I remember being enamored with Lil Peep the first time I heard him. The sadness in his music felt intimately tied to mine.
I remember the anger XXXTentacion had in every single one of his songs, how unique it all felt.
I remember what it felt like to be on the bus on my way to school listening to Mac Miller's Faces. I remember being depressed and lonely for seemingly no good reason. In Mac’s music was that same teenage angst and confusion I felt.
What I was not cognizant of at the time is that these were small rebellions. These artists represented a going against what was accepted, using a whole new set of tools to do so. They defied conventionality to tell their story; that’s what made them so appealing. They were unique, in the same way we felt unique and they were chanting our story.
When I graduated high school and first started sneaking into concerts to take pictures, it was of that rebellion. But this rebellion was no longer playing out alone in a bus. No, it was shared by thousands of fans that loudly represented what I felt in those same artists. I remember when I first saw X preform and realized how much anger and energy people were letting out. The same energy we had held in in school, at home, with friends. That was a real rebellion. People behaving brashly. Loudly. In unison. And as I stood in a sea of MAGA hats, I felt that same rebellion.
At the root of all fandoms is a symbiotic relationship of feeling heard and understood. For Trump and Soundcloud artists, this is no different, they both gave voice to the fringes of a modernizing world, creating parallel countercultures. These caused rebellions in a desire to be heard. A desire to feel acknowledged. Rebelling does not ask you to do so passively. It wants you to spit and yell at every instance. No one is born feeling that way (at least I don’t think). People, through a series of events, feel pushed to the side of society. And rebellion presents a way back in.
For the Soundcloud scene, that meant making music that was not only raw in terms of its lyrics but raw sonically; purposely underproduced and poorly mixed. The greatest artists of the Soundcloud scene rose to fame with a 50$ mic, cracked software & the internet. These instruments provided a unique freedom to rebel. These artists could bypass the typical structure of blogs, labels and TV shows that artists relied on so heavily before. They had a direct means of communication with their audience and they used this link to build strong, core audiences, dedicated to them and their vision, despite appalling controversy (or maybe because of it.) . Much like Trump has done.
Our generation faced a unique set of problems. In a lot of ways we were incredibly fortunate that we grew up with the advent of the internet but it also meant our struggles were brand new and inherently different. Despite America’s seeming stability, the internet created all these new invisible anxieties. The internet opens up the world and despite its positives, growing up this meant that you felt small, you felt confused because directions seemed infinite. You felt like you had to be someone so early on. And the nature of your phone and social media’s constant presence made it a lot harder to focus. It really changed our set of values. This music in a lot of ways was an answer. The artists presented something to latch on to. In fact, they used those sources of stress to their advantage. Using loud personalities that posted vivid imagery of death, drugs and sex. It was naturally shocking and intriguing and stood out on the platforms we used.
It’s a bit difficult to draw one single message from the Soundcloud scene given its variance in music, but all of it was a desire to create a space to fit in.
For Lil Peep that meant music that was totally genreless and filled to the brim with pure, beautiful sadness.
For Lil Pump, that meant making ignorant, simple-minded music over synthesized beats that reflected a willful desire to party and forget everything else.
For X, it was, at first, under-produced music with violent yelling. Obviously, this anger later turned to sadness. Using the melancholic samples of a Vine star, X wrote about the modern-day struggles of depression and loneliness. Due to its nature and origin, this music was uniquely relatable to the troubles of our generation. It was a “fuck you” to those who hadn’t understood us. It was a way to cope with growing up.
We now had music that was OURS and this made for huge fandoms. Live performances were loud. Internet communities were loud. Critics were loud. And yet, all of that was nothing compared to how loud that sea of MAGA hats was as Trump walked on stage. That, too was a rebellion. A rebellion much bigger than any song. And all of those elements that had pushed us to rebel were there in each one of those voices. Except their rebellion was tied much more closely to everything they lived for; civil liberties, social class, daily struggles. It was clear that Trump was being carried by a symbiotic anger, depression and frustration that had once fueled the artists I loved. And here he was preaching to the outsiders of a globalized world. To the “victims” of what seemed like Obama-era policies but were actually part of a larger shifting world. They were finally being heard. And despite the hugely different conditions I couldn’t help but empathize.
For the most part mine ended. My heroes died. I grew a bit older. But still, that need to be heard and acknowledged exists. And so even if my form of rebelling had to end. I wonder where Trump’s rebellion ends. Because he has created a tower much higher, much more difficult to leave.