It seems there’s always something percolating on Soundcloud. Despite the streaming service’s financial woes, it remains a hotbed of underground activity, particularly in hip-hop, where the oft-maligned “mumble rap” and “Soundcloud rap” sub-genres were birthed. The origin of rabble-rousing up-and-comers like Lil Uzi Vert, Ski Mask The Slump God, and Denzel Curry, Soundcloud’s relative ease of access compared to other sites allows burgeoning talents to find a ready and willing audience without jumping through hoops to get placed on Spotify or Apple Music.
The latest talent to begin to poke his head out for the underground is 19-year-old Delaware rapper Lil West. While he has the same devil-may-care, DIY aesthetic of many of his contemporaries, he’s also demonstrated some real polish to his approach to the lo-fi, fuzzed-out sounds of so-called “cloud rap.” Case in point, his latest single release, “Beliefs,” featuring Atlanta rapper Nessly shows a clear grasp of the tools of the trade. Whereas some acts hide behind Autotune, West uses it to heighten his brusque delivery.
Instead of getting lost in the frantic energy of some of his contemporaries who allow their eagerness to overwhelm both the equipment and the listener with boisterous delivery, West reels it in just enough. Not lethargic, but not shouting either, he sounds comfortable on the mic, a quality that many of his peers have yet to attain.
His beat choice is crispy, not a muddled rumble but not a bombed-out sonic attack either. Producers Dmac and Cian P, offer up a clear-cut trap banger that refuses to sound like anything else. It’s dark but not murky, and and rattles along at just enough of a clip not to become dirge-like, as the genre tends to do.
Keep an eye out for Lil West. He may be young, but he’s got the vision and the talent to, if not transcend the “cloud rap” designation, then certainly to extend the sub-genre’s shelf life as long as he’s around.