By Oliviero Zanalda
If you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ve stumbled across a song that is so interesting, so obscure, and so good that you try to show it to your friends and they, well, think it sucks (definitely not derived from personal experience). The internet is full of “bad” music, but music is subjective. In this article, I share 5 songs that I discovered through countless hours of scouring YouTube and SoundCloud. All 5 of these songs are unique, yet share something in common, the use of the internet to gain traction. These could be the best or worst songs you’ve ever heard. You might love these songs, and you might hate them. Nevertheless, I think there’s something here for everyone, whether you’re well-versed in internet music or not. These are 5 gems from around the internet.
Spellbound – Bladee
What you might notice throughout this list is the prevalence of autotune. Despite being criticized for its overuse in modern rap, this electronic tool is essential to the development of internet rap. Bladee is arguably one of the most influential internet rappers, developing his iconic “drained” sound with the use of autotune. To achieve this, slather some empty-sounding vocals in layers upon layers of autotune and reverb. When done correctly, you get Bladee. The way his vocals are layered at the beginning of the song creates this celestial, symphonic rise until the beat drops. Throughout this build-up, he repeats the line “money got me spellbound”. This is more or less the theme throughout the entire song. When the beat drops, the Swede raps
“Prada Sport, Lamborghini doors, I’m prepared to fall
Snowboard on my MasterCard, I shine like a star
Coast guard, surfin’ Hollister, I’m in money world
Rainworld, I would get some pearl if I had a girl”
Now if someone like Lil Pump rapped these lines (not that he could write something like this), you would just assume he’s bragging about his ability to purchase whatever he wants. However, when Bladee raps this, his pained delivery alludes to the overwhelmingly dark side of consumerism, and the feeling of being trapped, or spellbound, by money.
Run Down – Lil Yachty, Rio Da Yung OG, Veeze, RMC Mike, Louie Ray, and GrindHard E
In the past few years, Michigan rap has witnessed a renaissance. With rappers like Babytron, RMC Mike, Rio Da Yung OG, Babyface Ray, and many more making waves in underground and mainstream Hip-Hop, Michigan is reinstating itself as a state to pay attention to. Since the late ’90s and the popularity of Eminem’s Michigan-based rap group D12, Michigan has produced some of the most talented lyricists. What makes this scene stand apart from other Hip-Hop movements in the United States is how the rappers are able to mix comedy with gritty, realistic bars about life in one of America’s coldest states. This song is a perfect example of that. While Lil Yachty isn’t from Michigan, he can be credited with popularizing the sound from the region, and his verse does the unique sound justice. While all the verses on this song are great, RMC Mike’s verse stands out. He opens with a bashful, crude line that I might get in trouble for putting on a liberal arts school’s blog. Just listen to it. The way he rhymes “Caucasian” and “all angles” is beyond impressive, and his breath control is equally skillful. This is especially impressive when you take into account his daily smoke intake. This song is a modern classic and is a great introduction to the ever-expanding Michigan rap movement.
Who the Fuck is You – Xavier Wulf
Xavier Wulf is one of those artists who had a huge impact on underground rap, yet hasn’t been granted his flowers by most people. Along with Denzel Curry and Chris Travis, Wulf was a part of Raider Klan, one of the first internet rap collectives. Since then, Wulf has created waves in the underground. If you want to read about his story, here’s an article I wrote about him. This is one of his most underrated songs, as he strays away from his usual loud, abrasive vocals and chaotic production to bring us a minimal beat with a stern vocal delivery. Wulf owes much of his inspiration to Memphis rap group Three 6 Mafia, one of the most influential rap groups of the past 30 years. We hear the Triple 6 Mafia’s inspiration throughout Wulf’s vocals, with grotesque bars and crafty wordplay. The production is simple but effective. The 3 piano keys played throughout the song create a creepy atmosphere that helps encapsulate the essence of the song
Losing Myself – Lil Shine
More teenage autotune crooning, great, like we don’t already have enough. Lil Shine is a bit different though. Yes, he did just graduate high school, and yes, he does drown his voice out with waves of autotune, but he adds an infectious flow and overwhelming vocal inflections to his robotic lyrics. Shine’s vocal intonations on each bar match the production on this track, which is as unpredictable as it gets. Apart from the multiple layers of playfully futuristic instruments, sound effects pop up at random, yet they feel like they were placed with intention. Shine also uses autotune as an instrument. Both the key and tone match this avant-garde production. This is a fun, experimental, and slightly messy song that convinced me that Lil Shine is a young prodigy that we should be paying attention to.
Monopoly – Danny Brown
These days, Hip-Hop is dominated by kids with too much access to the internet and too much time on their hands. Danny Brown spent much of his youth selling crack and trying to make enough money to get studio time. To put it into perspective, he didn’t start gaining recognition until his late 20s, which by current rap standards, is far too late. He saw his rise during “The Blog Era” in the early 2010s, which included Wiz Khalifa and ASAP Rocky, an era of internet rap that preceded the Youtube and Soundcloud era. Danny Brown can rap his ass off, and this song is a perfect example of his skills as an MC. XXX, the album that this song is on, sees obscene levels of lyrical depravity. If you’ve listened to The Danny Brown Show, his podcast (which I recommend), you get a deeper look at his mental health and drug abuse during this time. This song encapsulates that. It sounds like a drug-fueled monologue, yet carefully crafted and delivered. Some of the lyrics will have you rewinding the song and questioning your own sanity, like these:
“My n****, you ain’t been what I been through
And if so, you’d take a pencil through your temple
Cause I done served fiends on they menstrual
Ain’t even have pads, stuffed they panties with tissue”
Lyrics like these, along with many others in the song, paint a picture of Danny Brown’s life, and the production helps craft a chaotic image. The violent intro and nervous, distorted trumpets that populate this instrumental cement the stressful themes throughout the song. Just a disclaimer before you listen, he does use the F slur in this song. Danny recently talked about how he regrets using it in his early work as he didn’t really understand the weight of the word. But this song is still great and does a fantastic job of creating a nerve-racking and enchanting work of art.