Over the years, Soundcloud has become the hub of the hip-hop freshman. A majority of the artists we’ve seen blow up in rap over the past the few years have been the culmination of young, ambitious kids with USB microphones and FL Studio. They’re making music not to just blow up, but because they fucking love it. While it may be a harsh reality for some to face, the culture of today’s game can be summarized in the click of the mouse. Streams, views, and likes determine who’s hot and who’s not. Vinyl is a niche and CD’s are practically dead in the modern day world of rap, as we all sink into the deep space of a URL world.
In any revolution, it’s natural to try and hold a specific person accountable. Some say Soulja Boy, as he created a lane in internet distribution. Some say artists like Lil B and Future, for their use of sites like DatPiff and Livemixtapes to swamp the online market. A lot of people even like to pin the blame on Lil Yachty, as he became the face of ‘mumble-rap’ and as Charlamagne Tha God put it, ‘the poster child of wack-rappers’.
But while this can be merely boiled down to a generational transition, there’s one particular artist that turned Soundcloud links into business. His ventures lead to artists like the Suicideboys, Lil Peep and various others starting movements from the comfort of their bedroom. This artist is Bones.
Born Elmo Kennedy O’ Connor, Bones is a rapper from Howell, Michigan. Formerly known as [email protected] Kid, Bones saturated websites like Datpiff, Bandcamp and more with a unique brand of eerie, melancholic hip-hop drenched in Memphis influence. He, alongside his affiliation with SpaceGhostPurrp’s Raider Klan (home to artists like Denzel Curry and Xavier Wulf at the time), inherited a sound that groups like 3-6 Mafia created, and took it into the dark, warped horizons of the internet. However, it wasn’t until Bones branched out into the growing realms of Soundcloud that his influence became apparent.
Bones’ use of Soundcloud has always been in a flood-like manner. He would put out project after project, catch fans in a current, and allow them to wash up on an island of seemingly endless content. Song titles like ‘ConnectionLost’ ‘TheWineCellar’ were excerpts of his thoughts and related to the late-night lurker habits of a teenager in cyberspace. Just think of how many kids have stressed about their wi-fi not working, or have stolen alcohol from their parent’s cellar. Bones makes music that combines these relatable small things with a melancholic mood that adolescents often find themselves in. Before Yachty even explored Teenage Emotions, Bones had 23 projects out on Soundcloud. His consistency has been a shoulder to lean on for a whole generation of couped up emotional teenagers, that alone making him a pioneer.
Bones’ gloomy style expands into a series of lo-fi visuals and a clothing line, proving that a Soundcloud link can turn into a full-blown business. His VHS, Twin Peaks-esque videos have established him as a cult-like figure throughout the web, putting a face to the voice kids have grown to idolize. His TeamSesh clothing line has barraged through dozens of limited releases that include hoodies, coats, shirts, hats, and shoes; all in which allow his fanbase to wear the visions of the man that represent their feelings and passions. He made it clear that a Soundcloud profile wasn’t only a mechanism to share music, but a hub to expand, and turn a URL into a movement. Collectives like the Gothboiclique (which Lil Peep was once a member of), and WorkingOnDying have all followed in the footsteps that Bones planted, solidifying the power of DIY ventures.
One of Bones’ biggest contributions to the DIY hip-hop scene is that he abolished myth of needing corporate distribution. His TeamSesh umbrella not only covers his clothing line, but also the collective of artists he works with. Established hip-hop producers like Greaf and Cat Soup release music under the Teamsesh label all while maintaining ownership of their craft and earning money. Bones’ curation of this label shows that you can still run a business without signing people in slave-like deals. His group SeshHollowWaterBoyz, consisting of established DIY acts Xavier Wulf, Chris Travis and Eddy Baker, shows the power of collaboration in hip-hop. Their unity has been presented via sold-out shows in L.A and performances at Rolling Loud. Before Chance The Rapper championed independence on the Grammy stage or Rich The Kid stormed into the scene with his Rich Forever team, Bones was solidifying himself as a sonic socialist. He has always aimed to bring everyone Soundcloud era together, and show that everyone can make a living out of their art.
While there have been many artists before Bones that have used the internet to their advantage, Bones himself may be responsible for the term ‘Soundcloud Rap’. His DIY, give-no-fucks attitude has resulted in a cult-following, a successful music collective, sold out shows and an in-demand clothing line: all deriving from the click of a link. Sure, Lil Ugly Mane steered fans towards Bandcamp, and of course, Lil B and Yung Lean showed the power in meme virality. But there hasn’t been another rapper that’s used the Soundcloud platform like Bones, making him one of the most influential rappers today. His eerie style has trickled through years of URLs, his themes relate to kids around the world and his business ventures showcase the power of the internet. Bones’ blueprint shows that your Macbook and USB Microphone isn’t a waste of time, but the catalyst for a cultural shift.