Hey everyone, for Complex News I’m Justin Block. If a rapper without “lil” in their name drops a project on SoundCloud and no one presses play, does it really make a sound? That’s what it feels like keeping up with the onslaught of buzzing rappers, mixtapes, and hip-hop subgenres in 2017.
Even though it’s more relevant than ever, SoundCloud has weathered a tough year. In early July, the streaming platform laid off 173 employees amid rumors the company only had enough capital to make it to the end of 2017. Chance the Rapper even claimed he was going to save the day. Independent musicians panicked about what this meant for the future of distributing their music. Ultimately, SoundCloud announced that it’s here to stay, whatever that means.
SoundCloud is home to an entire nation of rappers with colored dreads, melodies inspired by 2000s emo and pop punk, and the latest mutations of Atlanta’s trap. A lot of the music is groundbreaking, much of it is not. The term “SoundCloud Rap” has become a dismissive descriptor in the same way “Mumble Rap” has.
And the SoundCloud ecosystem is shifting. The platform is still influential, but Spotify’s RapCaviar playlist and Apple’s A-List: Hip-Hop playlist are leading the curated playlist era. Rappers who built their fan bases on SoundCloud have started to phase out of the system that birthed them.
Problematic rappers like XXXTentacion are transitioning from millions of plays on SoundCloud to selling a possible 70,0000 units for his debut album “17.” If anything, SoundCloud’s biggest problem is keeping the stars it helped birth from becoming fuel for the engines of its competitors. With that said, here are some of the biggests artists dominating SoundCloud.
First up is Trippie Redd, an 18-year-old from Canton, Ohio. His biggest song to date is the devastating and psychedelic “Love Scars.” The closest comparison lobbed at Trippie is undoubtedly Lil Uzi Vert.
Next up is Kodie Shane, easily the most talented member of Lil Yachty’s Sailing Team. Her ear for melodies and ability to execute them separates her from most rapper’s in her weight class. Check out her song “Sad,” where she upstages her bigger bro.
Then there’s Lil Peep, an emo artist with trap influences. In early August, Peep released his debut album, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1. It’s even more of an emo rock project than his previous music. In fact, it might not even be correct to call Peep a rapper anymore.
Now hailing from the DMV, Rico Nasty is best known for her song “Hey Arnold,” which Lil Yachty jumped on. Her project Tales of Tacobella is one of the best of 2017. Her latest song “Poppin’” is a blistering diss supposedly aimed at another female rapper, Bali Baby. With the right push, the song and the story behind it have the potential to go viral.
Next up is Lil Pump, who has an undeniable formula. The secret to the South Florida teen’s style seems to be something like, pick a name out of a hat, compare that name to how rich and successful you are, and rap it over a booming beat. Check out “D Rose” for the best example of this. Or on “Lil Pump,” where he says his own name over and over again like a mystic chant. He’s not reinventing the wheel but he doesn’t need to. He’s got something else.
Ski Mask the Slump God has the No. 10 song on the SoundCloud Top 50 right now, with “Catch Me Outside.” It’s a blistering translation of the 1999 Missy Elliott song “She’s a Bitch” that even Missy noticed, and showed love to in this tweet.
So, it’s hard to pinpoint what type of rapper Smokepurpp wants to be. If there was a game of “build-a-SoundCloud-rapper,” the 19-year-old Florida has the catchy adlibs of Playboi Carti and the auto-tune gargling of Lil Yachty. “To the Moon” isn’t his biggest song, but it easily one of his most creative. This is what Kid Cudi’s 2008 song “Man on the Moon” would sound like if he’d made it in 2017.
These are just some of the names you need to know on Soundcloud right now. For the rest of the list, go to Complex dot com. For Complex News, I’m Justin Block.