For years, the popular music sharing platform SoundCloud was the centerpiece of underground hip-hop and rap. Anyone could make an account, publish their work to the world and put their talents on display. SoundCloud had reshaped the landscape for artists, giving lesser-known artists a means to keep pushing and grinding to share their music. As time went on, that landscape changed. No one is sure when, how or why it exactly happened, but it did. SoundCloud rap has evolved into its own genre, where a collection of eccentric, energetic and wild artists began to hit the scene. Their sound was unlike anything the hip-hop world had heard. Gritty, booming 808s and simple, yet tenacious melodies evolved into hip-hop’s most hyperactive yet dark subgenres.
Enter Tekashi 6ix9ine, a Brooklyn rapper who seems to embody everything that SoundCloud rap has evolved to be. Visually, the man looks like something straight out of fiction. The bright, rainbow-dyed hair defined his image, and to add more fuel to the fire, the man practically covered his body with tattoos, all different renditions of the number 69.
How in the world could this guy ever make it? A question I ask myself all too often. But, 6ix9ine has taken the hip-hop world by storm. Tracks like “FEFE” with fellow Brooklyn-rapper Nicki Minaj, “GUMMO” and “TATI” spurred 6ix9ine into the spotlight. His aggressive lyrics, coupled with his scream-like delivery made him stand out in an instant. But we had really only scratched the surface on what he was truly like. His constant trolling leaves him bereft of any gravitas, captivating the masses with his carefree and infectious behavior.
However, 6ix9ine’s habits would eventually catch up to him, for he was arrested on Nov. 19 on federal charges for racketeering and firearms. 6ix9ine and the rest of his Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods crew were slapped with charges related to armed robbery, conspiracy to commit murder and drug trafficking. 6ix9ine is currently being held without bail after offering his entire bank account worth $1.7 million. On Nov. 27, after he allegedly reached a plea deal with law enforcement, his trial date has been set for Sept. 14 of next year.
6ix9ine, it seems is living the life he was meant to portray. Via Rolling Stone, Lance Lazzaro, 6ix9ine’s lawyer, presented a statement on Nov. 21, saying that 6ix9ine is “completely innocent of all charges being brought against him.” Lazzaro further stated that 6ix9ine is “an entertainer who portrays a ‘gangster image’ to promote his image,” and thus “does not make him a member of the enterprise.”
In the words of Jeff Goldblum, “well, there it is.” 6ix9ine is a prime example of the changing scene of hip-hop, ushering in an era where fame and image mean more than the music itself. 6ix9ine posted several videos of himself in the past doing outlandish, yet sometimes comedic things. Whether he’s sprinting full speed in the rain wielding an AK-47, or dancing in Chief Keef’s neighborhood “O’block,” the guy has mastered the art of trolling, and it has played into his great success.
This video of 6ix9ine running gets me every time pic.twitter.com/O6yXBvGgWV
— Blizz (@uncleancasuals) June 21, 2018
Now, everyone that comes out of SoundCloud seems to try to do the same thing. SoundCloud rappers are in constant competition to see who can make the most outrageous video or song to get their name circulating. Up-and-coming SoundCloud rapper Lil Gnar literally punches a TV in a hotel room wearing “electric knuckles.” Why? Who knows. But, the video went viral in a matter of hours. Soon enough, everyone knew who Lil Gnar was and fled to his SoundCloud to see what his music was like.
All credit to these guys for the dedication, but I can’t help but feel that guys like 6ix9ine, Lil Gnar and Blueface are the reason for the decline of SoundCloud rap. The platform itself has become over-encumbered with many rappers that all sound the same and do the same outlandish things. Some of these rappers have gone as far as to title their original music the same as hit songs, racking up listens and plays just to change the song title later. But hey, they got it up to 10 thousand plays right? Totally worth it.
I mean no disrespect to artists who are actually creating music that’s original and actually means something. SoundCloud rap, in its own right, has grown into a subgenre, but only at the cost of stripping away any originality from what was once a great platform. It begs the question, if Chance the Rapper, renowned Chicago rapper who started out on SoundCloud, were to start his career today, would he stick out amongst the crowd? Or would he be overshadowed by the overabundance of SoundCloud rap? There are simply too many great artists on the platform that may never get their chance, all because some guys with colorful hair scream into a microphone in the name of attention.
Email Trevor at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TrevorWilsonOG.