New Year's resolutions are a nice excuse to reflect on those things most important to us. But we all know what happens on January 2nd--too often we've set unrealistic goals we can't or simply don't follow through on in any consistent way. Maybe it's time to do ourselves a break, and set the bar a bit lower.
Here's one New Year's resolution that won't let you down two weeks into the month: listen to more SoundCloud rap.
SoundCloud is a beautiful thing, people. In the history from phonographs to the Walkman to the iPod, music is always made better when it's more widely spread, and the barrier to entry isn't as high. When new types of artists, sounds and ideas are given space, the market on the whole is better off for it, even as the quality threshold is lower.
One of those great inventions of the free music model is what's now infamously known as "SoundCloud rap". For some, the name itself connotes a certain sensation of acid reflux in the back of one's throat. But to discount the genre on its intellectual merits would be missing all the great gifts SoundCloud rappers have given us: vibes, variations on the word "Lil", drama, bangers, straight ignorant lyrics, memes, etc...
And lest you put down the accomplishments of the form: how many other musical subgenres you can name that so quickly became fully-fledged popular movements in their own? Trap music, for one--the heaviest influence for SoundCloud rappers--has been around since the '90s, but it took one boost in the mid 2000s, and then another over the last few years, before your mom started listening to Migos.
1996: "Before you jump in the game let's get one thing understood/If you're sellin' that ice cream, you gots to make sure it's good" -Master P, 'Mr. Ice Cream Man'
2006: "Rain, rain, rain this way/That's what all the strippers say" -Gucci Mane, 'Rain Mane'
2016: "I was eating pork and rinds with a b**** from 'New York Times'/I don't eat no pork and rinds, but that b**** was mighty fine" -Lil Yachty, 'Minnesota (Remix)'
But SoundCloud rap is already both a totally diverse and wholly coherent entity. It's excessive tattoos and blonde dreads. It's xans and lean in bulk. It's sliding the gain on your bass synth all the way up until it's liable to blow out your loudspeakers (R.I.P. my computer's left loudspeaker). The image, the music and the culture all feed a single direction, even as its proponents are geographically disconnected (the sound originates from South Florida, but essentially exists on the internet), sharing only this single internet platform as means of greater communication.
So this new year set a goal for yourself that you can actually follow through on. Discover new voices, and open yourself up to the kind of un-mastered content that could've never made it past the receptionist's desk at RCA only a few years ago. Bet on which weirdo will be the next one to somehow make it into a basic cable commercial, and get ready for the next song that'll inspire a generation of bar mitzvah boys to learn dance moves they probably shouldn't.
Here are a few song suggestions, if you'd like somewhere to start:
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