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Trillwave is a underground hip-hop wave & broad internet aesthetic that has played a big role in defining modern rap and other music genres as we know today, as well as helping other aesthetics develop such as Vaporwave, Seapunk and so on.

The term 'Trillwave' was birthed from two simple things: "Trill" - which originally had a colossal boatload of meanings when referencing music production - was turned into slang in the late 90s to early 2000s. Trill combines the words "true" and "real" to form "trill", while "wave" is there because everything deemed aesthetic had the "wave" suffix attached to them back then when the name was coined. (Don't take that statement literally.)

Trill can also be used to describe art. It has no solid definition, and if someone calls a song, artwork, etc., "Trill", it can mean:

  • The song is raw, unmixed, unmastered, lacking quality, and overall amateur-sounding. (This isn't an insult, as raw music is praised in the underground.)
  • The song speaks about true subjects that mainstream artists simply cannot speak on (due to being called "wack" or their label not allowing it).
  • The song hits home for the listener for various reasons, being by-the-book trill - true and real.
  • The visual art also has signs of being done by an amateur.
  • The visual art once again hits home for the user (references, nostalgia, etc).

Later, as you move down to the visual part of this wiki, we'll explain each visual characteristic of Trillwave, and how it utilizes various pieces of other aesthetics and transforms them into a whole new thing.

History[]

The earliest form of "trill" music was Memphis Rap, also known as Memphis Horrorcore (depending on who you ask). Memphis Horrorcore would essentially be the birth of trap. Three Six Mafia would help invent the triplet rap flow, which many rappers to this day use in many songs. The signature sound of jazz/funk samples often used on top of raw drums, snares, hats, percussions, and cowbells. It really was a whole new sound the world hadn't heard before. This aesthetic would also extend beyond music, with the cover art for a lot of the mid-to-late 90s Memphis albums being misty, dark, often devilish, and very obviously done on a budget. All in all, Memphis Rap is an important part of Trillwave.

Once the late 2000s rolled around, new generation artists started to experiment with trap/rap music, and in the early 2010s, "phonk" was born due to the infamous artist SpaceGhostPurrp. Phonk would forever change the world of hip-hop and helped define the early 2010s "swag era" or "trill era". Suddenly, everyone was saying they were "trill" and listening to trillwave. A$AP Rocky - Purple Swag & SpaceGhostPurrp - Friday come to mind and are great examples of how trillwave sounded initially. Whereas Rocky's take on the genre was a bit more professional sounding, SpaceGhostPurrp's take was a lot more raw, authentic, and influential to the genre, as many amateur artists could better replicate the raw feel.

Visual[]

Most of Trillwave's aesthetic is in the cover arts that were used. Cover arts on SoundCloud and YouTube were special, as they heavily enhanced the vibes of artist pages, and the songs themselves. To many artists, a good cover art was just as important as the music itself.

Despite what was said above, regular "trill" edits exist! Trillwave art that was never intended for cover art, usually including the same editing style as vaporwave & trillwave, just without the obvious "Artist x Single/EP name" text.

Visually, Trillwave takes inspiration from every single internet aesthetic, ever (and also inspired a LOT of internet aesthetics). Elements of Cleancore, Junglecore, Seapunk, Vaporwave, Synthwave, Kawaii, Mizuiro, Y2K Futurism, Frutiger Aero, and Old Web all can be seen in the visuals of Trillwave.

We will go over some of the various aesthetics Trillwave used.

BrokenHalo1995

Frayser Click - Broken Halo (1995)

NardoAkaruRXIXP

Nardo Akaru ft. Cvrsxd ー RXIXP「Prod.rvmsxy」(2013)

At first, Trillwave was - as said, inspired by Memphis Rap. A lot of 90s Memphis cover arts were a LOT like Vaporwave. PNG edits, flipped images (mirroring them on either side), hue shifting, etc. This is what early trill art was. Even simple stuff like images turned black and white with some text on it.

Bazoooka

Yung Bazooka - CLEAN HANDS MIX (2014)

Once 2013 came around, a popular trend for trill beats were the infamous "white space" cover arts. Basically, take a PNG of something (you can check Cleancore's wiki page for some examples), add a white background, and boom. Trillwave cover art. If you were too lazy to add the white background yourself, simply upload a .PNG to SoundCloud as your cover art, and SoundCloud would add the white background. inter▼ene is an artist who used a lot of PNG cover arts, or minimalist cover arts, and Yung Bazooka was an artist who used white space cover arts frequently, with a lot more color to the subject (the PNG). This trend lasted up until around 2016. It's still around, just not nearly as commonplace.

Junglewavee

MISOGI — JUNGLEWAVE (BLVC SVND REMIX) (2014)

Trillwave (bordering on HolyTrap) also takes inspiration from Junglecore as mentioned; a lot of songs throughout 2013-2014 used photos of forests, rainforests, jungles, woods, etc. This aesthetic combined Vaporwave and Junglecore, on top of the blank space art, sometimes using potted plants in an empty white void, or trees in an empty white void, or trees Photoshopped onto more trees, the list goes on.

Pricless

nekomimi - pricle$$ (prod. GF Retro) (2017)

Retro, Vaportrap, Nerdcore, and even HolyTrap sometimes use "Kawaii" aesthetics, such as anime screenshots (and lewd anime screenshots), pink cover art, Hello Kitty, Y2K Futurism, anime girl renders, etc. This was very popular with artists like GF Retro, Melo Flamez, Josip on Deck, Kay-P AKA Baby Shiva, and many others.

Misfortune

misfortune - 0% Boys (2014)

Corporate imagery can also be used as Trillwave cover art, and often was; pictures of glass skyscrapers, bright cloudy skies, architecture design plans (usually with Photoshopped people), architecture in general, and white/grey themed cover art. This was very popular in 2013-2014; people like Lil Netzero & cight often used these covers, and added a whole new atmosphere to their beats.

Traphouseexe

Lil Netzero & Big Urdie Beats - TrapHouse.exe(2014)

Terrorwave was also used by a handful of artists, especially Lil Netzero in particular. Visuals in cover art tends to consist of people in military gear, ski masks, camo outfits, etc. Usually the beats had a more darker theme to them to accompany the art.

Rejjie Hype - UNDERWATER FT

Rejjie Hype - UNDERWATER 「FT. MISOGI」(2014)

One BIG aesthetic is the ever-so-popular "angelic" or "holy" aesthetic. Used all the time with HolyTrap & Wave producers. Pictures of Roman architecture, pictures of angel statues (usually crying or in a depressing pose), so on. The most famous example of this aesthetic is the Neptune Pool in San Simeon, California. An image of this beautiful pool was used as the cover art to Cight's LEGENDARY "ARCHITECTURE//EP" (this pool wasn't the OG cover for the EP, but it was changed to this, and most recognize it instantly as "oh yeah, that's the architecture cover"). This EP is considered by many people to be the "final frontier" of Trillwave. This EP featured some of the biggest Trillwave producers at the time; 0% boys, Falco, greg, KLNV (later known as Night Lovell), and Benjamin. Released May 31, 2014, it was very advanced for its time. People are still discovering this EP 10 years later, and many fans have returned to appreciate the EP.

Beyond direct inspiration from other internet aesthetics, Trillwave directly influenced aesthetics such as Vaporwave. Vaporwave also influenced Trillwave; they were like brother and sister, constantly innovating each other's aesthetic and shaping it into what would be their "peak" era, 2013-2016. Vaporwave started to include a lot of guns, marijuana (and drugs in general), hue-shifted images, aptly-named "leaned out" images (purple hue images), the perfect symmetrical art (PNG galore), and so on, around 2013. Vaporwave then used a lot of statue heads, trees, specific color schemes, and much more, that Trillwave started to use in its own art.

Music[]

We'll start off with a basic list of some of the earliest Trillwave artists.

  • SpaceGhostPurrp
  • Ruben Slikk
  • A$AP Rocky
  • Mike Dece
  • Ethelwulf (later known as Xavier Wulf)
  • Yung Simmie
  • Lofty305
  • DJ Smokey
  • Lil Ugly Mane
  • Denzel Curry
  • Soudiere
  • Chris Travis
  • Amber London
  • Supa Sortahuman
  • BONES
  • Ruben Slikk
  • Black Kray
  • Yung Lean
  • Playboi Carti (formerly)
  • Lil Peep
  • $uicideboy$
  • XXXTentacion
  • Nardo Akaru
  • Ecco2k
  • Black Banshee
  • DJ Yung Vamp
  • Bladee
  • Black Smurf
  • RAMIREZ
  • Jak3
  • Metro Zu

Early Trillwave was DIRECTLY inspired by old Memphis Rap as we mentioned above, but this time with a twist. Modern production styles, video game and anime samples and references as well as pop culture references in general, mixed with gritty mixing styles and old Memphis vocal samples.

Raider Klan was an early Trillwave pioneer collective on SoundCloud, the group was birthed in the late 2000s, but didn't explode into the inspiration fountain until a bit later. Raider Klan was again, inspired by Memphis Rap, and included a huge roster of artists that are well known today: Chris Travis, SpaceghostPurrp, Xavier Wulf, Amber London, Yung Simmie, Eddy Baker, Key Nyata, Ruben Slikk, the list goes on and on.

The gritty mixing of Raider Klan songs, mixed with the dark samples, train horns, cell phone SFX, amongst many other signature sounds, was what made Raider Klan stand out: Modern production with clear old-school inspiration.

As time went on, there were inner conflicts within Raider Klan, so the gang split up to go do their own thing, sometimes in groups. Ethelwulf went on to make a variety of songs, some inspired by anime or video games, some Memphis-inspired tracks, and the same went for Chris Travis, who started making his signature "wavy" trill music in 2012, his album "Pizza & Codeine" still being a fan favorite amongst many a decade later.

One of the most important albums for Trillwave was Lil Ugly Mane's legendary Mista Thug Isolation, which incorporated the lo-fi and mysterious sound of Memphis Rap into a modern context, using production techniques that had never been used before in Memphis Rap. This album helped (in addition to the work of SpaceGhostPurpp) that Memphis Rap had a revival, which would later lead to the creation of Phonk and Drift Phonk.

In 2012, Yung Lean started gaining traction in the trill scene: a white Swedish kid making trill music and uploading it to YouTube, with some Vaporwave-esque music videos. Fiji Water, bucket hats, Adidas, Arizona Iced Tea, trill and imperfect beats. As many of you know, Ginseng Strip was released early 2013, and was a staple of the time. This song was an instant hit, and loved by many in the scene. Raw, trill sound with goofy lyrics that didn't take itself too seriously. This was the pinnacle of trill music. To top it off, Yung Gud did fantastic work on the beat. A rare sample with perfect hat patterns and a reverbed Lex Luger snare. It was really the sound of this time.

Without a doubt, Yung Lean brought Trillwave to the masses again. Yung Lean pioneered the aesthetic even further, taking heavy inspiration from Vaporwave at the time.

Otaku culture at this time was starting to rise up (around 2011-2013), so a lot of songs were catering + made by anime and video game fans. Trillwave is the parent to the subgenres born, so let's talk about them.

Trillwave Subgenres[]

ONE THING TO KEEP IN MIND - These subgenres can blend, mix, mash, you name it. Trillwave is not a strict aesthetic. You are NOT bound to one sub-genre.

Phonk[]

In the early 2010s rapper SpaceGhostPurrp changed the rap game with his new style of dark, brooding beats and Memphis rap-inspired hip hop. From there he would go patent the style he referred to as Phonk and go on to be one of the most influential hip hop artists of the 2010s. It featured distorted, dark, brooding, and ethereal beats, hardcore lyricism with often distorted and lo-fi vocals and heavy inspiration from the Pen & Pixel album covers of southern hip hop. SGP would form a collective called Raider Klan putting on many artists who would go on to reach high levels of popularity such as Denzel Curry and Xavier Wulf, Like Cloud rap in the same era, SGP came through with a much darker form of it developed independently of cloud rap.

As we said before, another album that greatly influenced the sound of that time was Mista Thug Isolation by Lil Ugly Mane, bringing many production techniques never before seen in Memphis rap. Which led many producers to experiment with the Memphis sound, leading to unique projects that mixed the lo-fi and mysterious sound of Memphis, the psychedelic production of Chopped N' Screwed and the ethereality of the then new, Cloud Rap. thus creating what we know today as Phonk.

Phonk is undeniably the biggest subgenre to come from trillwave, as it's still being innovated and produced en masse today. Phonk is essentially what Raider Klan was, and still is, as mentioned before regarding modern productions with old-school inspiration. Phonk evolved a lot from the early 2011-2012 days. By 2013-2014, a lot of producers came into the scene and started combining more jazzy and ethereal samples, paired with Memphis vocals, Lex Luger snares, loud kicks, trap hihats, amongst video game and anime SFX. some early pioneers of phonk (as we know it today) are DJ Smokey, Lil Ugly Mane, EPVR, Soudiere, Mythic, HymBeats, DJ Yung Vamp, and Roland Jones. Do keep in mind these are not the only early pioneers, just artists who are well respected in the scene (and ones that are easy to recall).

Youtube channels such as Trillphonk and NxrthNxrthPhonk would also help popularize the style. With the domination of Raider Klan in the early 2010s many rappers were releasing albums in the style and taking influence from the movement.

Important to note, while Drift Phonk is sadly still considered Trillwave, it is widely hated by original Phonk artists, as it is basically corporate minimalism, but in music form. Generic cowbell melodies, distorted 808s, repetitive flow and acapella usage, it is considered "the death of phonk". A video, made by the great Yokai, explained how Spotify assisted in the death of Phonk by exclusively promoting Drift Phonk on their official Phonk playlist... completely leaving out the founding fathers, and the people who helped shaped the subgenre (at this point, a MAIN genre) to what it is today.

Retro[]

Retro is a very misleading but also straightforward genre. It's not Synthwave or Madonna copycat music, it's simply trap beats specifically made with retro videogame samples, and anime samples. Retro beats are very hard to Google as we're sure you can imagine, so this subgenre is obscure as can be in the present day.

Believe it or not, a lot of artists that made it big today, were once "Retro". Lil Yachty, Lil Peep, XXXTentacion, Suicideboys, Soulja Boy, Chris Travis, Xavier Wulf, etc. Some of their earlier songs were rapped on Kaine Solo beats, named for a legendary figure in the underground. His beats are instantly recognizable by his thuddy (not muddy) kicks, low pitch hihats, low pitched Lex Luger snare, and his snare rolls, paired with his clever SFX usage and samples. The majority of rappers used his beats; his beats were so good that $crim from $uicideboy$ stole his beat for their "Kill Yourself PT. 1" song, and put his "DJ $crim with that 808!" and "This a $crim beat!" tag on it, completely discrediting Kaine Solo.

Retro started out with JosipOnDeck, Soulja Boy, Sensei Ion, and GF Retro, just to mention a handful. Josip would make the ever-so-popular "Anime Pu$$y" song with Killa Karisma, back in 2014. This song was praised by the legendary Etika, and has gone down as one of the "Retro anthems", despite many listeners not even knowing that this is a subgenre.

Josip, Sensei Ion, and Soulja Boy would often rap about video games, anime, or use the legendary "Retro! Retro!" adlibs in their songs in the early days, on top of the anime or videogame samples. These songs were similar to Crunk music and these were mostly inspired by Lil B, based music that appealed to a niche audience, otakus and gamers.

GF Retro eventually entered the scene, and started to make retro beats, producing for some of the bigger underground artists (as far as this niche goes), such as XXXTentacion and Hentai Dude. GF Retro would be a huge inspiration to many, as his 8bit and 16bit chiptune melodies, usage of obscure videogame samples, percussion usage, and style in general would be perfect for otaku rap. GF Retro was heavily influenced by Melo Flamez starting out, who also was an OG in the scene who made retro beats, usually sampling later OSTs such as PS1, PS2, N64, etc. Not as chiptuney, but still retro. Melo Flamez produced for artists such as Yung Hurn, Xavier Wulf, Braxton Knight, and FLASH GIORDANI.

YouTube "type beats" also were heavily carrying retro at this time. 2011-2013, lots of producers (Natsu Fuji, Raisi K, DJ SonicFreak, etc) were uploading to YouTube and forever expanding the reach of retro music. Many gamers and anime fans loved this fairly new genre. They did a lot for the scene, and are also early pioneers.

Retro expanded for years, eventually bringing a new array of collectives. GoldSamuraiEmpire (later turned into RSE - Retro Samurai Empire), Retro Mob, GOTHRETRO, Village Klick (VVG), and so on.

Nerdcore[]

While Nerdcore has its own page, its blunder years will be mentioned here. Nerdcore was VERY MUCH like Retro. Typically, Nerdcore was rap music, using Retro & Vaportrap beats. The subjects of the songs were a mix of regular ol' Trillwave (have intercourse with women, acquire currency, spend said currency, you know... but replace the "intercourse with women" part with ANIME women, now we're on to something). Josip On Deck evolved into a Nerdcore artist, same with Hentai Dude and many others. Nerdcore has since evolved (for better or worse) into a more broad genre, often using drill beats and sometimes even rock beats. It has a long and complicated history, way more ambitious than this little subgenre section.

Vaportrap[]

To keep it simple, Vaportrap is the WAVY version of Retro. Again sampling videogames, anime, yada yada.. but with reverb! Some OG vaportrap producers are YUNG MIST, Jonathan Joestar, S?K, SHAMPOOGOD, Pool Owner, Blank Banshee, and VAPERROR. Unlike retro, Vaportrap focuses a *bit* more on ambient pads and other more "misty" sounds, but still utilizes a heapload of retro samples.

As a quick disclaimer, Retro CAN be Vaportrap, and Vaportrap CAN be Retro. Vaportrap just has a MAIN focus of the things mentioned above, instead of purely sampled music.

Vaporwave[]

Everybody knows Vaporwave, damnit. Vaporwave was birthed by the trill movement in a way. That probably sounds crazy to you, so here's an explanation. Vaporwave at first, typically, was sampled music. Slowed down, reverbed, chopped up, does this sound familiar? Chopped & Screwed music has been around since the 90s, with the infamous DJ Screw being the inventor behind it. Many of the same characteristics as Vaporwave, chopped music, slowed down and sometimes with enhanced atmosphere. Since the death of DJ Screw in 2000, many American DJs have carried on the chopped & screwed legacy, and it has definitely showed its legacy in the earlier Vaporwave music.

Later on of course, Vaporwave evolved, and although a lot of artists stuck to their sampled 80s and 90s R&B roots, that is a finite source. Eventually Vaporwave evolved to be more ambient, sometimes noisier, with a deeper aesthetic. That said, it's important we cover where Vaporwave was birthed.

While Vaporwave artists pioneered their own aesthetic visually, and vaporwave didn't rely on rap music to chop and slow, the idea was very much birthed from the same parent, Trillwave. Nowadays, Vaporwave is its own main genre, and nobody in 2023 still considers Vaporwave to be a little subgenre.

VaporPhonk[]

Once again, phonk, but WAVY. Vaporphonk gained popularity in around 2015 or 2016 (thanks to artists like DJ Yung Vamp, 6-6-6, Soudiere, Mythic, Negative, kloudbug, myrror, and many more). Vaporphonk shared very similar characteristics to Retro and Vaportrap, but the beats were usually slower, and sampled jazz more than videogame music as the main sample. Reverbed snares, loud kicks, sometimes character chants or grunts as voxes, etc. Vaporphonk usually had a lower BPM too.

A good example of VaporPhonk (mixed with a bit of traditional phonk at the time) is Trappin in Heaven 2, by Emotional Tokyo. Has a whole track list if you want to dive deeper.

SadTrap[]

SadTrap was one of the later genres to spawn from Trillwave (note that these subgenres aren't in chronological order). SadTrap is best described as emo music, but with loud kicks and snares... that's as far as the hole goes. Sampling a variety of stuff from indie artists (Imogen Heap, Gemma Hayes, Stumbleine, etc). The style was kind of birthed out of nowhere. Sure, Lil B used sad beats back in the early 2010s, using beats that sampled Imogen Heap in particular, but it was entirely different this time through. Loud kicks, loud snares with snare rolls, long intros, cinematic transitions from intros, beat drop to outros, etc. As mentioned, this subgenre kinda just spawned sometime in late 2015 to 2016. It still lives on today, just in a different form (usually not as "trap" focused).

Some of the most well known Sad Trap artists are GIN$ENG, Longlost, Safari, tothegood, 93FEETOFSMOKE, Velvetears. Once again, just to name a handful.

HolyTrap[]

HolyTrap was a pretty early subgenre to be spawned from Trillwave, it wasn't even known as Holytrap to some, just "top tier Trillwave". HolyTrap was spawned in 2013 (roughly). It featured a heavier focus on ambient samples, or "wavy" samples. Reverb hihats with insane patterns, panning, pitch, etc. Lots of snare rolls, loud mixing, etc. The root was very much still Trillwave, but more mystified.

Some early producers who pioneered and innovated the subgenre were Rejjie Hype, MISOGI, Night Lovell (known as KLNV at the time, before he started to rap), BLVC SVND, Cight, Falco, Greg, Lil Netzero, HYDRO, the list goes on. This was a pretty popular subgenre at the time, and the visuals play a big role too.

Wave[]

Wave is a pretty vague term, Wave music is very similar to Holytrap, but this time it's just.. amplified. 10x more atmosphere (and reverb). Lilac, Safari, Resonance were some of the most well known wave artists when it was at its peak; there isn't much to say about it. Grew in popularity in 2015 to 2016, died sometime in 2018, although people still make Wave music here and there. Wave music usually used anime girl covers or architecture (as mentioned above in the Visuals part).

TrapMetal[]

TrapMetal is very much bordering being a subgenre of Trillwave. TrapMetal features loud beats, with dark samples (sometimes even rock or metal samples, if you couldn't guess from the name), with loud snares, kicks, hihats, and on top of that - loud vocals). BLVC SVND, an OG HolyTrap artist, went on to join Midnight Society, and be a pretty big TrapMetal artist. the same goes for Original God, who started out being a mix of retro, and plain ol Trillwave.  They both now focus more on pure rock and metal music, steering away from trap music. Without a doubt, the #1 influence that came from TrapMetal was XXXTentacion, who started out rapping on HolyTrap and Retro beats, with a raw, trill style. TrapMetal is more or less alive today, but not mainstream in the slightest.

Before we move on, it's important to note; THESE ALL CAN COMBINE (within reason) trill rap talking about corrupt cops, hood struggle, or the issue of gang violence on top of videogame sampled beats are not now Trillretro or trilltro, it's simply Trillwave. The subgenres exist to make your life easier to find the specific sound you want, artists are not locked into forever being a SadTrap, Trapmetal, Nerdcore, or Retro artist.

Trillwave Mixes[]

Producer Map[]

Most (not all) of the OG producers who helped shaped the trillwave scene (Lofi+Vaporwave too)!

An in-depth graph featuring hundreds of producers who have heavily shaped the underground music scene

Underground Producer map, made by Paulon Records AKA Tapria (2020)

Higher resolution images (as well as more information) can be found HERE. Thank you to Paulon Records for taking the time to make this.

Gallery[]

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