Jameson Orvis is having a hard time looking at McDonald’s the same way nowadays.
For the generation coming of age today, the early internet of the mid 2000s – glittery MySpace Blingee graphics, Neopets, Geocities, anime profile pictures – is a faintly remembered but romantic past. In the popular imagination, it is remembered as a time when the internet was primarily a platform for self-expression and discovery rather than capitalist exploitation. Nostalgia for the mid-aughts has always been present in cloud rap to an extent – Lil B partly got his start by posting mixtapes on MySpace – but is increasingly becoming a driving force in popular music. 100 gecs’s eardrum-rupturing hyperpop mallcore rap represents the first blending of hip-hop and 2000s pop nostalgia to gain mainstream recognition. And it’s just a taste of what’s to come, with acts like osquinn, David Shawty, SEBii, and the NOVAGANG collective making waves on SoundCloud with a similarly distorted blend of pop nostalgia and rap. But nowhere is the synthesis of early internet nostalgia and hip hop, especially SpaceGhostPurrp’s brand of demonic cloud rap, more perfect than the music of Reptilian Club Boyz.
RCB is a collective with many members, but primarily refers to the music of Hi-C, Diamondsonmydick, and Cartier’God (previously interviewed on POW in this wonderful piece by Lucas Foster). Since around 2017, they have been flirting with demonic video game soundscapes unlike anything else in modern music. At their best, Hi-C’s beats sound like PlayStation 1 graphics playing at max volume through a broken speaker. Incredibly loud Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow sound effects sprinkled throughout his production imparts a digitally demented vibe. RCB’s versatility and inclination for wild experimentation, from the dreamy shoegaze vibe of Hi-C’s “Yrrr Mind” to openly parodying mid 2000s pop punk on the whimsical “ohh yeaaa juiced up pop punk emo swag,” make them one of the most innovative and creative forces in the underground.
It is not surprising that RCB would inspire further musical innovation. On June 15, 2019, Rare RCB hexD.mp3 was uploaded to Tomoe_theundying’s SoundCloud account, complete with an anime succubus as cover art (the original upload has since been deleted). It is a compilation of 5 RCB tracks slightly sped up and heavily bitcrushed. The increased tempo and anime cover art is reminiscent of countless nightcore remixes gracing the internet, but the bitcrushing transforms it into something more. Bitcrushing is a technique which reduces the sample rate of audio, or the number of discrete audio samples per second stored in a digital file, and heavy bitcrushing leads to lots of noisy artifacts in the mix. It is by no means a new effect, but never has it been used to such psychedelic effect.
Rare RCB hexD.mp3 is cloud rap so cloudy it transcends into noise. It severs the genre conventions holding back RCB’s music and steps into the great beyond. Track 1 starts with what sounds like a watery bitcrushed ball of energy attempting to ascend to heaven while Hi-C chants incomprehensible reptilian aphorisms underneath. About a minute and a half in, Diamondsonmydick’s voice pierces through the noise to sing in no particular key: “Demon blood got me powered up, with your bitch.” It’s spectacular. Like most of the compilation, this track didn’t exist on SoundCloud when Rare RCB hexD.mp3 released; it could only be heard in this twisted, extremely lobit form. One could only wonder what magical wisdom Tomoe_theundying was blessed with to obtain such rare relics.
Track 2 opens with a frenzied synth line anxiously dancing through the track while Diamondsonmydick again offers discourses on consuming demon blood and sacrificing your bitch. Hi-C’s verse offers some welcome melodic variety, but the mix really peaks at track 3, which is a remix of Hi-C’s “Medusa Blood,” originally the only track also available in unhexed form. Bitcrushing takes this track from a lethargic drugged out rap fugue to a pulsating climactic masterpiece. Multiple beat breaks at the beginning of the track build up to the hypnotic climax of the compilation. Something about Hi-C’s mangled vocals, reduced to mere warm vibrations, the blown out drums, the barely recognizable synths raining down from the heavens, and the inscrutable sound effects cutting in through the noise, impart an indescribable sense of forward momentum. It is a demon’s heart rhythmically beating with waves of psychedelic noise.
Tracks 4 and 5 are strong in their own right, but feel like a denouement to the climactic peak of track 3. Taken as a whole, Rare RCB hexD.mp3 is a remarkable foray into noise for rap music. Hints of this noisy shift have been on SoundCloud for years, from Nolanberollin’s baritone glitchy dark web raps to Black Kray and Goth Money Records’s generally incomprehensible vocals over noisy lo-fi beats, but never before have the noisy elements present in their music been the center of attention as they are in Rare RCB hexD.mp3. There is already a thriving community on SoundCloud making similar bitcrushed remix compilations. Tomoe_theundying continues to upload to his SoundCloud as well as to his alternate account cargoboym. Tomoe also frequently reposts tracks from Altars and 444Altars_ (which probably belong to the same person), forming an apparent collective of sorts. Much of the material here doesn’t quite live up to the psychedelic majesty of Rare RCB hexD.mp3, but there are some diamonds in the rough. Particularly, the track Robins Jean, originally posted to xantanadior’s account (credited as Dior5tar on most tracks), sounds like an angelic choir’s euphoric response to SpaceGhostPurrp’s demon worshipping cloud rap. This track is included, among other Dior5tar tracks, in the wonderfully blissful AngelcoreShawty444 HEXD MIXX.
Bitcrushed remixes are a trend that has spread beyond just Tomoe_theundying’s immediate associates too; simply searching “HexD” on SoundCloud gives seemingly hundreds of similar compilations. One of the earliest producers in the scene beyond Tomoe himself is 999 𝐻𝑒𝒶𝓇𝓉𝒶𝓀𝑒 𝒮𝒶𝒷𝒾𝓁𝑒𝓎𝑒, who coined the phrase “Crushed Trap” to describe the emerging microgenre. Their most popular mix, Crushєd Trαp @ 141 : “𝔄𝔫𝔢𝔪𝔦𝔠 𝔅𝔶 𝔐𝔶 𝔖𝔱𝔬𝔪𝔞𝔠𝔥 ℜ𝔢𝔤𝔦𝔬𝔫,“ comes close to capturing the original magic of Rare RCB hexD.mp3, featuring a particularly transcendent remix of Lil Uzi Vert’s “20 min.” The scene hasn’t quite coalesced around a genre name, with Dismiss Yourself’s Surge Compilation Vol. 1, probably the most comprehensive collection of music in the scene to date, opting to call it “Surge” as opposed to “Crushed Trap” or “HexD.”
Perhaps it’s a bit premature to refer to Surge/Crushed Trap/HexD as a fully-fledged genre. It is part of the wider shift on SoundCloud to noisier glitched out production, best represented by artists like David Shawty who have begun to achieve some mild success. But Rare RCB hexD.mp3 stands at the bleeding edge of this wave, operating in an abstract, noisy corner of hip-hop few artists dare visit. If it is a real genre, it is in its absolute infancy, far too soon to tell what, if any, lasting impact it will have on music. However, in the same way that SoundCloud being inundated with a million Lil Peep clones sadly singing over minimal guitar chords indicated “emo rap” was here to stay, the staggering number of imitators that have already emerged on SoundCloud posting their own HexD compilations portends a bright future for the fledgling scene. Nevertheless, Rare RCB hexD.mp3 and the bitcrushed compilations it inspired offer a fascinating glimpse into a noisy musical future that may never come.