Rap has long gone from being the CNN of the urban environment to being a dominant music genre. The culture of rap has seemed best positioned to take advantage of the internet era which craves regular content, whether it be mixtapes, beefs or gossip. The new wave of rap seems especially determined to crash the mainstream and make as many enemies as possible in the process. Causing an endless stream of podcast discussions on why the new kids are disrespectful and why is hip hop is in a bad state. The fact that these new wave of rappers are doing well seems to frustrate partly because there is no explaination of such success. However if we were to look at some key factors we are then able to understand their route to success.
With so many news outlets struggling to keep up with the pace of the internet, the best route for the new wave of rappers in 2018 to establish their personality has been through their own social media platforms. The control they have over their own content and its presentation means they can develop a greater bond with their fans and it is better for explaining and presenting their unique worldview. Lil Xan’s recent experience in an interview where when he was asked about his opinion regarding Tupac Shakur’s music, to which he responded that he found it boring only highlighted how important social media is to a musician. Even if he had worded his answer better, it would not have mattered, he still would have received an overwhelming backlash. To many Tupac is the best rapper to grace the genre and for a newcomer to ‘insult’ his legacy was abominable. He then went on a sort of apology tour, trying to explain himself after the fact, but by then he already lost
Livestreaming- on Instagram mainly, is very important for the success of the new wave of rappers. Live streaming cuts out the ‘middle man’ – the traditional entertainment media, to go directly to the fans, providing both intimacy and immediacy to the audience. That immediacy allows for the artists to take their fans on a journey. Take for example how Cardi B, regularly went on livestream during the making of her debut album to explain her frustrations with her rivals, the industry, the tax system etc. That type of content is spontaneous, and while it is hard to truly quantify the impact it had for her, there is no doubt that it helped her as a female rapper in a male dominated field stand out and connect deeply with her fanbase. Even though we like the music of an artist at first, if we like the artist’s persona and have justifiable reasons then we come back to support the artist again and again.
The short album lengths are mainly used to demonstrate the strengths of the up and coming rapper to an extreme extent. 6ix9ine’s debut mixtape Day69 in particular exclusively focused on showcasing the high energy approach that his trademark over anything else. 6ix9ine at the time of the project’s release was a relatively new artist to the mainstream, and this approach meant that the audience’s attention span was solely focused on material that served his strengths.
This stands in contrast with the bloated albums, whose main purpose is to boost streaming numbers. For example, Drake’s last three projects have all been over 80 minutes long with 20 tracks or more on them. The sheer length was made to feel longer mostly in part due to Drake’s monotone despondent delivery. That works for him though because he is an established rapper, who has a settled fanbase unlike the new wave of rappers who are still trying to find their feet in a crowded space.
Lil Pump’s song Gucci Gang, is the best example of the new wave of rappers. It’s 124 seconds long and mentions the song’s title- which is in reference to the rap duo consisting of him and Smokepurp, over 50 times. That extreme level of repetition grabs your attention by being interesting. The more attention we pay to it the easier we remember it, the higher its importance is as we focus on it.
Before the clout era of rap, becoming a meme was to be avoided. To be a famous rapper, in the conventional sense was to try as much as possible to avoid the embarrassment of being the foundation of an internet joke. However due to the explosive growth of social media platforms such as Instagram which is highly visual, meant that there was no way to avoid this becoming an occurrence. Instead, the only way to succeed was to take control of the process and generate comedic memes. YBN Almighty Jay’s ‘story’ of meeting Blac Chyna, made him more famous due to its unconventional comedic aspect. It contained a lot of key concepts in its creation. First it was on a video by No Jumper, a now record label, that is favourable to YBN Almighty Jay. Secondly it took the awkwardness of having to explain his relationship with Blac Chyna who is controversial in rap, and spun it to comedic effect. It made him more likeable and presentable to an audience that predisposed to dislike him because of his association with Blac Chyna.
If we were to take a step back we can see how Lady Gaga’s influence on rap is huge. Ever since her breakthrough she has been supplementing her extraordinary talent with attention grabbing stunts, primarily in order to stand out in contrast to other artists. We as fans remember the new rappers that stands out from the rest of the crowd because in our heads we are attracted to the unconventional that breaks the social norms. With rap becoming more and more crowded, the ability to stand out becomes a highly sought-after skill.
Rap’s positioning has enabled it to take advantage of the growing importance of the internet. Mixtapes, beefs and outsized personalities are a common theme in every era of rap. Now with the cultural dominance of social media, its meant that the rappers who are extremely talented in playing the game of attention, can rise to the top with little conventional rap talent. The rap game has changed, and in this era of rap if you are interesting, good at social media, and able to make an addictive song or two you can become an internet legend.