The SoundCloud era of rap was sensational. Flourishing from about 2015 to 2019, the movement birthed a peerless class of artists who refused to fall in line. These artists preferred to push the needle with their otherworldly artistry, and the result was an immense amount of impact in the rap game. From deep cuts to respected projects that have been stamped as classics, what a time it was.
These days, the streaming service is getting a breath of fresh air with a new movement that’s been brewing. Talented names like Bktherula, Yvngxchris, Iayze, Ken Car$on and Tana have picked up where their OGs have left off. So, considering the platform’s reinvigorated popularity, enough time has passed to spotlight and rank the inaugural artists who used SoundCloud as a vehicle to success.
Artists like Chance The Rapper and Travis Scott were pace-setting superstars, and some of the first to utilize SoundCloud. At the halfway mark of the last decade, they were already on their way to superstar status, serving as an example for newer rappers who were seeking out their own come ups. XXL highlights the SoundCloud-era rappers that came after them, ranking their place in the game now based on their current impact. The following artists are included in the conversation.
By 2016, the game would be blessed with the presence of Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti, two boundary-shifting spitters who thrived with their free-flowing melodies and charismatic lyrics with swagged-up personas to match. Together and individually, alongside other names like 21 Savage and Kodak Black, they sparked a fire in music that has yet to lay down.
A little later, a secondary unit picked up the keys and unlocked the elevator to success. Artists like XXXTentacion and Juice Wrld reigned as a voice of the youth, blending rock, rap and lo-fi genres into one ear-pleasing potion. They were stamped as young prophets, and though their careers were both cut short, X and Juice delivered music strong enough to make it into hip-hop’s history book and into the SoundCloud Hall of Fame.
There are plenty more artists worth discussing as well. But first, let this be known: this list is ranked based on impact as well as catalog quality, commercial success and accolades. Additionally, only solo artists are included (sorry to the legendary $uicideboy$) and not every artist from that time period made the cut. This is a tight composition of the best 20 acts, which includes why they matter and how they fare against each other in the grand scheme of things. Check out the full ranking below.