Notes From the Underground: Vol. 1
by John Cheesman on March 16, 2014
Posted in: Hip Hop
Hey all. Welcome 2 my new series, “Notes from the Underground,” based (v loosely, only in name) on Dostoevsky’s novel by the same name. The plan is to bring to all of you my penchant for compulsively mining the deepest corners of the Soundcloud Esotercica-verse. If this sounds daunting, don’t worry. I’m doing the work, you just have to press play and listen to the amazing music that can exist only within the world of the Soundcloud music exchange.
Each week I’ll bring a new trend and a new artist from said trend out of the underground and into the light of day. Come w/ me and prepare to have a v good time.
While the name “#animewave” doesn’t have any real, consistent rallying force, I think this term can be helpful to describe the trend I’m looking at this week. Followers of this trend are identified by avatars of anime characters, katanas, pixelated styrofoam cups, 1980s nintendo imagery, and vaguely “#asian” characters and letters.
Basically, what you have here is the synthesis of Southern Trap-Rap culture and throwback anime/ Japanese video game references. The results can sometimes be a fresh way to represent the oddball rappers who are (majoritively) the ones putting this stuff together. It can also be a strong way to break down some of the potentially limited perimeters of subject matter that denominate mainstream trap.
When someone hits it right, the genre-bending/ synthesizing powers of Soundcloud come to light in what I think is a very evident way. For example:
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/135560171″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
With this one, Go Yama demonstrates just how well Joe Hisaishi can link up with type of bump that we associate with modern trap, but then again not only trap— Go Yama is pulling from a huge variety of sources and styles. Maybe it’s that diversity that makes this track different in my mind from say, this one:
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/126661047″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
or this one:
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/136364458″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
While I’m hesitant to question to the authorial intent of either Ryan Hemsworth or P2TheGoldMask, it seems to me like there is a certain lack of subtlety here that walks a dangerous line. And that’s the thing with #animewave as I see it. On the one hand it can be a genuine way to cross cultural and artistic lines through music and through the way Soundcloud lets its users interact. On the other hand, (maybe) more often than not, the representative artists of this trend end up making a pastiche of cultural misappropriation that fails to do justice to any of its constituent parts. Throwing Chief Keef and Joe Hisaishi together makes a remix that is more spectacle than real artifact, and calling attention to the disparity of its pieces doesn’t do much to reconcile them. What you often end up with is a type of gross collage of #asain and #trap that easily becomes exploitative of the source material being consumed. It flattens the immense diversity of range in JAPANESE (not #asain) and TRAP-RAP (not #trap) culture.
NOTE **— clearly, this trend expands from the trap-rap pastiche to rap in general. Chief Keef and the drill scene in Chicago are just as susceptible as Migos and the A$AP Mob—** END NOTE
Then again, there’s deff the chance that I’m reading the types of appropriation that I suspect are at work into these artists— like I said, I can’t claim to know their intentions with these songs. Whichever way it goes, I can’t deny that I’m an avid consumer of the stuff being put out there. There’s something I find Romantic in, for example, this song:
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/116726070″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
There’s a thrill I derive from this spectacle where references to Bleach, one of my personal favorite mangas at the moment, can exist next to lines about waking up next to a group of hoes. Somehow I’m reassured by the fact that choppas are replaced with katanas in this narrative, and that a squad is simultaneously a reference to Xavier Wulfs rap collective, the Water Boys, and to the names of the group of fighters who comprise the main characters in the the manga I mentioned before. Maybe that makes me an ignorant consumer.
If you want some more samples of music from this trend, check out these artists:
Leave comments. Let me know what you think. Till next time, I’ll be down here excavating next week’s selection.