By Ellie Riser
In almost all rap music, there is a level of falseness and fantasy integrated into songs, but when the songs we listen to begin to only focus on the fictional aspects of a certain lifestyle and culture created from a very problematic mold, we, the listeners, forget solving or even understanding the issues being rapped about and start to create a fascination that only further motivates the problems that many real people face.
The phenomenon surrounding SoundCloud rappers really started in 2010 when the group, “Odd Future” uploaded some of their very first tracks on the fairly new platform. Since then, numerous artists including XXXTentacion, Tay-K, Ski Mask The Slump God, Lil Peep Trippie Redd, and many others have the popular website to thank for their startup. Now while many of these rappers come from the harsh climate they rap about, quite a few of their fans are starting to claim to have the same lifestyle when in actuality, they live in a world that is totally separate from their acclaimed way of living. Now although this is no SoundCloud rapper, Drake is probably the most well known example of this character. In songs like “Lord Knows” Drake raps about hard times in jail, “I just came from jail, ain’t do no crying. They put me through hell, sharpened my iron. I did my push-ups and I roared with the lions,” When in reality, Aubrey Drake Graham has never done any jail time. It’s this kind of story telling that creates an idea of what it what it means to not only be be a rapper but what it is to be black. Even though Drake was a TV celebrity from age of 15 until the beginning of his rap career, in the eyes of the world he is a black man that raps about what it’s like in jail and how hard it is to be gangster and therefore sets the example for those that look like him.
My older sister, Isabele Riser, stole my computer to write a small blurb about this trend:
“It’s been 3 years since ‘One Ohana’ hit SoundCloud and effectively influenced the entirety of the OES Highschool culture. SoundCloud rappers are lucrative and intoxicating to bodies of highly privileged, majority white highschool students, a clear market alluded to by rappers like J Cole and built by the Lil Pump, Smokepurpp, Lil Xan, 6ix 9ine, etc. types. The lyrics, ‘they wanna be black and think your song is how it feels’ come to mind when thinking about how quickly songs like ‘Look At Me’ gain traction in predominantly white spaces.”
From Complex article: https://www.complex.com/music/2018/09/soundcloud-rappers-you-should-know/
When I asked some OES students about how they feel about the platform or what is evoked from them when they hear the phrase “SoundCloud rapper” this is what they said:
Jillian H. ‘19: “I only listen to Love Sosa RL Grime Remix.”
Hiathan N. ‘22: “Hoes mad.”
Brooke S. ‘20: “Embarrassing.”
Alice L. ‘21: “…Face tattoos?”
Grace G. ‘20: “Douchey, walking STI.”
Ashlyn S. ‘22: “Their songs are kinda fine, but the people are kinda gross. Except some. Some are fine.🤠.”
Henry E. ‘22: “I stopped listening to SoundCloud after Buff Boyz Recordz retired.”
Sydney R. ‘20: “Appropriation, lean.”
Maddy R. ‘19: “They’re trying their very best. It’s not too bad!”
Cesar C. ‘22: “They mumble a lot.”
Patrick B. ‘22:“👋😒boi.”
Alex S. ‘19: “I started listening to SoundCloud in late 7th or early 8th grade, I still use the same account. I’m just north of 1000 likes. It’s what really got me into music.”’
Evidently, the OES community has quite the array of opinions on this topic, and when it comes to rap music, as a whole, we tend to turn a blind eye to the actual substance of the songs or artists creating the music we listen to. Now I don’t think that every OES student who listens to SoundCloud rappers or controversial rappers needs to totally stop listening to every controversial song they’ve ever liked, but more wonder if some of their favorite rappers are actually rapping about their experience or just profiting off of the misfortune of many. What I mean by that is, we do not need to constantly criticize ourselves or others based on what rappers they listen to, but to be more aware of the language and behaviors we are not only feeding into, but rewarding.
Now another part of this topic, is SoundCloud rappers we may actually know personally. If you know a friend or family member who is already in the process of making rap music on different platforms, now would be a good time to wonder who their music is for, who their music is produced and written by, and why people should listen to it. At the end of the day, not one person I know, including myself, would want to strictly listen to or make music with a deep meaning and complex lyrics, but that doesn’t mean anyone should be deterred from the idea of trying it out. Like Isabele stated before, it has been 3 years since OES has had a musician that has made a big enough ripple to be actually recognized outside of school. Dylan Jones, AKA Spit Infinity, was and still is the only significantly known rapper to come from our school community. What sets him apart from other striving rappers in and around the Portland Area is that he doesn’t perpetrate a way of living that is extremely problematic or false through his music, he actually has meaning in what he writes, balanced with the fanciful and carefree aspects that the rap game requires. In the song One Ohana, he says, “Remember you’re dust and to dust you return, and dust doesn’t give a f*** what you have learned. All I am saying is live on your terms, life is too short to just live by some words,” Perfectly summing up the importance of living while also cleverly using the prayer OES students often hear on Ash Wednesday. From what I interpret from these lyrics it can also be said that this phrase allows other artists to think about where their “status” or rap persona will get them if it’s all talk, because we all have the same ending no matter what so why not live your life truest to yourself. Another reason Spit Infinity has done so well, in my opinion, is because he doesn’t pretend he has lived a life that he doesn’t live.This doesn’t mean that all of his songs are intensely intricate and lyrical, but he has and continues to openly rap about the impact that a lifestyle such as one at OES had on him as a student but also as a black male. Although examples like Dylan are rare, they are very important reminders that as a creator, you have the ability to let people see things in ways they haven’t before.
Finally, when a track is uploaded online, even as a joke, it is given a voice. Whether that voice speaks to having a good time or talking about serious issues, it always has a reason. Music should be fun, exciting, intense, complicated, and most of all it should have a purpose. Every rap song made is a way for people to learn about or relate to a story and person. If the person or story behind the mic isn’t at all real, then you are leaving an actual story untold. And to those making and uploading music on whatever platform, if you aren’t interested in rapping about the life you live, are you an artist worth knowing?