Written By: Airielle Lowe

Mumble Rap—the earliest recollection of the term for many is a 2016 HOT 97 interview with artist Wiz Khalifa, where the rapper stated the following: 

“We call it mumble rap ...it ain’t no disrespect to the little homies but they know wassup.” 

 Incomprehensible, repetitive lyrics riding the melody of a catchy trap beat is what generally characterizes the new generation that has both brought this genre back to life in the past decade, while steadily rising to fame for performing in it. It’s not necessarily about being lyrical anymore—but more so enjoying music as a form of entertaining art rather than fixating on storytelling.

For some, the earliest influence of mumble rap right before it grew mainstream is accredited to the rapper Lil Wayne, with the popularization of tracks such as “Lollipop” released back in 2008. But it took off with the growing fame of artists such as Chief Keef, Desiigner, Future, Young Thug, Migos, etc. all of whom grew immensely popular in the early 2010s. 

The style was initially condemned for its lack of lyricism by older rappers such as Snoop Dogg, who’d had a few words for the new generation’s wave of music in a 2014 video segment: 

“That’s what’s wrong right now, everybody tryna rap the same style….I don’t know who created it if it was Future or Migos but all them niggas sound the same.” 

The genre once considered to be nothing more than a temporary wave has taken over music as we know it. Lil Uzi, Lil Baby, Travis Scott, Lil Yachty, Playboi Carti, and a wide variety of the “new school” rappers are dominating the current state of music. But as we enter a new decade, will that change anytime soon?

The short answer? It already has—kind of. Though mumble rap has become mainstream, lyricism never died. Artists like J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem have remained prominent throughout the decade, and new generation artists such as YBN Cordae, Joyner Lucas, and Logic have carried the torch with them. Now, Charlotte born rapper, DaBaby, has paved a promising road for the upcoming decade characterized by both the entertainment and catchiness of “mumble rap,” and the lyricism and charisma considered “old school rap.” 

Even the state of women in rap has changed immensely, with a surge in the number of female rappers in hip-hop, as well as an increased variety in the range of these rappers. From Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj, to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion who make music that is as sexually liberating for women as hip-hop has been for men since it’s origins. All the way to artists such as Rico Nasty and Doja Cat embody a nonconforming edgy style of rap. These women accomplish this and gain popularity without adopting the mumble rap style.

The point is hip-hop and rap have grown to the point in which no one can say what will be the new standard in the following decade. Mumble rap dominated the previous decade, supported by some and hated by others. But in this latter half, we’ve seen the rise of a wide variety of artists. 

Rap is not something to be condensed into a box in which we state that all of these specific rappers can only act and rap in one way—you can provide lyricism and use your music to story tell, or simply ride the beat and make something that’s going to dominate the club scene. Some artists have remained prominent by sticking to the way in which they do things, others have joined the wave, and even veterans in the game have found a way to either sink or swim. But as far as which way the tide is moving? No one can say for sure...and that’s the beauty of it.