By David Dawson
Today, as with most days, I found myself scrolling through YouTube in the hopes of some serious procrastination (apologies to my degree), and I stumbled across a video from UK based musician and YouTuber Randolph. The video was a reaction to YouTuber/rapper Quadeca’s newest single ‘Uh Huh’ and I learned two key things; 1: Quadeca is a very skilled rapper and 2: YouTube music does not really get the recognition it deserves, and Randolph agrees.
When I listened to the Quadeca song in the video I was genuinely very impressed with his quick rapping and lyrical wit, but found myself thinking “wow it sounds like a ‘real’ rapper”. Should we be saying music on the platform is “good for a YouTube song” or “alright for a YouTube rapper” or is it time that we left phrases like this behind and just considered it as . . . well . . . music?
Although not all YouTube music is to be taken completely seriously there are some good examples of very talented musicians on the platform. The gap between chart and YouTube music seems particularly frustrating when I think of artists such as Lil Pump. I honestly don’t think he has anything on some YouTube musicians. This raises the question as to why his music is so successful compared to Quadeca, who I’m sure many people won’t have heard of, or Randolph who studied music as university? When we consider songs such as ‘Gucci Gang’, yes the beat is catchy, but the lyrics? They aren’t exactly ground breaking. Compared to Quadeca’s ‘Uh Huh’, with its fast-paced flow and clever rhymes, they’re in different leagues. Music on YouTube is clearly good, so why is it not taken seriously?
Diss tracks are a huge issue on YouTube. I’m not going to claim that I didn’t enjoy watching all the drama unfold when KSI opted to leave the Sidemen group, and again when KSI and Randolph were at the brunt of some harsh lyrics, but I do think they take away from the seriousness and quality. Whilst these people are entitled to make music, it seems that many people view these kinds of tracks as the main output of YouTube as a platform for music. However, KSI, who recently established himself as an accomplished rapper, is the only person who has gone some way in breaking the barrier between YouTube and chart music. His latest hit ‘Beerus’ achieved some mainstream success, but we had to listen to him rapping Fifa parodies and screaming “Lamborghini” down a microphone alongside some pretty cringy diss tracks to get to where we are today. Should I, therefore, be slamming those wannabe diss track rappers for giving it a good old go? These diss tracks are entertaining and great for the platform in other ways. The perception of YouTube music, however, seems to be somewhat of a Catch 22 – music will not be taken seriously with below-par comedy diss tracks, but without them some of the more established artists wouldn’t have received the exposure necessary to push their music to where they want it to be.
Skilled rappers such as Quadeca, Krypt, Randolph and KSI are let down by their YouTube colleagues. Jake Paul, for example, through no fault of his own, cannot really rap or sing, as catchy as his tracks can be. Anyone and everyone can post music on YouTube, regardless of skill. This shouldn’t be an issue, but I can see why it is. When you hear an artist on the radio it is likely they have devoted a good few years to playing local gigs, getting exposure, trying to get signed, and when they do get signed, they have the support of industry experts behind them. For YouTube the story is entirely different, if you’ve got a channel you can post music on it. It is almost too easy to label some of the YouTube artists as having little talent or to have not worked hard on their music, but for many that is not the case. A different route is not necessarily better or worse, but just has different scenery.
For most of these YouTubers the music is something of a side project, something they have always wanted to do or to keep views coming in, therefore it is not surprising that they have not hit the mainstream success that full-time artists have. My main concern, however, is not whether they hit the Top 40, but more that some of these very good songs from YouTube are brushed aside.
What can we do about it? We accept that we don’t like some of the songs we hear on the radio, but we don’t turn our back on all chart music. YouTube music should be seen in a similar way, it is far too often tarred with the same brush of being comedy, not serious or ‘real’ music. I urge you to try listening to some YouTube music and determine what you like and don’t like. Whether the music reaches mainstream success or not, once YouTube songs and artists are considered in the same way as other music, then it music will have the recognition it deserves.