In a somewhat confusing sequence of events, only days after expressing interest in a collaborative mixtape with the profoundly mediocre XXXTENTACION, New York City emcee Joey Badass declared via Twitter that rap is currently in a “very trash state.” He went on to ask his contemporaries where their souls are and urged his followers to “pay attention to what’s being over-saturated.” Joey concluded the series of tweets with a (likely ironic) suggestion that his next album will be of the trap variety. Ostensibly, the animosity the Pro Era founder feels towards other hip-hop artists is directed primarily towards Soundcloud rappers such as Lil Pump and Smokepurpp.
For those who may not be familiar (how anyone could continue to avoid the biggest trends in hip-hop is beyond me), the explosive genre known as Soundcloud rap has several observable characteristics. These include short song lengths, trap beats featuring sharp hi-hats, crushing 808 snares, and overblown bass, simple, tight, aggressive flows, braggadocious, repetitive lyrics, and themes of fame, money, women, drugs, diamonds, et cetera.
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of the style is an artist’s meme capacity. Put differently, those who can be meme’d blow up. Of course, as is the case with any genre of music, the Soundcloud wave is not without exceptions to the rules. More on this later.
The contempt Joey appears to have for his emerging competitors is not surprising; the majority of his catalog, right up until his most recent project, wears some serious hardcore New York hip-hop influence. He has the right to share his opinions as he pleases. That being said, as much as I love Joey, his opinions are misguided for a few reasons.
Danny Brown, Brockhampton, Injury Reserve, Tyler, Earl, Milo, Open Mike Eagle, Busdriver, Big K.R.I.T., Rapsody, Maxo, Migos, ScHoolboy, Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Young Thug, Death Grips, YG, Vince Staples, Flatbush Zombies, and the other Pro Era boys. That’s just off the top of my head. All Joey’s contemporaries. All of whom either dropped projects recently or will drop soon. All of whom help to keep the culture fresh and exciting and impossible to ignore. There is nothing wrong with a preference for earlier eras of hip-hop. There is something wrong, however, with the failure to give credit where credit is due. Although I realize that I am young and that my knowledge of the genre is minuscule compared to that of others, I maintain that now is an extremely exciting time to be a hip-hop fan.
Secondly — and I cannot stress this enough — the Soundcloud genre is neither homogeneous nor lacking in quality material. What Lil Pump lacks in technical ability and lyricism he makes up for with incredible and infectious energy. Whether you like him or not, Lil Yachty has a remarkably original voice and style. Trippie Redd sings with a potently strained delivery that I immediately recognize. The Rich Forever boys have as much personality as any other group out there at the moment. And, for the love of all things sacred, have some respect for Ski Mask! From a technical standpoint, the Slump God can rap with the best of the best. His flows are clever, colorful, and insane. Nobody is riding the Soundcloud wave who excites me more than Ski Mask does and his new project is guaranteed to deliver.
The melon himself, Mr. Anthony Fantano, compared the work of Yachty to the innovative minds of the hardcore punk genre that emerged in the 70s. As someone who spent his high school years bumping the likes of Black Flag and Adolescents, I tend to agree with him. The fact that genres evolve and sub genres blow up are what makes music and music culture so addictive. You don’t have to like it, but you should, at the very least, accept it.