite harsh reactions from critics and traditional hip-hop fans, SoundCloud rap brings a healthy breath of fresh air to a largely label-controlled industry.