What Is SoundCloud Rap?

A pseudo-genre that encapsulates some of the more interesting hip hop released over the past decade. SoundCloud, the streaming platform that allows users to upload audio recordings, officially became the place for new rap talent to break at some point in the mid-2010s. As YouTube was to Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes, SoundCloud became to a long, long list of indie rappers who all have names that begin with “Lil” (Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Pump, and Lil Mosey are three of the bigger deals, but Lil Xan, Lil Tjay, and Lil Skies are all arguably SoundCloud stars, too.)

So, what does their stuff sound like? Many rappers who made their debut via SoundCloud are grouped together under the category “emo rap,” which gives you a rough idea of their trademark style — a sort of fusion of trap and pop punk. Meanwhile, their visual aesthetic tends to lean heavily on dreadlocks and face tattoos.

Unfortunately, we’ve already lost two of the genre’s biggest stars, XXXTentacion and Lil Peep, who were shot and died of a fentanyl overdose in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Some say these tragedies, timed with the rise of streaming services, marked the end of the SoundCloud Rap era. Others say it’s just getting started. Either way, these days, if you’re looking for an easy place to keep up with the emerging voices of rap, your best bet is now the Rap Caviar playlist on Spotify or Apple Music’s The A-List: Hip-Hop.