Mumble rap (often referred to as "SoundCloud rap") is a loosely defined microgenre of hip hop that largely spread on the online audio distribution platform SoundCloud in the 2010s. The term implies a mumbling or unclear vocal delivery by artists, and may generally refer to rappers who do not share the genre's typical emphasis on lyricism.
|Cultural origins||Early 2010s|
|Miami; Atlanta Metropolitan Area|
While the term has been widely criticized as inaccurate or as a derogatory term, some artists have reclaimed the term. Some have defended the style as a new phase in the evolution of the genre.
Style and etymologyEdit
The term "mumble rap" was first used in 2014 by VladTV battle rap journalist Michael Hughes, in an interview with battle rapper Loaded Lux about the style's emergence in mainstream hip hop. There is disagreement over who first rapped in such a style, although its creation has been attributed to rappers such as Gucci Mane, Chief Keef, and most notably Future, whose 2011 single "Tony Montana" is often cited as the first mumble rap song. The term was first used to describe rappers whose lyrics were unclear, but the use of the term has expanded to include rappers that Reddit posters and YouTube commenters claim generally put little emphasis on lyricism or lyrical quality. Some have claimed that artists such as Das EFX and Fu-Schnickens rapped in a similar style years before the term was created. "Mumble rappers" tend to talk about drugs, sex, money, jewelry, designer clothing, and partying. Rappers labelled as "mumble rappers" also tend to use the "aye" flow, where they add words such as "yeah", "aye" and "uh" to the start or end of their lines.
"Mumble rap" is nearly exclusively used as a derogatory term in reference to a perceived incoherence of the artist's lyrics. Oscar Harold of the Cardinal Times stated that "mumble rap" is misleading, arguing that the rappers such as Future rely more upon pop melodies and vocal effects, such as Auto-Tune, than mumbling. Justin Charity, a staff writer at The Ringer, argues that the term is unnecessarily reductive and does not in fact refer to one specific type of rapping. He wrote that many of the artists often scapegoated in conversations about the subgenre do not actually mumble, which "is the red flag that the term isn't a useful subcategorization."
There are disputes as to whether some rappers are mumble rappers or not. There is also conflation between mumble/SoundCloud rap and other new generation-led evolutions or niches such as trap and cloud rap. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Troy L. Smith writes that 21 Savage unfairly gets classified as a mumble rapper.
SoundCloud rap sceneEdit
In 2017, music critic Jon Caramanica of The New York Times opined that SoundCloud rap "in the last year has become the most vital and disruptive new movement in hip-hop". Todd Moscowitz, the founder of Alamo Records, called the scene a "lo-fi movement" noting the heavily distorted bass and intentional lack of polish in the sound. When Ski Mask the Slump God discussed the genre's lo-fi sound and recording techniques, he noted, "It was like the worst recording set up, [but] you could set it up anywhere and that was the wave we were on.... The raw energy of that – the distortion – is our speciality and we used that to our advantage." Spin noted that the SoundCloud company has not been able to leverage the popularity of SoundCloud rap to improve its financial problems. In January 2019, citing the deaths of American rappers Lil Peep in 2017 and XXXTentacion in 2018, Lil Xan's entry into rehab, and 6ix9ine's legal troubles, Stephen Witt of Rolling Stone magazine argued that the SoundCloud rap wave of the past few years was now in decline.
Rappers who have voiced discontent with mumble rap include J. Cole, Chris Webby, Logic, Russ, Joyner Lucas, and Eminem. On his album Kamikaze, Eminem criticized multiple "mumble rappers" after declaring that "The boom bap is coming back with an axe to mumble rap" in the Royce da 5'9" song "Caterpillar". Eminem's Diss Track "Killshot", which was targeted at Machine Gun Kelly, included a line where he pejoratively called MGK a mumble rapper. Noted rap artist Pete Rock prominently criticized the style for abandoning hip-hop tradition. In music critic Robert Christgau's opinion, "SoundCloud rap is at least as afflicted as any other kind of hip hop with sexist rhetoric I need very good reasons to hear past." He added, "I'm way sick of the word 'bitch'", particularly disliking XXXTentacion's music for these reasons.
In defense of the style, Justin Charity of The Ringer suggested that the debate is "really about discomfort with how a generation of young musicians has chosen to use their voices in strange, unprecedented ways, and against the wishes of their parents and forefathers." The Guardian compared the style to the first wave of punk, noting a shared "sonic simplicity, gleeful inanity and sense of transgression." The Vibe linked mumble rap to earlier forms of hip-hop, as well as jazz scatting. For The Conversation, Adam de Paor-Evans disputed the idea that mumble rap is a reflection of laziness, suggesting instead that it is an accurate reflection of boredom resulting from the immediacy and speed of contemporary cultural life." Red Bull Music Academy stated that "however they're labeled – SoundCloud rap, emo-trap, mumble rap – one thing's for sure: these rappers are forging new paths, once again pushing the boundaries of what rap is, who it's for and how it's distributed."
Rap pioneer Grandmaster Caz expressed acceptance of the style, stating "It's all good [...] they're a different generation, they do a different thing, they have a different agenda and their influences come from different places." Funk pioneer George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic declared himself a listener of mumble rap, stating "we try to pay attention to whatever the new music is that gets on your nerves." Podcaster and television host The Kid Mero dismisses criticisms of the style, stating: "sonically if your shit is wack, why am I gonna listen to what you gotta say? If I turn it on and the beat is kind of annoying, I'm not gonna sit through that just to hear you say ‘lyrical, metaphysical, giftical...’"
- Smith, Troy (June 6, 2017). "What is mumble rap? 25 essential songs from Future, Migos and more". cleveland.com.
- Washington, Brad (April 20, 2018). "J. Cole Puts Mumble Rappers In Their Place On His New Album 'KOD' outro, '1985'". The Source. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
- Trischitta, Brett Clarkson, Tonya Alanez, Linda. "Slain rapper XXXTentacion might have been targeted in 'random robbery,' his lawyer says". Sun-Sentinel.com. Retrieved January 29, 2019.
- "Is Mumble Rap Really Such A Terrible Thing?". Vibe. June 6, 2017. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
- Johnson, Emily (May 7, 2018). "5 Ways How Mumble Rap has Influenced Urban Pop Culture". Bongminesentertainment.com. Retrieved January 29, 2019.
- Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (April 5, 2018). "Lil Xan: Total Xanarchy review – moronic rap to make you feel old". The Guardian. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
- "The real 'Slim Shady' strikes again with latest album release | Arts & Entertainment". Theeastcarolinian.com. September 10, 2018. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
- "An Aging Hip-Hop Fan and WW's Resident Hypebeast Debate the New Sound of Rap". Willamette Week. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- "The Rise of 'Mumble Rap': Did Lyricism Take a Hit in 2016?". Billboard.com. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
- Coker, Hillary (December 5, 2017). "The Who's Who Of SoundCloud Rap". Genius. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
- Zisook, Brian "Z". ""It's Corny": Desiigner Calls Out "Old People Talkin' That Mumble Rap"". DJBooth.net. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
- Charity, Justin (April 18, 2017). "Declaring a Moratorium on the Term "Mumble Rap"". The Ringer. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
- "What is Mumble Rap? | Features | MN2S". Mn2s.com. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
- Jasmine, Alyse. "Let's Ask Ourselves, Is Mumble Rap Really A Thing?". The Vibe. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
- Jasmine, Alyse (June 6, 2017). "Is Mumble Rap Really Such A Terrible Thing?". Vibe. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- "Is "Mumble Rap" Killing Hip Hop?". Mic Cheque. July 22, 2017. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
- Mushfiqur, Shanto (January 11, 2018). "Mumble Rap – Either you love it or hate it". The Daily Star. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
- "How The "Ayy" Flow Became The Hottest Thing In Hip-Hop". Genius. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
- Hinebaugh, Jonah. "Mumble rap is abstract expressionism for hip hop". Retrieved August 7, 2018.
- Lyons, Patrick. "Lil Yachty's "Teenage Emotions" (Review)". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
- Harold, Oscar. "Review: 'Mumble Rap' is a poor label for new Hip-Hop". Retrieved August 7, 2018.
- Smith, Troy L.; Clevel; .com (June 6, 2017). "What is mumble rap? 25 essential songs from Future, Migos and more". cleveland. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
- Caramanica, Jon (June 22, 2017). "The Rowdy World of Rap's New Underground". The New York Times.
- Turner, David (June 1, 2017). "Look At Me!: The Noisy, Blown-Out SoundCloud Revolution Redefining Rap". Rolling Stone.
- Sargent, Jordan (July 14, 2017). "Why Soundcloud Rap Couldn't Save Soundcloud". Spin.
- Witt, Stephen (January 16, 2019). "Tekashi 69: The Rise and Fall of a Hip-Hop Supervillain". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
- "Chris Webby Calls Out The Mumble Rappers In New Video "Raw Thoughts"". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
- USA Today https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2019/05/03/eminem-and-logic-blast-their-rap-peers-new-collab-homicide/3660768002/. Retrieved March 31, 2020. Missing or empty
- "Russ: Mumble Rappers Will Never Go Down Among The Best Hip Hop Artists". AllHipHop.com. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
- "Eminem & Joyner Lucas Rant About The State Of Hip-Hop On "Lucky You"". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
- "Eminem Is Frustrated With 'Mumble Rap,' According to Rick Rubin". Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
- "All the people Eminem disses on his surprise album 'Kamikaze'". NME. August 31, 2018. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
- Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM. "Machine Gun Kelly Breaks Down Eminem Feud, Halsey Rumors, Mac Miller's Death, Binge EP + More". YouTube. Retrieved January 29, 2019.
- Christgau, Robert (September 18, 2018). "Xgau Sez". Robertchristgau.com. Archived from the original on September 18, 2018. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
- Aroesti, Rachel. "Lil Pump review". The Guardian. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
- de Paor-Evans, Adam. "Mumble Rap: cultural laziness or a true reflection of contemporary times?". The Conversation. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
- "21 Rappers Under 21 Who Are Shaping Hip-Hop". Red Bull Music Academy. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
- Williams, Stereo. "How Hip-Hop's Generation Gap Became a War for Its Soul". The Daily Beast. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
- "GEORGE CLINTON'S LEGEND AS THE MASTER OF P-FUNK WILL ENDURE AFTER RETIREMENT". OC Weekly. Retrieved June 6, 2019.