The rise of the lo-fi beats movement and the resurrection of casette tape culture

Dusty, raw and gritty can be some of the words that are used to explain lo-fi beats. We can juxtapose those descriptive words with alternatives like smooth, layered and inherently progressive. However a person chooses to describe what lo-fi beats feel and sound like to them is purely personal. However, what is impressive is how the beats are created, the length of the beats and how they are played. One cannot speak of the lo-fi beat movement without hinting at the cassette tape culture. Many may assume that the cassette tape has died and is a lost part of the history of how humans consume music. It could be that people are going through a phase of nostalgia or it could be a trend as to how they are switching back to old mediums of playing music.

The process of making lo-fi beats has shifted from solely being produced on drum machines to going to creating the beats by using software. Despite the beats sounding raw and somewhat unfinished, the process of making them is an intricate one and one that should be held in high regard. Call it a hidden form of Hip Hop art that borders along the dark crevices of the Hip Hop culture. One could even picture a reclusive scientist that chooses to spend his/her days in a basement working on various groundbreaking experiments. Experiments that could easily be tagged as forbidden according to the laws of the universe. In simple terms, lo-fi beats have an inadvertent way of giving you a cinematic experience.

The sub-genre of Hip Hop had to evolve with the times and find a new digital home which would then be Youtube. Youtube has been instrumental in the growth of the sub-genre as it offers an easy alternative distribution method for independent artists which allows the people that love the music to access it with ease. There are Youtube channels that are dedicated to the lo-fi  beats movement and these channels have the sole purpose of empowering the producers of this sub-genre. Towards the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, more lo-fi beats producer stepped up and put their music online and have a sparked a trend that the sub-genre needs to survive – the consistent release of music.

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Photo credit: GodsConnect via Twitter

One of the biggest Youtube channels that became the home of some of the most impressive beat makers of this era is GodsConnect. The channel soon became the home of beat makers like Knxwledge, MNDSGN, Ahwlee, J. Robb, TUAMIE, malik abdul rahmaan and NAMELESS. Knxwledge and MNDSGN have gone on to become some of the most respected beatmakers in the beats scene and being part of the legendary Stonesthrow records in enough to label them as notable innovators. The unique selling point of GodsConnect has to be how clips of classic movies were used to add to the feel of the beats. By combining these clips and the beats, a cinematic experience was created.

In essence, the lo-fi beats movement is about defiance and staying true to what most may call a lost art form. The defiance is rooted in resisting the direction that the Hip Hop culture is heading into. The movement is about keeping a certain sound of Hip Hop alive and to make sure that it progresses into the times that we find ourselves in. The movement exists in the shadows of the internet and it is something that people can truly own without it being exploited for monetary gain. It is low-key a sacred form of Hip Hop that can have a listener getting lost in the soundscape.

It’s 2017 and we now have Youtube channels that live stream lo-fi beats 24/7. More than anything, the lo-fi beats movement is more about community and being unified under the love for this sub-genre of Hip Hop. We now have Soundcloud channels that are dedicated to sharing and spreading lo-fi beats across the internet. Judging by how many beats are on Youtube and Soundcloud right now, the sub-genre is here to stay and flourish. The cassette and beat machines may soon be obsolete, but since the majority of the beats are produced using computers, the lo-fi beats movement cements itself as a genre that has longevity in music.

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About Author

Nkululeko Nkosi Creative entrepreneur, self-starter and writer are some of the words you can use to describe me. Inspired by the grit, rawness and passion you often find in underground and alternative culture. Based in the greatest city in Africa, Johannesburg.


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