Trillwave is a very important internet aesthetic revolving around both music, clothing, and visual art.
Before getting into the history; a brief overview of Trillwave can be defined as "wavy trap beats/rapping, with vaporwave-esque digital art, with a more gun, drugs ,hype-branding, overall hip-hop influence on subjects of the photo and music."
The word "trill" has been around since the early 2000s. The word itself is a combination of the words "true" and "real". The word has the meaning of "Genuine and authentic"... often to describe art or a trait in someone.
The word "trill" also has different uses in linguistics and music. Visually, "trill" art has been around since the 1990s with Memphis rappers such as Lord Infamous, Gangsta Boo,and Graveyard Production. However, back in the 90s; this aesthetic of cover art was called "Horrorcore" (which is still very popular in present day). Horrorcore is the stepping-stone for Trillwave in terms of both visually and rap flow.
There has been debates on the true origin of Trillwave and the "father" of the online movement, but the "wavy flow with ethereal samples" signature sound started in 2006 with Viper's earlier albums.. later on, Lil B birthed "Cloud rap" (Which is what he called it.) in 2009. Sometime in the early 2010s, "Trillwave" was formed from Cloud Rap. Trillwave was more of a homage to 90s Memphis rappers but combining new-school mixing and production (Ex. wavy beats with Memphis flow). Cloud Rap was more of a wide-open genre, with many styles and ways to produce that signature "cloud" sound.
Raider Klan is the most well-known "trill" collective. Housing members such as SpaceGhostPurrp, Denzel Curry, Xavier Wulf, Chris Travis, Mike Dece, Ruben Slikk, Eddy Baker, amongst many others. Raider Klan is considered the founding fathers of Trillwave and Phonk music. Although Lil B brought inspiration to many, Raider Klan is by far the most inflencial in terms of rap flow, beats, sound design, and aesthetics.. paying direct homage to 90s Horrorcore.
Later on, Vaporwave would boom in popularity due to Trillwave evolving, and both Trillwave and Vaporwave would bounce off of each-other with visual art, Vaporwave taking elements from Trillwave, and Trillwave taking elements from Vaporwave.. This is how the whole "gold uzi, Fiji water, codeine & drugs" aesthetic came to be. This shift in visual trends in the early 2010s would be crucial for the rest of Trillwave...
In 2013; Yung Lean's "Ginseng Strip 2002" exploded the popularity of Trillwave and Cloud Rap.. and changed the internet forever. At this time, bucket hats, Nike, Adidas, FIJI Water, and 90s CGI scenes were the craze. To go along with this, Yung Gud, Suicideyear, Yung Sherman, and Whitearmor also changed the way people made Trillwave beats, smoother triplet patterns with heavier hitting drums.. all layering on top of a smooth, ethereal sample obtained from deep on the internet. This movement is still rippled with a lot of Hip-Hop music we hear today.
Many people assume Yung Lean to be the father of Cloud Rap, which is simply inaccurate due to the paragraphs above, which explained the origin and fathers. Yung Lean is however, a pioneer and legendary figure in the underground. You will not find a single person in the Cloud Rap & Trillwave community who does not know Yung Lean.
In the end, Trillwave was birthed from thing to thing to thing and it is hard to track down the true pinpoint origin of it. The above paragraphs should be all you need to know in terms of who started what.
Trillwave combines a lot of aesthetics such as Vaporwave, Seapunk, and Junglecore. A lot of blue, purple, pink, green, and neon colors. Fiji Water, Codeine, Weed, Old Web, and Dolphins are just some examples of the aesthetics which are featured in music visual videos and cover arts. Japanese and Arabic language can also be featured on cover arts. As stated in the music portion, this "wave" of aesthetic and music has significantly died down into obscurity and is no longer talked about, and if it is, it is talked about and reminisced on as the "Golden age of Soundcloud" When the Trillwave aesthetic was booming and seemingly all over the platform. 2013-2014 is referred to as the "Golden age of the Internet" anyways, so it's fitting for people to consider the same for this aesthetic, since the aesthetic revolves so heavily around internet culture.
As mentioned in the History segment, this style of art has been around since the 90s and is the founding-father of the whole "symmetrically balanced visual art" such as what vaporwave use to be back in 2012-2014. .PNG's on one side of the cover art flipped horizontally onto the other side to create a clean look and fill in empty space.
For cover arts, another popular wave back in 2014-2015 was an image of various things with a white background (if it was a PNG, the white background was generated by Soundcloud.); stuff like jewelry, guns, video game characters, flowers, etc. The items depended on the artists aesthetic. Cover arts did play a huge part back then to help enhance a song's vibe/atmosphere, title's did as well.
Trill beats and rap titles very often had the ＦＡＮＣＹ ＦＯＮＴ(fancy font) and emojis, sometimes languages such as Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, and various unicode fonts/characters. Eventually artists realized not everyone can read unicode on their machines/phones and many artists stopped using it.
Adding onto the visual element of Trillwave, it's one of the most (if not - THE most) open aesthetic visually. Anything can be trill. As stated above, if art is imperfect, unusual, genuine, and interesting; it's trill. This can range from Y2K cyber aesthetics, to holy palaces, to weed and drug usage. It's really all over the place. Hue shifted images, "lazy" art, and minor edits all can be considered "Trillwave". Trillwave is a mixture of damn near every other internet-based aesthetic in existence, such as Vaporwave, Junglecore, Seapunk, Kawaii, etc. The list will go on and on.
Music wise, Trill music is almost impossible to specifically define. The best way to describe "Trill" music, is music that you can smoke to, listen to in the background, or listen to with friends. Some decent examples of "Trill" music is Chris Travis - Miss Me When I'm Gone and Chris Travis - Wavy World.
Trill music can be identified by the rawness of a song. How raw and heavy-hitting the mixing is whether it be vocals or instruments plays a big factor, modern rap (both underground and mainstream) tend to be more polished and perfected with mixing and beat patterns, whereas trill music has less of that perfection. Other subgenres of Trillwave is R&B-Trap and Vaportrap. Featuring 1/3step hihat patterns, rough mixing with 808s and snares, and offkey instruments. Sample choice include samples from video games on the NES, SNES, PS1, PS2, and others. Other samples can be 70s jazz, 2010s trance music, J-Pop, amongst many others. Listing out every trillwave/vaportrap producer would take about a decade, so I will leave this list here. This list was made by Paulon Records amongst many others which are credited at the bottom. This chart features hundreds of producers from the 2010s who left a huge impact on the underground and shaped a lot of aesthetics still present today.
Trill rap usually consists of slowed, monotone vocals, and rappers will usually rap about women, money, drugs, guns, video games, and anime. Taking heavy influence from Chicago Drill Rap and combing the sound with 90s Memphis flow. Sometimes in some older trill songs you could also hear struggle-talk. Rapping about racism, sexism, issues in America and the world, the cruel reality of the music industry, etc. Since this rap is underground and many artists were unsigned, they didn't need to worry about mass-critics or their label rejecting their song due to speaking out on the industry.
Here is a perfect example of Trill rap. An imperfect yet wavy & catchy beat matched with new-school lyric topics with the old-school flow.
Chopped & Screwed, Slowed & Reverb, etc. are birthed from DJ Screw, his technique of slowing down songs, chopping them so words repeat and sound smooth, among various other things made their way into Trillwave. This further makes trill songs easier to relax to and chopped & screwed songs often have a heavier aesthetic of drugs/weed with them, slowed & reverb songs gained popularity much later than chopped & screwed songs, but originated from Trillwave as well.
In 2013-2014, a subgenre of Trillwave was birthed dubbed "Holytrap". Holytrap took Trillwave and ascended it's atmosphere to a whole new galaxy. Sample selection was church choirs, vaporwave samples, ambient dreamscapes, all of that.. visually, the cover arts were more focused on angels, ambient architecture, water, mountains & terrain, and clouds.
This EP called ＡＲＣＨＩＴＥＣＴＵＲＥ(Architecture) by cight is a historic and widely-loved EP on Soundcloud, featuring (at the time) the top dogs of Trillwave & Holytrap.. Night Lovell (AKA KLNV), Benjamin, Greg, Falco, and 0% Boys. The sounds and production on this EP are still copied and continually inspire new producers every day.
Not long after Holytrap was birthed, Wave made it's way into the scene. Wave is the ultimate test of a producers skills. Combining the imperfect and wavy touch of Trillwave, the sample selection & atmosphere of Holytrap, and now adding insane patterns for hihats, snares, sound effects, and percs. On top of all of this, there was WAY more reverb on all of these instruments; meaning every aspect of a beat was more ambient, louder, and more emotional.. This EP titled ｈｅａｌ(heal) by lilac is a perfect example of Wave trap.
Phonk has been around for quite awhile, taking heavy inspiration from Horrorcore of the 80s-90s. Phonk music samples horrorcore often, layering old vocals on-top of jazz, video game, ambient, or OST samples. The layering of vocals leaves behind artifacts such as kicks, snares, hihats, and percs that were not EQ'd out, leaving an extra layer of "trill", or imperfections in songs.
Phonk music also features lo-fi aspects such as lower sample quality, "phonky" snares, hihats, and percs. The bass and or kicks in songs are often distorted in some ways and the mixing is usually more bass-heavy.
DJ Smokey has been making Phonk for well over half a decade, and has been a staple in the community, many new Phonk artists are still taking inspiration from DJ Smokey and adding onto what he left for new generation producers to pick up on.
DJ Smokey's "Positive Squad The Soundtrack Vol. 1" is a great way to learn and get introduced to the Phonk underground.
Shortly after Trillwave made its way into relevancy in the early 2010s, otaku rappers started rapping about the nerd life - anime, hentai, video games, movies, Japan, ETC. It wasn't until shortly after that it had so much traction that it was its own genre - dubbed "nerdcore". For starters, the beats were way more "retro" sounding - sampling 8bit, 16bit, PS1 & PS2, etc OSTs. Same patterns as trillwave music, but a different vibe. Lyrics were again - focused on otaku culture. Some of the earliest pioneers of Nerdcore were undeniably Melo Flamez and GF Retro. Together with some other rappers & producers - forming Otaku Mob, back in 2012 - including Josip on Deck, who made the legendary song called "Anime Pu$$y" - popularized and praised by YouTuber Etika years later.
After Otaku Mob, many other collectives sprung up including GoldSamuraiEmpire (later formed into RetroSamuraiEmpire), Retro Mob, and BCBC. By 2014, Nerdcore was a staple on Soundcloud. Rapper Sensei Ion carried nerdcore into the whole "wavy" scene, blending trillwave and nerdcore perfectly to create outer-dimensional songs, often accompanied by Tivo-Saki.
- DRIPFEST 5.0
- # １-８００-ＤＲＥＡＭＳ４ＳＡＬＥ ᵐ'ˣ
- ~ＧＯＯＮ ＰＡＬＡＣＥ ＭＩＸ~
- Plld Af Mix (◑‿◐)
- im not ok, pls leave me alone :'-(
- ༄ ｅｙｅｂｒｏｗ ｂｏｙｓ ｍｉｘ ༄
- ✦✦✦ ALL BLACK EVERYTHING ✦✦✦
- Ethereal Wave Paralysis feat. Crunkle Ben's
- While My USB Mixer Gently Weeps
- Mahogany Flute Weeping
- Empty Statements
- CARE LESS USER
- Trap Vibes & Chill Tides
Trillwave Artists (rappers)
Majority rappers listed here have helped shape Soundcloud and birthed a lot of aesthetics/musical styles we see present today.
- Chris Travis
- Xavier Wulf
- SENSEI ION
- FLASH GIORDANI
- Black Smurf
- VER$ACE CHACHI ヴェルサーチ
- SPACE GOD 🌊
- Jay Purp
- KAY P (AKA BABY SHIVA)
- 水竜 Tivo-Saki 空気野
- グレート SKILAW
- NEON GHO$T
- Trey Skies
- gothware♱ (AKA Sensei Setsa)
- NARDO AKARU
- Mike Dece
- TRAP SENSEI
- Dark Lord Senpai (AKA Swang Lord & 暗黒卿先輩)
- Bona El-Zee l Sauce Shinobu 🌊 ❄♕悟りを開いた♕❄🌊
- Yung Lean
- B L A C K K R A Y
- Cloud (The-Blvd). Cannot locate Soundcloud acocunt.
Feel free to add more.
Trillwave Artists (Producers)
Majority producers listed here have helped shape Soundcloud and birthed a lot of aesthetics/musical styles we see present today.
- N e w w E r a a
- Absolute Terror
- Art Lord
- Rejjie Hype (AKA Shadès)
- spob (FKA Lil Netzero)
- Internet User (MIA, deleted soundcloud :/)
- Yung Bazooka
- Kaine Solo (Looking up "Prod. Kaine Solo" on Soundcloud will yield his earlier beats.)
- GF Retro
- GF Retro (old account)
- Tyler Davidson
- fifty grand
- Pool Owner
- MELO FLAMEZ
- Zill Greene
- DJ Smokey
- Yung Gud (cannot locate soundcloud)
- WILLIE G
- Noize (AKA Yung Noize)
- spray22k (AKA yng vapor)
- NATE EVEREST (AKA SAMURAI NEITO)
There is simply too many artists to list out here... Please edit/add if you feel like any note-worthy artist is worth being on this list. Please make sure to include a Soundcloud link if applicable. Please also refer to the producer roadmap mentioned above if you truly want to discover all that the underground has to offer.