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The Rise of the Internet Rapper

With their tougher than most upbringings and criminally expletive lyrics, this decade well and truly belongs to the “internet rapper”. This generation has seen an insurgence of young men and women using the internet as a pathway to fame, and I can only applaud them for it. YouTube and SoundCloud have shot these unknown youngsters into the realms of B-List celebrities where they will comfortably reside for years to come. It’s important to try and understand our society’s sudden admiration for these somewhat lyrically gifted artists, and what it is about modern culture that has allowed them to flourish.

First things first – SoundCloud. The hipster rap platform where early discoveries of now worldwide artists are made. Perhaps the greatest success story to come from the site is that of xxxtentacion, an artist widely regarded as the most controversial rapper in the industry. During a lengthy stint in prison for assault in 2016, the rapper’s production team released the track Look at Me! , a track that is devoid of much emotional appeal, is unapologetic of its low production value and features heavy use of auto tune. It’s important to remember that this man, real name Jahseh Onfroy, was only 17 at the time. Yet, despite the almost unlistenable quality to the song, it garnered over 100 million streams on SoundCloud, and a further 110 million on Spotify when it was re-released.

It’s an oddity that music our parents would likely spit upon, and that critics sentence to the depths of musical hell, resonates so much with the youth of today. I would estimate that at least 50% of the people reading this would have heard Look at Me! in some form or another through its use in the memes that define the culture if our generation. Is it the foul mouthed, rage-driven aspect of such music that appeals so much to us as a generation? In such a self-deprecating society, it’s possible that we identify far more with the themes of this music being made by artists of a similar age to ourselves than with the critically-acclaimed singers and producers who are many years our elders. I would recommend anyone to listen to the current and former “Internet Rappers” like xxxtentacion, Lil Uzi Vert or Rich Chigga and not find a piece of music which they can relate to. In a sense, it is feel good music for the very fact that it speaks to the sources of anguish in our lives. Whichever way it’s examined, we must commend these young men and women for using their own initiative to propel themselves to fame, regardless of our musical disposition.