Nowadays the idea of a SoundCloud rapper with colourful hair, melodic flows, bright beats and crazy antics has been enshrined in the minds of hip-hop fans. However, without the platform itself, this trope of flashy, rock star rappers might have never made it to audiences across the world and propelled today’s stars such as Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, Post Malone, Travis Scott and many others to the top of the rap game.

SoundCloud was founded in 2007 by two Swedish musicians who later launched the platform in 2008 and in hopes that it would help bring artists together to collaborate and share their music. SoundCloud grew rapidly and by 2009, Wired magazine claimed that it was going to overtake Myspace as the go-to platform for artists to share their music. However, it wouldn’t be until the early 2010s where SoundCloud became a new platform for the underground hip-hop movement outside of the traditional regionality of the underground hip-hop scene.

Before SoundCloud, the preceding generation of Internet musicians and music fans found a home on MySpace where they could share their music and connect with fans. Artists such as Soulja Boy, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Kid Cudi and other artists who now live in the upper stratosphere of the music business, got their start on the platform. However, once they made it off MySpace, were signed and on the way to the mainstream, these artists abandoned MySpace and eventually the platform faded from relevance in the music scene.

With the decline of MySpace, young people looking to get their start in the music industry began flocking to SoundCloud and with new users on the platform, new sounds began to proliferate. Subgenres of rap such as the emo-rap and bubblegum-trap, which did not fit in with the mainstream dark trap sound at the time, found a home on SoundCloud. This underground scene of misfits became a place for people to push new sounds which weren’t being heard in the mainstream scene. For example, rappers such as Rico Nasty and Lil Yachty were rapping over these cutesy and light beats with fun lyrics that were massively criticized by the mainstream and ‘old heads’, but that same sound garnered them lots of attention on SoundCloud. 

Even emo-rap, which has taken hold of popular, music with artists such as Lil Peep, Juice WRLD, XXXTentacion (before their passing), iann dior and others topping the charts by combining grunge and emo aesthetics of the early 2000s and the trap sound. However, like bubblegum-trap, it did not garner much attention from the mainstream. With the lack of mainstream attention, SoundCloud became the place for these artists to build followings of dedicated fans and push their music farther without being dictated by the mainstream music market. 

With the growing fan bases and label pushes into the SoundCloud world, these new sounds came to dominate the charts in the late 2010s with hits such as Juice WRLD’s “Lucid Dreams”, XXXTentacion’s “SAD!”, Post Malone’s “Psycho”, and even Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” rising from SoundCloud to dominate.

Today, SoundCloud still plays a role in the rise of artists like DC The Don, $not, Aaron May, and Ken Car$on. These earlier SoundCloud artists have helped pave the way for the next generation who are following in the footsteps of the artists who made a name for themselves in the last decade.




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