“Clout” is what he called it. I really have no choice but to believe him. Age wise, only a few years seperated us, but it might as well have been a decade, or even more. We embodied two completely different sub-cultures within our generation. Google offered little to no reassurance; “clout” was never defined by any resource as anything beyond its dictionary definition. He described it as a mentality, an entire outlook fueling what he insisted was more than just a new genre of music.
We had a 4 hour shift together on escort duty, with little to do beyond vibing to Spotify. After he played Lil Xan by his own free will, I had to issue him the challenge: defend this shit. Justify Soundcloud rap, considered by *such a large volume of people* to be the worst thing that had ever happened to hip-hop that it’s almost baffling that “clout” ever gained enough clout to rise out of obscurity in the first place. Aside from his taste in music, he was an otherwise intelligent and articulate dude, so I figured this was my best opportunity to decipher one of the greatest puzzles I had yet to successfully piece together: why the fuck do people actually like this shit?
I approached the inquiry with respect and finesse. I was especially careful to express reverance for Lip Peep’s tragic death, who apparently (talent gaps aside) is the closest thing these kids had to Pac and Biggie: a martyr for the culture.
I got the obcious out of the way, and confirmed that the music simply sounded good to him. He expressed a resonance with the vibe and style of the production, and I was able to concede to his point to an extent. Several of the songs he played had a “groovy” (his words…after 50 plus years, is “groovy” making a comeback or something??) vibe. I understand vibe-centric music. 6lack, Alina Beraz, Kid CuDi, and several others have a consistent reservation on my rotation for the same reason.
I also was quick to address the obvious lack of lyricism, and verified my suspicion: it really didn’t matter to them. The content outweighed the poetry in relevance. I had to condede the legitimacy of this arguement as well. We don’t need to pretend like rappers who can’t rap is a new phenomenon. Look my in the eyes and tell me with a straight face that everyone in Crime Mob, Dipset, and 3 6 Mafia has bars, and then sit your lying ass down. Whether we like it or not, there has always been room at the table for these types of artists. They never had to fight for space, and never even had to borrow a chair.
Okay, so it sounds good to them, and bars aren’t a big factor, got it. With the absense of spitters, however, content was still an important aspect factored for the “clout” fanbase. I had little doubt that the genre’s over-saturated drug obsession was deeper than just getting fucked up for fun (once again, this is absolutely nothing new in music), and this was indeed the case. Yes, these rappers love drugs, and yes, many of their fans do as well. At this point, psychology comes into play. Generally speaking, drug abuse is seldomly synonymous with true happiness. In the same way 90’s rappers discussed crime, these rappers are doing less to glorify opiod abuse than they are to simply report on the reality of the crisis, one that they and their fanbase have all but drowned in.
Opiod abuse is a nation wide phenomenon with impact and implications extending far beyond the borders of the hood. This isn’t a white or black America problem; this is an American problem. No socio-economic class is immune. We all have either experienced it ourselves, or know someone who has. Approrpriately enough, the stars of “clout” have representation from a wide array of ethinicities and economic backgrounds, and has a result, the music’s relatability is perhaps greater than in any other time in hip hop’s troubled history. The byproduct of this relatability is a widespread fanbase never before seen. Kids who you’d never think (*cough*…stereotype) would listen to rap at all have Lil Skies songs popping up after Blake Shelton on their shuffled playlists.
Like any other generation before them, young adults in America have angst, and have music to express it. Social progress has been more emphasized in recent years than ever before, so subjects like mental health, sexual abuse, LBGT issues, and suicide are less taboo. Modern rap reflects this, and modern rap fans identify with this.
They’re an angry generation. They’re a zooted generation. They’re a nihilistic generation. They’re “clout”, and they listen to terrible music. But if you’ve ever asked one how they feel about this opinion, then you’ve asked them all, and they’ll tell you the same thing: they don’t give a fuck. At all. At the very least, you gotta respect that much.