Mumble Rap: Cultural Laziness Or A True Reflection Of Contemporary Times?

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Adam de Paor-Evans does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, và has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Mumble rap. Sorry, what was that?

Mumble rap - the most recent art khung of rapping - or arguably the art of not rapping. Rather than rapping clearly, eloquently, articulately & with prowess và esteem, mumble rappers string occasional words together, lượt thích “cat”, “sat” và if you’re lucky, “mat”. And mumble rappers tover lớn vị just that, they mumble.

Some examples of ‘mumble rap’.

And it’s catchy, which contributes to lớn its popularity. A good example is the hugely popular American trio, Migos, who in May this year had an unprecedented nine songs in the US Hot 100 hit parade. The trio have embarked on a world tour which includes performances in Australia, the US & South Africa.

The term “mumble rap” is attributed khổng lồ rapper Wiz Khalifa following a June năm nhâm thìn interview on the American urban radio station Hot 97 FM. But artists such as Gucci Mane, Chief Keef and Future had been practising this genre of music for several years previously.


Culture as a joke

True school hip-hop advocates have been critical of recent trap music và mumble rap of late. This was amplified by early 1990s hip-hop star, Pete Rock’s outspoken social media posts in September last year.


These comments really fuelled anger in the nation, & following some fiery exchanges, Pete Rochồng aimed a missive at Lil Yachty, his assumed alter ego Lil Boat and Young Dolph:

I’m a lil tired of people taking this culture for a joke.

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But what really is the problem with mumble rap?

As a derivative sầu of “Trap” (an umbrella term for hard Atlanta street rap), mumble is largely linked lớn the Atlanta scene. But lyrically it is quite different khổng lồ the semantics & linguistics of Southern pioneering trap artists lượt thích Outkast, Cool Breeze and Ghetkhổng lồ Mafia who developed their style in the mid-1990s.

Trap refers lớn the creating and selling of crack-cocaine, the “trap” being the dwelling within which it is manufactured, sold và smoked. This context provides a narrative sầu framework much reminiscent of earlier gangsta rap records popularised in the late 1980s by Eazy-E and his crew NWA, yet pioneered in the early part of that decade by artists such as Schoolly D, Funkmaster Wizard Wiz and Ice-T.

These formative sầu styles of gangsta rap might appear khổng lồ celebrate drug dealing, pimping, gangs và the materialism of money, cars & jewellery. However, records lượt thích Funkmaster Wizard Wiz’s “Craông xã It Up” và Schoolly D’s “P..S.K.- What Does It Mean?” serve as narrative sầu driven ethnographic và autoethnographic studies, effectively, they are social commentaries based on real events, people and experiences.

Schoolly D with the gangsta-rap classic ‘PSK, What Does It Mean?’

These narratives also intertwine svào metaphors as in Ice-T’s expansive sầu “Six in the Mornin’”, where Ice undertakes the role of the dealer narrowly escaping a bust, but takes solace in hip-hop as part of everyday life.

Ice T with his gritty tale from the street, ‘6 in the mornin’.

Broader cultural context

So is it mumble rap’s omission of clever, eloquent storytelling & wordplay that is disliked by the older hip-hop community?

The lackadaisical delivery và lyrically sparse approach that a majority of new wave mumble rappers such as Migos & Rich Homie Quan practice clearly upsets fans of hip-hop’s golden era great emcees - the likes of Raklặng, Big Daddy Kane, & Q-Tip - whose flows (delivery) were paradigm-shifting, and whose delivery was precise và professionally effortless.

Furthermore, the sociopolitical awareness that eminent emcees lượt thích Chuông chồng D, Poor Righteous Teachers and Tragedy Khadafi bring lớn the consciousness of hip hop is clearly absent from mumble rap. From Brother D’s “How We Gonmãng cầu Make The Blaông xã Nation Rise?” released in 1980, consciousness has, khổng lồ a greater or lesser extent, played a key role in the evolution of rap vis-à-vis its social và political context.

Brother D with one of the first socially aware hip-hop songs.

But what if the current cultural context is informing the production of mumble rap? In the contemporary western world daily life is fuelled by widespread consumption – of both products & images. They in turn saturate social truyền thông in an attempt to raise social status, a process that is itself highly disposable, and filled with bite-sized snippets of communication in the size of emojis và text abbreviations.

Creativity born out of boredom

To understand mumble rap I think it’s useful khổng lồ consider the thoughts of cultural theorist Paul Virilio. He philosophises on the ideas of the dromosphere – the sphere within the evolution of humanity where tốc độ inevitably causes the accident – and the picnolepsy – an almost epileptic consciousness generated by the perceived tốc độ and immediacy of the world. Cultural cause and human experience both are interlinked.

As the dromosphere becomes heavy with information, people’s physical experience slows down in a bid to lớn absorb as much as possible. When life becomes devoid of speed, gaps appear between the slowing down and fast pace of information, triggering a picnoleptic consciousness. It is within these voids và this consciousness, I would argue, where mumble rap is created.

Mumble rap is a negotiation that offers relief from the invisible acceleration of life, yet concurrently praises the disposable production-consumption Mã Sản Phẩm that ignites this acceleration in the first place. It is creativity born out of boredom.

To this kết thúc, mumble rap represents much more than at first it may appear. The picnoleptic experience is channelled through almost incomprehensible lyrical delivery, while locating certain tangible status symbols and narratives (such as acquisition of money, speeding cars, và overseeing drug deals) meagerly in the lyrical nội dung.

Mumble rap offers the opportunity to reassess what is of cultural value. Like jazz & reggae, hip-hop has a rich musical culture. Now nearing the kết thúc of its fifth decade, there is a place for all sub-genres & agendas. The old school needs to let mumble rap be what it wishes khổng lồ be, & allow this new wave of rappers bởi their thing, not forgetting the broader social context which may be exactly why these rappers mumble.