Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

The View From Oyaron Hill

A Special Music Review: What is "Clout Culture"?


Gabriella Flannery 

Welcome back to a special edition of the music review section of Hilltops. Why is this week so special you may ask? Well, this week instead of reviewing a few recently released albums we will be discussing an entire genre of music. 

However, “genre” may not be the best word to describe this collection of artists and the music they make.

Most often it is described as a culture, specifically Clout Culture. But what is “clout”? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the noun clout means “pull or influence”. 

So, does this mean that Clout Culture is an influential cultural movement? Absolutely, but it may not be influential in the way you think it is. The top definition of Clout Culture on Urban Dictionary states it is “a social movement involving face tattoos, popping xans, SoundCloud rapping and dyed dreads for the sake of clout.” Well, that definitely took a turn in another direction. Now that we have a basic understanding of where this review is going let’s dive in.

When looking at Google trends there is a clear spike in interest of clout culture starting in early 2016. Followed by growth all the way up to today with some of the top artists receiving international fame or clout as they might say. I can almost guarantee that if you asked any person involved in the culture where exactly it may have originated from, they would point at SoundCloud. The site gave underground artists a place to put their music for the world to hear. Which for many lead to creating a following and ultimately gaining a significant amount of notoriety.

So what is the difference between clout rap and other rap subcultures? According to Kane Critchley of TheIsthmus.com “clout culture comes largely by and for youth feeling out of place and distant from other more dominant cultures, which is a case with most subcultures.” Part of what sets clout rappers apart from others is their feelings toward music labels.

Going back to SoundCloud’s influence we find that many rappers started on the site to intentionally avoid being ill-represented by music labels. This allowed the rappers to have total control and freedom to be as different and controversial as they wanted. Although many clout rappers have gone on to sign to music labels there are also just as many that are still independent. In both cases the followings of these artists are growing at an almost alarming rate. New rappers seem to be appearing overnight with followings larger than a small country.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest artists in clout culture today. Trippie Red also known as Lil 14 began rapping in high school after being inspired by artist Lil Tae. Trippie Red is known for being associated with the Bloods gang as well as having a negative relationship with rapper 6ix9ine. Ironically many attribute 6ix9ine’s rise to fame to Trippie Red. Trippie Red’s song Poles1469 features 6ix9ine and hitting number 8 on Billboard’s Bubbling Just Under list. After being featured in this song 6ix9ine became a huge success with every single he has released hitting the Billboard Hot 100 list.

 The bad blood between the two rappers started soon after 6ix9ine’s quick rise to fame. In an Instagram video Trippie Red denounced 6ix9ine saying that “he does not promote pedophiles”. This was a reference to the fact that 6ix9ine was convicted of one felony count of Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance in 2015. Some say Trippie Red was jealous of the success of 6ix9ine but regardless it doesn’t seemed to have phased 6ix9ine even slightly.

On January 14th, 2018 6ix9ine released his third single “KEKE” which features Fetty Wap and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. Yes, you read that right A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie as in the OH Fest 2018 artist. Along with many other clout rappers A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie began his career in 2016. Although he currently has a relatively small following my guess is that after being featured in “KEKE” it will begin to grow quite rapidly. So if you were disappointed after the OH Fest artist was announced and you had never heard of him before I promise you will be hearing a lot more about him soon.

Another phenomenon I’ve noticed among clout culture is that race isn’t a factor. I know that sounds strange but hear me out. When rap first began it was often associated with African-American men as artists and over the years that has changed. Seeing Caucasian men rapping and even female rappers became more common. When it comes to clout rappers there is more diversity than I ever expected. 6ix9ine is half Mexican, and half Puerto Rican; Trippie Red is part Irish, and Native American; Rich Brian is Indonesian; Lil Peep is Swedish, Irish, and German; Lil Skies is half African American, and half Hispanic; and the list goes on. I’ll be honest that in my experience clout rappers are predominately male but I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes. I attribute this incredible diversity among clout artists to the open-mindedness of today’s youth.

Now I ask you to keep an open mind and give a listen to some of these clout rappers. I recommend you start by listening to the “Clout Culture” playlist on Spotify. My final thoughts are that although I do not support some of the controversial things that occur in clout culture I don’t denounce the culture as a whole. I think it’s actually pretty amazing when you think about it. “This trend and culture is shaping large portion of youth at the current time. Much like the greasers of the 1950’s and the grunge movement of the 1990’s, clout culture is potentially something that in 50 years will be looked back on as something that had a resonating effect on the landscape of youth and popular culture.” Says Kane Critchley of The Isthmus.com. In the next paper you can look forward to more in depth reviews of music by specific clout artists. Until then I hope you have a great week filled with music.