An Extremely Subjective Ranking of Sample-Based Internet Music Genres

On June 13, 2009, the streets of Iran swarmed with protestors. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had shockingly just been elected to his second term as the president of a restless country teeming with economic problems. All three opposition candidates questioned the legitimacy of his election, which defied polling from many organizations.

Needless to say, people were unhappy, and something needed to be done. A strange yet somehow obvious duo was found in hacktivist group Anonymous and torrent index The Pirate Bay. The two organizations teamed up to create Anonymous Iran, an Iranian Green Party Support site. The site provided tools to duck censorship from the Iranian government, and has drawn over 20,000 viewers worldwide. This is just one example of the unlikely power the Internet can have.

On January 6, 2017, a video titled “Ocean Man Voice Crack” was uploaded to YouTube by a user known as The 4Head. The video consists of a passionately wailed cover of the Ween hit, placed over an image of cartoon character Hugh Neutron, that is, according to the video’s description, “On behalf of: Elektra 0591.” It has reached nearly 8,000,000 views. This is one more example of the unlikely power the Internet can have.

Throughout its existence, the Internet has spawned many things. Some of them awe-inspiring, and, well, some of them fit more with the latter. This article will be focusing more on that latter part of the Internet.

The Internet has revolutionized the art of music. One of the ways it has done this is by revolutionizing sample-based music. Evolving ideas spawned by forefathers like Musique Concrète, Plunderphonics and Trip-Hop, entirely new genres have arisen by combining the art of sampling and the power of the world wide web. Some of these genres are fascinating.

Yes, that’s a nice way to put it. Fascinating.

I have long been a fan of these musical bastard children of the Internet, and I have arbitrarily decided that I have the knowledge required to rank seven of the most well known ones against each other, and determine which one is the best.

What gives me this authority, you ask? Well, if you’re reading this, it’s probably because I was published in something, so that means I’m right. Some of these genres have years of history behind them, and have gone on to influence popular culture. Some are loose trends that, for the purposes of this list, I’ve decided to classify with my own labels, because, again, I am God.

Anyways, without further ado, here is my extremely subjective ranking of sample-based Internet music genres, from worst to best.

7. 8D Audio

Though it seems to be a newcomer, 8D Audio is a clear choice for the most unbearable, uninteresting, worthless excuse of a sample-based genre the Internet has seen. Which is a shame, because the name is kind of fucking rad. 8D Audio is the product of simply dropping the entirety of an existing song into some audio editing software, panning it left and right, and maybe, just maybe, dumping some reverb on top. Ah, yes, reverb; every Internet musician’s bread and butter.

Other disgusting, incestuous relatives of the genre include 9D Audio, 10D Audio and even 16D Audio. What differentiates these genres? Their names. If you want to hear one of your favorite songs being absolutely butchered but can’t afford tickets to see Metallica, listen to this 8D Audio version of “One.”

6. Environment Shifts

This is a name I’ve just made up (see the above paragraphs detailing my authority to do so) for a trend of music that is imagined as playing in different environments. The earliest popular example of this genre is generally credited to Twitter user @chloestixx’s magnum opus, “What Redbone would sound like while you’re making out in the bathroom of a house party,” uploaded on May 14, 2017.

The video has since been removed due to copyright issues (the best artists are always misunderstood in their time), but garnered over 9,000,000 views and spawned a trend of songs edited with EQ changes and other basic effects (some reverb, perhaps?), as well as occasionally other sounds being placed over them, to capture unique experiences with music.

Most of the enjoyment of these works can be derived from simply looking at the title. Like 8D Audio, Environment Shifts are usually just worse versions of good songs, but it’s a craft that’s loveable in its own way. One example of this music’s ability to transport you to another location is this video, which imagines ABBA’s hit song “Dancing Queen” playing over an empty mall food court intercom in 1976.

5. Lo-Fi Hip-Hop

Another culprit of reverb abuse, Lo-Fi Hip-Hop is arguably the most accessible genre on this list, and that’s mainly because it’s not really that different from its musical predecessors, which could be traced back to classic albums such as Madvillainy and Endtroducing…, aside from being way more sanitized and uninteresting.

Usually consumed via YouTube livestream, and almost always accompanied by a GIF of an anime girl studying, Lo-Fi Hip-Hop is essentially this generation’s iteration on background music. That’s not even an insult; it’s literally marketed as something to “Relax/Study to.”

YouTube channel ChilledCow is perhaps the most famous purveyor of Lo-Fi Hip-Hop, which hosts a near constant stream of short, lo-fi beats that, while bland and uninspired, I have to admit, have soundtracked me writing this article pretty nicely. You can milk ChilledCow’s flagship stream below.

4. Nightcore

I believe it was Jesus Christ who once said only art with an anime aesthetic is worth consuming. Maybe he didn’t say that, but if he did, he’d be enamored with the infamous genre of Nightcore.

Nightcore happens to also be the name of the school project that birthed the genre back in 2002, created and uploaded to the web by Norway’s DJ TNT and DJ SOS. The songs were, at their core (hold your applause), simply sped up versions of trance and eurobeat songs that took on a new happy hardcore-esque vibe after receiving the tempo-shift treatment.

Nobody could’ve predicted that these works would inspire countless DJs to make similar nightcore remixes, and the list of genres sampled in them grew to include pop, rap and rock, much to the dismay of some nightcore purists. Though most of it is absolutely unlistenable, it definitely is an intriguing scene to follow, and pioneers of PC Music Danny L. Harle and A. G. Cook have even credited it as inspiration.

While I’m definitely not a fan, I have to acknowledge it as a prime example of how the Internet provides a voice to ideas that would be completely ignored otherwise, and I can’t help but laugh my ass off at chipmunk Jeff Mangum singing about how strange it is to be anything at all.

3. Meme Trap

I am not an anthropologist; however, I believe that, after researching another genre I have dubbed Meme Trap, we have culturally plateaued as a human society. I’d like to defend this thesis by pointing out that Meme Trap is the most logical conclusion to humor in a post-Internet world: trap songs built on recognizable loops of songs famous for their memetic status (be it an Internet meme or simply a cultural one), filled with ridiculous punchlines touching on familiar trap song clichés with a purposefully silly approach.

While some may hail Eminem or Kendrick Lamar as the greatest lyricists of all time, I can’t point to a single line in their discography that even comes close to “I’m so sick bitch I got ligma / I just pulled up on yo bitch / My dick small like a pencil.” That line comes from pioneer of the genre Billy Marchiafava, who, along with others such as Yung Gravy and Joey Trap, create music that, while pretty much substanceless, is as hype as it is hilarious. Don’t sleep on Billy’s tune, “Yikes!,” in all of its Mii-sampling glory.

2. Soundclown

While the concept of mashups predates the Internet by decades, their usage as comedy is largely due to the Internet, and the weird world of Soundclown, a Soundcloud scene pioneered by musicians such as Kevin Wang and DJ @ @.

What’s been described as a satire of electronic music and the auditory relative to YouTube poop, Soundclown music draws upon meme songs like “All Star,” “Takyon,” “Bonfire,” “Gangnam Style,” the Space Jam theme and other classics, often utilizing pitch shifting, sentence mixing, and other techniques to create stupidly hilarious musical monstrosities, usually via mashup.

It’s important to note that not all Soundclown songs are traditional mashups, as some are simply comedically edited versions of various pieces of audio. The Soundclown scene has been an influence on high-profile figures in Internet music culture such as SiivaGunner, Neil Cicierega, and even Adam-fucking-Neely, which I’m sure he doesn’t want becoming his legacy. For an example of one of the most inexplicably hilarious Soundclown projects of all time, listen to the infamous Best Drops Ever Collection.

1. Vaporwave

What could I say about this genre that hasn’t been said before? Nothing, really, so I’ll just say a whole lot of shit. For those of you who have never been on the Internet before, firstly, I’m honored that this article is popping your web content cherry. Secondly, Vaporwave is a genre that consists of edited mood music tracks from the ‘80s and ‘90s looped, slowed, drenched in our good friend reverb, or otherwise edited to create nostalgic tracks that call back to the halcyon days of Crystal Pepsi, Windows 95 and the HIV/AIDS crisis. Maybe not that last one, but, you get the idea.

Vaporwave’s roots can actually be traced to a 2010 Oneohtrix Point Never side project entitled Eccojams Vol. 1 (released under the name “Chuck Person”), however, the most widely known vaporwave project is most likely the Macintosh Plus (a.k.a. Vektorid) album Floral Shoppe, a glitchy, mysterious, vibey statement that has inspired leagues of musicians to continue the genre that didn’t even expect itself to continue (hence the name “vaporwave”) for years.

Vaporwave has spawned numerous subgenres of underground electronic music, ones that fans will most likely be upset I didn’t give their own category (notable subgenres include Mallsoft, Signalwave, and Future Funk.) However, Vaporwave’s influence stretches far past underground electronic music.

Vaporwave has inspired a cultural aesthetic of nostalgia; whether it be expressed via pop stars like Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift embracing old pop flavors in their music, via Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters selling bright pastel clothes that reference properties such as Seinfeld and Rocko’s Modern Life, or even millennial companies using ‘80s and ‘90s aesthetics to draw us into their products (quite ironic, as Vaporwave is often regarded as a critique or satire of consumerism).

Vaporwave, both as a musical and visual idea, is undoubtedly one of the most influential artistic movements to arise from the Internet, and it will probably remain that way. Though its artistic merit, its origins, its importance and many other facets of its existence are constantly debated (and many will be outraged that I didn’t mention their favorite obscure vaporwave remix of 4’33, or that I didn’t acknowledge the connection between the genre’s aesthetic and Diego Rivera’s murals or something) at the end of the day, we can all agree, “Lisa Frank 420” is a fucking bop.