How Soundcloud Launched a Whole Generation of Rappers
How Soundcloud Launched a Whole Generation of Rappers

How Soundcloud Launched a Whole Generation of Rappers

Juice WRLD, Doja Cat & Post Malone: The streaming platform Soundcloud has given rise to a whole generation of rappers. While many have pronounced the era of “Soundcloud Rap” as over, the phenomenon shows us that times have changed: Streaming platforms have officially replaced radio as the space where artists make (or break) their careers. 

In this article we will show you how Soundcloud became THE place for a new generation of underground talent and what you as an artist can learn from the phenomenon.

A short history of SoundCloud

SoundCloud is a Swedish streaming platform that was founded in 2007. A key factor differentiating it from other streaming services was its low barrier of entry. [1

There are no subscription fees and in difference to Apple Music, Spotify and other streaming providers, no intermediary is needed. 

As you probably already know, hip-hop has long ago entered the mainstream: What started as a subculture in 1970s New York has now officially become the most popular music genre. And yet, its underground roots are probably the reason why SoundCloud became a particularly attractive platform for young hip-hop-artists. 

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The rise of SoundCloud rap  

Upon its launch, SoundCloud was mostly used by DJs, who posted their sets. In the early 2010s, all that changed, when a whole generation of hip-hop-artists started posting their (sometimes unpolished) songs on the platform. The phenomenon grew, eventually giving rise to a whole genre known as “SoundCloud rap” or “mumble rap”. While there is no clear definition of what SoundCloud rap is, it is mostly associated with mumbled delivery, a raw recording technique and the themes of mental illness, drug use, loneliness, and suicide. [2]

“It was like the worst recording set up, but you could set it up anywhere and that was the wave we were on… The raw energy of that-the distortion-is our speciality and we used that to our advantage”, is how rapper Ski Mask the Slump God describes it. 

While critics argue whether SoundCloud rap counts as a genre, a cultural phenomenon or simply what we call the work of any rapper who happens to launch his career on the platform, one thing can be said for sure: What started as an underground movement associated with face-tattoos, emo-lyrics and a rock-star-lifestyle, quickly became THE thing everyone was talking about… 

Is SoundCloud Rap dead? 

As the buzz started to grow, it only took a few years for the phenomenon to reach the mainstream. In 2017 the New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica called SoundCloud rap “the most vital and disruptive new movement in hip-hop”. But it didn’t take long until things started to unravel: Following the deaths of Lil Peep, XXXTentaction and Juice Wrld, many (including Rolling Stone Magazine) have pronounced the movement as dead.[3]

Famous SoundCloud Rappers 

The movement formed an essential part of the democratization of music that took place as a result of the rise of the internet. It, therefore, appealed to a rock’n’roll-style group of hip-hop musicians who didn’t want to play by the rules of the establishment. Artists associated with the phenomenon are Bbymutha, Lil Yachty, Rico Nasty, Doja Cat, Lil Uzi Vert, Speak!, Lil Peep, 21 Savage, Ashnikko, Ghostemane, Lil Dicky, Playboi Carti, Quay Dash, Dai Burger, Lil Pump, Chief Keef, XXXTentacion and Yung Baby Tate, among others. 

The biggest success story out of SoundCloud is probably Post Malone, whose song “White Iversion” became a viral hit in 2015. Since then, he has not only published two number 1 albums but also recently joined the 1 Billion YouTube Views-Club.  

Another rapper who launched his career on SoundCloud and has achieved major mainstream success is Chance The Rapper, who has since received three Grammy Awards and continues to be one of the most exciting names in hip-hop.  

The rapper who came to define the SoundCloud era, however, was Juice WRLD, who rose to fame very fast and died of an accidental overdose at age 21. 

SoundCloud as a platform for rappers 

While many have equaled the death of Juice WRLD with the death of “SoundCloud rap”, SoundCloud remains an essential platform for up-and-coming hip-hop artists. After all, hip-hop music remains the by far most listened-to genre on the platform. [4]

 Apart from that, the way SoundCloud is set up makes it easier for hip-hop fans to come across new artists they might like. There are several reasons for this: The SoundCLoud homepage works similarly to a Twitter timeline, showing you tracks by artists you follow. SoundCloud also allows its users to comment on tracks they like (or dislike) and share them on their own feeds with the click of a button. It is this social aspect that has probably given rise to the era of SoundCloud rap, and continues to connect musicians (and their fans) with each other. In addition, SoundCloud automatically generates Playlists based on your streaming history and allows fans to see what their favourite artists like and repost.

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To put it in other words: 

On SoundCloud, every artist also becomes a tastemaker, and the algorithm of the platform makes it easier for fans to come across niche material they may like. In difference to platforms like Spotify or YouTube, SoundCloud therefore remains the go-to place for the discovery of new and raw talent.  

Get organic promotion on SoundCloud

If you are an up-and-coming hip-hop-artist looking to increase your fanbase, you should definitely be putting your music on SoundCloud. Getting yourself heard, however, can still be a challenge: While SoundCloud boasts 76 million registered users, there are only 30 million people creating content on SoundCloud. This means that a large percentage of SoundCloud-creators get little or no listeners. [5

If you need help getting your music out there, we can help you: by purchasing a one-day promotion package for only $25 you can organically grow your listener base. The way it works is simple: We will place your song on a number of popular SoundCloud accounts. This will create organic listens, comments, reposts and likes. Depending on your music and several other factors, the organic promotion package will get you 300-500 real plays, 10-60 reposts, 10-80 likes, 1-10 relevant comments and a few new followers. 

Are you ready to take your hip-hop-career to the next level? 

Click here for further info. 

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