Genre vs. Scene vs. Hobby: Redux Final Z

Posted on July 23rd, 2020

Filed under: Music News — Karl Olson @ 2:34 am

An internet acquaintance of mine tweeted the following video with a quick nope, which I generally agreed on…

…however, after watching the video and finding the points and issues to be mostly agreeable and too familiar (probably because I’ve been doing this whole internet music hobby thing in various scenes and genres since the dial-up era,) I wrote a big effort post about what Anime Rap (and Nerdcore, and any other thematic content-based scene that’s not sonically distinct enough to be a sub-genre) is/isn’t relation to genres in the video’s comments, and after realizing that was a clean 700+ words, and knowing I don’t blog enough, I’ve done the ol’ copy/pasta with some polishing here, if I only because I bet in another ten years the same questions will arise again for who knows what future scene, and I want to just paste a link in future when that happens. Maybe for V-Tuber Rap or TikTokCore or whatever else the future holds:

tl;dr: I agree with the video generally, but I’ll talk more on it because I’m washed & old AF by rap standards, so I have seen some things including history repeating, and I want to see anime rap win.

I think there’s an important middle ground on what Anime Rap is that’s between “legit genre” and “something fun,” and that is that it’s a defined scene with specific thematic content, but sonically isn’t different than most Rap/HipHop. At least it doesn’t have to be any more different than is a fit a for a given artist. That aspect of Anime Rap is actually totally to it’s advantage. Even 90’s Gangsta Rap was more scene than distinct genre, if only because Puffy & Dre had some very divergent sonic choices, and both produced for more pop artists as well (suggesting theme rather than sound was the connective tissue, which suggests a musical scene.) However, since Anime Rap is more scene than genre, that means the limits on it are, as noted in the video, on the artists, and it’s not just on mainstream artists borrowing the aesthetic. There’s nothing keeping an Anime Rap song from being as catchy and popular as a mainstream rap song, but that’s much more about Anime Rap artists themselves networking outside of their scene while also building their scene, which was touched on in the video, but I want to stress it here.

That internal building is important because the more anime rappers network and build a central gravity, the easier it is to build the reputation of the Anime Rap scene outside of it. A strong internal scene lets folks bounce things off each other before release, helps recommend reliable producers, managers and promoters, gets videos made, gets local promo done faster and better, passes opportunities to each other when they aren’t an immediate fit for whoever was offered it initially, and helps big up the folks internally who are driven to succeed and put the best foot forward such that the folks who are still levelling up can hang back and get good while the banner is carried high by folks who can deliver. With that locked down, the easier is for Anime Rap talent to fill a bar, then a club, then a con, then a tour, etc. because the scene, the brand is strong, even if the “genre” and “sound” aren’t their own draw. That scene branding even makes it easier to sell merch online, at shows and in artist alleys. And to be fair, the video gets at that point with the music video thing, but it’s broader than just that; it’s just the visible example – one part of a whole of music as career rather than hobby that pays for itself.

That internal building is also crucial because yeah, big artists will bite at whatever aesthetic is hot from the top down, but they’ll rarely bring anyone up, sometimes especially because a scene can be seen as too niche, and they’re aiming broadly because A&Rs are on them to do so. It bites to see history repeat and to see today’s big artists pass over Anime Rap as they did when everyone started sampling 8-bit stuff in the mainstream during the mid/late-00s, half a decade or more after Nerdcore and Chiptunes folks were doing it from a more heartfelt place. However, rather than worrying about a lucky chance from above, build something so visible from below that ignoring it looks out of touch.

To be fair, I’m already seeing all that with today’s Anime Rap scene and it’s many sub-fragments. Y’all are working together in exactly the ways that turn “something fun” into an important, vibrant scene, sonic distinction worth a sub-genre or not. Lively, talented scenes like that draw in attention over time, and those bigger opportunities start to come along one by one. Now, that can take years to build, maybe more so when it’s not a full time job, but the transition can be gradual yet happen so long as that’s the goal of the artists in the scene. It doesn’t have to be a day job from the jump to be serious – it just has to be a goal on the vision board or whatever to be serious and something that you’re taking conscious steps towards.

Go forth and become legends. Don’t sweat the labels of genre or novelty. Real recognizes real and all that.

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