Tracks to Success: How Hip Hop Dominated SoundCloud

If you thought industry juggernauts such as Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, Calvin Harris and Pink also kicked serious ass on SoundCloud – boy, were you wrong. Buckle up, it’s time for our data insights to take us through the mind-blowing numbers of SoundCloud Hip Hop.
Tracks to Success: How Hip Hop Dominated SoundCloud
Sara Mekinc

Before we begin, we should point out that for the sake of accuracy, our data only measures artist-owned profiles, so record companies and other third-party-owned profiles are excluded from analysis. So in case you were wondering where Drake or his OVO Sound label sit… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sorry, that’s a topic for another article. All good? No hard feelings? Cool, let’s go. 

Started from the bedroom, now they here.

Mumble rap. Emo rap. Trap’s little cousin. Call it what you will, when it comes to “SoundCloud rap”, the numbers speak for themselves. Just by looking at the 100 artists with the most SoundCloud plays, it’s glaringly obvious who’s boss: our data shows that only 22 artists represent other genres (9 of them are Electronic artists, 7 R&B, 3 Latin and 3 Pop), leaving Hip Hop artists at an impressive 78 % of top plays.  

You might say: “Yeah, but it’s just one service, is it really that relevant?” Well, you tell us. According to SoundCloud 2019 stats, 175M users worldwide are now jamming to their favorite selection of 180M uploaded tracks. And picking out favorites can be quite a task, as about 12 hours of music are uploaded every minute. The beauty of SoundCloud is in the experimental DIY approach that allows pretty much anyone to record a track on their cell phone, upload it from their own bedroom, and maybe get torpedoed to stardom the following week.

In 2015, a Californian teen uploaded her homemade track to SoundCloud. The track was “Ocean Eyes”, the teen was Billie Eilish, and the rest was history. Source: Instagram

Since 2015, this particular career path has been followed by many youngsters tired of conventional street-life-themed Hip Hop, caught in the global record label machinery. The “SoundCloud rap” movement – now unmistakably a major mainstream player and a genre of its own – grew on the DIY inventiveness of teenagers who grew up listening to Nirvana, Blink-182, Marilyn Manson, and Limp Bizkit instead of Tupac, N.W.A. or Dre; who enjoy a good trolling, openly discuss emotions, angst and Xanax, and who unabashedly display their lifetime commitment to a music career with brightly dyed hair and face tattoos.  

In a way, it’s much more modern Punk than it is Hip Hop – with a free streaming platform, the playing field for releasing music is levelled for everyone, and brazen ideas and authenticity count way more than polished sounds and record-label-approved products. No gatekeepers. No rules. Just talent.


Everybody loves Juice.

One of currently hottest Hip Hop names is a great example of this self-made approach. In 2017, not many people knew about Juice WRLD. Just two years later, his second album “Death Race For Love” is one of the biggest US streaming debuts of the year with 176M streams, while his 2018 debut album “Goodbye & Good Riddance” is already certified platinum.

Juice WRLD rocking Leeds Festival 2019. Source: Matt Eachus/Leeds 2019

Juice WRLD started on SoundCloud as a sophomore in 2015 and uploaded tracks that he recorded on his cell phone. Once “Lucid Dreams” broke through, he went from being just another kid posting his music online to a major global player, touring the world with Nicki Minaj and playing main festival stages.  

If you were wondering just how big Juice is right now: in just one year (September 2018–September 2019), his sounds were played more than 847.7M times. Imagine the entire US population playing his track at least two times, and you’re still 100M plays short. Yeah, that big.  

Compared to the already monumental numbers of his fellow Clouders – NBA YoungBoy with more than 637.5M SoundCloud plays in one year, Trippie Redd with 620.7M, and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie with 533.6M –, Juice WRLD absolutely smashed it in 2019. Skyrocketing similarly is his Instagram profile, doubling in size in one year (over 7M followers already), additionally proving that this 20-year-old now drives the industry conversation.    

Looking into “back to school” data (September 2018 to September 2019), we can see which artists can school others when it comes to SoundCloud popularity. 

Still, a lot of artists and die-hard old-school Hip Hop fans are dismissive of this new wave of “SoundCloud mumblers”. It’s not hard to understand why. Like Punk, the new (sub)genre is far from what “the elders” imagined or expected to continue the music legacy. It’s wild, unpredictable, borrowing from unexpected places, be it musical influences or internet culture, and above all, it's playing by its own rules. In just a few short years, something completely fresh was created, and judging from the afore-mentioned hours of new music being uploaded just on this one streaming platform, the future looks very bright for the Hip Hop scene.  

Cover photo: Juice WRLD by Matt Eachus/Leeds 2019

Illustration: artists' Instagram photos (Juice WRLD, NBA YoungBoy, Trippie Redd, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, Lil Baby, $uicideBoy$, 6ix9ine, Lil Skies, Post Malone


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Sara Mekinc

Sara Mekinc

Content Specialist at Viberate
Avid concert-goer, a sucker for creative wordsmithery, and 100 % biodegradable. Google "melomaniac".