The No Majesty guide to mumble rap

What-is-Mumble-Rap

What is mumble rap?

Mumble rap, or Soundcloud rap, is the term given to a genre that strays from the succinct pronunciation of Chopper rap and opt for a less clear, non-emphasized vocal foray. Mumble rap is different in each song, because each rapper puts a different spin on it. The term “mumble rap” is simply one that stuck, though the genre itself is much more multifaceted than that label infers. 

Mumble rap is often difficult to decipher, since the lyrics blend naturally with the melodic undertones. Because of the emphasis on the overall song and performance rather than strict lyrical execution, what results are more emotional, creative, and multi-layered songs that have a wide range of influences across countless other genres. Even so, calling someone a mumble rapper has become an insult. Some of the greats took digs at the microgenre, from Eminem to J. Cole to Joyner Lucas. Still, most of the chart-topping rap artists today are or once were mumble rappers themselves. 

There’s no denying the power of the true mumble artists: 21 Savage, Future, Kodak Black, Playboi Carti, Migos, Cardi B, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Pump, Young Thug. In discussing mumble rap, it is important to analyze its roots as well as its branches as it grows. As Genius’ head of lyrics Stephen Niday said, “There have always been artists who were hard to understand, whether it be because they don’t fully enunciate all of their words or they rap really fast. It’s nothing new, so the process of transcribing and decoding lyrics isn’t any more difficult. A little bit different, sure, but definitely not any more difficult than it’s ever been before.”

History of mumble rap

Wiz-Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa.

The term itself was coined by Wiz Khalifa back in 2016 when he did an interview with HOT 97’s Ebro in the Morning, but the genre itself has existed since the early- to mid-2010s. “We call it mumble rap,” Khalifa said. “It ain’t no disrespect to the little homies, they don’t want to rap. It’s cool for now. It’s going to evolve.” 

And evolve it did. The genre got its legs in the American south and was born, naturally, out of trap. It’s obvious on first listen that there are influences of hip hop as well, what with the melodic undertones and creative license to essentially do whatever on the beat. Soundcloud is credited with much of mumble rap’s success. The ease of recording, uploading, and sharing music digitally legitimized Soundcloud as a record company of its own – one where everyone was signed. 


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Undoubtedly, the accessibility of Soundcloud allowed unprecedented music released on the daily. Underground rap became mainstream rap. A decade ago, a song like “Gucci Gang” by Lil Pump would not have piqued as much interest as a new hard-hitting Eminem track. But now, the more experimental, the more ignorant, the more off the beaten path, the better received the song is. Young Thug came out of the mumble rap gate in 2013 when he was featured on Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle.”

Though the meme-worthy indecipherable lyrics were memorable for just that, it was the first time that everyone started hearing mumble rap. And people started listening, too. Then came Desiigner with “Panda,” which everyone sang along to without knowing any of the words. But people came to love it – even Kanye West, king of rap, who featured Desiigner and a “Panda” sample on The Life of Pablo.

Controversy

Machine-Gun-Kelly

Machine Gun Kelly.

Though the genre seems fun, free-spirited, and fresh, it is not without its opponents. Joe Budden and Pete Rock especially have criticized mumble rap, writing off “Soundcloud rappers” as lazy or untalented – or simply too divergent from classic rap. There is an alarmingly general consensus that these rappers can’t hold torches to the “greats” that came before. Even Meek Mill took a dig in the intro of his latest album: “Your favorite rapper a mumble rapper.” 

Self-proclaimed rap god Eminem took a swipe at Machine Gun Kelly by calling him the same name. In 2016, J. Cole said, “A bunch of words and ain’t saying shit, I hate these rappers, especially the amateur-8-week rappers, Lil “whatever”, just another short-bus rappers.” Is this just the typical older generation hating on how newer artists are doing their thing? Probably. But what mumble rap antagonists need to remember is that all genres grow, change, transform, and branch into other genres, which too in turn morph into other subgenres. Such is the way of the music industry. And if I were them, I would hop on this mumble rap bandwagon. It’s definitely not going to stop for you, Joe Budden.  

Because at the end of the day, these rappers are still rapping about the same things, just in a different style. Every contribution to music is important. Mumble rap breaks the bounds of strict, by-the-book rapping. Kendrick Lamar seems to recognize this importance too, telling Forbes, “I want hip-hop to continue to evolve. That’s why I can’t shun a lot of the artists that may not be a Kendrick Lamar. But this is what I tell them every time I see them: be yourself and do what you do but also know who laid down the groundwork.”

Examples of prominent mumble rap artists

Fetty Wap

Fetty Wap.

Some of the most crucial and game-changing rappers are considered mumble rappers, and whether Joe Budden and Pete Rock want to admit it or not, it’s the direction that rap is moving towards. Some other prominent mumble rappers include BlocBoy JB, Famous Dex, Fetty Wap, Juice WRLD, Lil Skies, Rich the Kid, Rico Nasty, Ski Mask, Wifisfuneral, and Yung Lean. 

At the end of the day, the term “mumble rap” does not even begin to cover the fresh perspective these young rappers have brought to the industry. This new generation is promising as it blends a lyrical sound with a lack of lyricism, ironically. Loosening the restraints of Chopper rap allows the artist more creative freedom over the beat, the lyrics, and the ad-libs. Needless to say, it is barely a microgenre anymore. As Future himself said it back in 2012: “When I freestyle, I know there are bits you don’t really understand, but that’s what you like it for – that’s what it’s all about to me. That’s art.” 

Check out the classic mumble rap tracks on our Mumble Rap Spotify playlist!

Featuring:

  • Future – March Madness
  • Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert – Bad and Boujee
  • Desiigner – Panda
  • Rich Gang – Lifestyle
  • Gucci Mane – Lemonade
  • Chief Keef – Love Sosa
  • Travis Scott feat. Young Thug – Pick Up the Phone
  • D.R.A.M. feat. Lil Yachty – Broccoli 
  • Jamie xx feat. Young Thug and Popcaan – I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)
  • Future – Tony Montana
  • T-Pain feat. Lil Wayne – Can’t Believe It
  • Young Thug – Stoner
  • Bankroll Fresh – Hot Boy
  • Fetty Wap – Trap Queen
  • Lil Uzi Vert – XO Tour Llif3
  • Playboi Carti – Woke Up Like This
  • Travis Scott feat. Kendrick Lamar – Goosebumps
  • Lil Yachty – 1Night
  • Chance the Rapper feat. Young Thug and Lil Yachty 
  • Rich Homie Quan – Type of Way
  • Gucci Mane – Pillz 
  • Chief Keef – Kobe
  • Lil Yachty feat. Quavo, Skippa da Flippa & Young Thug – Minnesota (Remix)

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