To put it simply, hyperpop is a genre that was born from the internet. This is reinforced by all aspects of its conception, from its name arising from the title of a Spotify playlist, to its meme-y internet notalgia-laced lyrics and sound clips. In 19-year-old producer CMTEN’s TikTok hit ‘NEVER MET’, for instance, the chorus squeaks: “We broke up on PictoChat, crying on my DS.” His stage name is even inspired directly by his childhood Webkinz username. Hyperpop artists revel in our everyday interactions of the old and new internet and find the human within them. The tracks’ sped-up, pixelated sounds often reflect the digital world’s simultaneous rush forward and nostalgic pull.
Hyperpop’s advent is widely seen as linked to the beginning of British music producer A.G. Cook’s PC Music in 2013. In a 2020 interview with The Guardian, Cook is quoted as saying that, during his time at Goldsmiths University, he was frustrated that music made on or referencing computers “was seen as [having] nothing to do with people.” Despite seeing so many peers constantly interacting with the digital realm “in a really chill way,” no one seemed to regard their time spent online as authentic or connected to their lives offline. In an attempt to subvert this popular mindset, Cook’s music embraces the everyday experience of the internet; the memes, the texts, the scrolling, the glitching.
Cook’s music videos—such as ‘Silver’—directly imitate the camera angles and distorted face filters that have risen due to the internet. In ‘Silver’, only Cook’s upper half is present as flickering, black-and-white screens zoom behind him, as if the video was filmed on a phone’s front camera or a Macbook’s Photo Booth. The sparkling poster child for hyperpop and collaborator of Cook, Charli XCX, sings in a recent song ‘pink diamond’: “I’m online and I’m feeling so glamorous. In real life could the club even handle us?” The dichotomy between physical and virtual life is a theme that permeates the genre.
While hyperpop is reflective of its time, it’s also important to state how it’s a direct reaction against this period. Compared to the subdued, emotion-laden tracks of endless lo-fi YouTube videos or Drake’s moody, soft-spoken raps that dominated the 2010s, hyperpop loudly rejects this type of manufactured honesty and deepness. Instead, it embraces the corporate music industry it—and mostly all other genres—is situated within through its plastic-package-like samples and speedy saccharine hooks. Think SOPHIE’s fizzy, chaotic ‘LEMONADE’.
In a time when rap and rock have been marketed as alternative, despite having firm footing in the mainstream, enjoying pop has, in some ways, become a transgressive act. Eschewing the illusion of sincerity alternative genres tend to be situated within, hyperpop rather welcomes its scintillating, hyper-consumerist, rapid internet context than try to deny it. Pop culture and music writer for The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber, echoes this in writing that “the term pop has long connoted market-driven insipidness, which has left space for styles such as rock and rap to sell themselves as inherently alternative.” He continues, stating that “while pop is compromising, false, and cheerful, the theory goes, alternative artists are complex, authentic, and emotionally dynamic.” Hyperpop artists instead subvert this preconception, using the sparkly, catchy tropes of conventional pop music to express the gravity and nuance of their everyday experiences.
Notably, a large number of hyperpop artists identify as transgender, non-binary, or otherwise part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Since the arrival of Web 2.0—when the internet began to take on the role of an omnipresent social sphere—gender expression and identification has been widespread. When chatrooms first began blinking into existence and social media platforms surfaced, labelling became an intrinsic part of experiencing others on the internet; think back to the days of starting a conversation with ASL (age/sex/location). This normalised declaration of gender linked to the internet conversations—as well as its architecture, which connected and continues to connect to large groups of otherwise distant people—led to a fertile space for the diffusion and exploration of the terms.
Public speaker, writer, and activist, Amber Leventry, wrote for The Washington Post about the significance of digital spaces for those in the LGBTQIA+ community. They comment that “the Internet can be a refuge,” as it allows youth in particular to “see, read, and hear the voices of others who look like them.” Advocate and mother of a transgender son, Vanessa Lee Nic, says that her child “doesn’t have one trans friend his age in our small town. So, [social media] allows him that community. It’s pretty invaluable, honestly.”
Tracing this sentiment of community building, it seems almost inevitable that hyperpop—as a genre linked to the internet—is primarily fueled by those who have found a sense of self within it. When mainstream pop music seems so dependent on tropes of heterosexual coupling, hyperpop artists conversely speed up its conventions and reconfigure them to express their own narratives.
In SOPHIE’s ‘Faceshopping’, for instance, she sings “I’m real when I shop my face,” using the smartphone-based vocabulary of facetuning and Photoshopping to share her experiences as a trans woman. them. writer, Hannah Jocelyn, states that SOPHIE “created a body of work that frantically tore apart sound and gender, where enhancement and exaggeration created the most authentic presentation.”
By deconstructing, magnifying, and playing with the tools of convention in music, gender, and more, LGTBQIA+ hyperpop artists are able to sonically curate a genuine representation of their existences on and offline.
“The government tried to ban me from the dark web. I downloaded TOR Browser and got back in. Went and got a VPN, just bought another BIN,” raps away Teejayx6, a 19-year-old from the east side of Detroit. Decked in a black ski mask, the young rapper illustrates the process of accessing the dark web in great detail—down to the bank identification numbers he uses to make fraudulent transactions. Welcome to the fringe world of scam rap, a viral subgenre glorifying and breaking down fraudulent activity step-by-step for listeners.
Mentions of fraudulent activity in music is nothing new. Future, Meek Mill, City Girls and Kodak Black are all on the long list of rappers with scamming-related lyrics. You are most likely to have already been introduced to this subgenre even if you don’t follow any of the artists mentioned.
In The Secret Life Of Pets 2, Kevin Hart voiced a bunny named Snowball—a former anti-human revolutionary who has come to believe that he is a superhero. The movie ended with Snowball rapping away Desiigner’s 2015 smash ‘Panda’. “Credit cards and the scammers!” bellowed Snowball in a snapback as scam rap quickly infiltrated the kid movie pantheon.
Scam rap has been associated with Detroit-based artists where the subgenre is deeply rooted in credit card frauds, identity thefts and other illicit ways of splitting people from their money. Credited with its own rap scene, scam rap in particular seems to be flooding out of Motor City with many upcoming rappers mentioning scamming in their lyrics.
Though not exclusive to Detroit, the city’s scam rap can be differentiated from the rest with its off-beat flow and rap style. Artists like Kasher Quon and 10kkev leverage bouncy beats filled with high synths to produce sounds similar to “a loading screen on a low-budget video game.” Their rap style lies somewhere between frenzy and monotone to create feverish energy that eventually matches the anxiety-ridden sentiments of the scamming lifestyle they allegedly live in.
Scam rap surfaced in 2017 when Bossman Rich dropped his single ‘Jugging Ain’t Real’. The track featured the rapper flashing stacks of cash while rhyming off-beat about BINs, Bitcoins and credit card frauds. Interest in the subgenre along with true scam cases peaked post that.
Scam rap went mainstream in 2019 with the rise of GuapDad 4000, an Oakland-based rapper. Styling himself as a charming conman, the artist is credited with scamming celebrities like Drake into performing at his afterparty for free—later boasting about it on Instagram. However, it wasn’t until Teejayx6 (real name unknown) came onto the scene that the subgenre really took off.
Incriminating himself to insane degrees in just about every song, Teejayx6 shot to fame with his breakout single Dark Web where he coaches listeners by giving them step-by-step instructions on how to access the dark web using the TOR browser. Immersed in pop-culture references and terminologies, most of Teejayx6’s songs are dramatic scam stories that play out like heist movies.
In Swipe Story, the 19-year-old artist breaks down the process of stealing PS4s from Walmart, outlining everything from embossing fake credit cards to lying to the cashier about why he needs $3,500 worth of gaming equipment. He later raps about scamming different Walmarts in a sum total of 50 times. In Violin he raps about buying social security numbers, and in Blackmail he goes as far as scamming his own grandmother.
During his first-ever show in Los Angeles, Teejayx6 was arrested on-stage by US Marshals. But internet nerds were quick to theorise that the arrest was staged with a bunch of actors and that the whole thing was a publicity stunt—yet another scam. So why hasn’t the real police caught on yet? Is scam rap legal in the first place?
Scam rap’s existence highlights a cultural shift to psychological, data-driven crimes where rappers involved aren’t afraid to delve into the details regardless of the authenticity of their claims. Given that many of Teejayx6’s ‘alleged’ crimes involved swindling some of the wealthiest companies on Earth, artists like him are considered “Robin Hoods for the age of cryptocurrency.”
Acknowledging the fact that “scamming celebrities is easier than normal people because they fall for it quicker,” Teejayx6 has allegedly scammed Blac Chyna and Dave East. The young rapper further separates himself from the ruthless types of frauds with a positive motive backing him up. “I’m really helping people in the long run,” he admitted in an interview with Genius. Upon purchase of his mixtape The Fraud Bible, Teejayx6 stated that his fans get an actual fraud bible—a guide which includes “actual methods, BINs and everything required” to carry out scams.
“People want to label me a scammer,” he mentioned in an interview with Pitchfork. “But I’m really helping fans out, giving them advice and even money if they need it.”
“Scam rap is going to be a thing for a while because it’s money,” admitted Teejayx6. “Anybody would like to make money. So it’s just a matter of time before the whole world catches on.” The artist, however, warns against the repercussions that entail the subgenre’s mainstream popularity.
“It might bring problems like the police only if it gets too popular,” he said. In an interview with Complex about the future of scam rap, the young artist mentioned how scamming is increasingly becoming the “standard job for rappers” replacing what once was drug dealing. When asked if he was worried about the repercussions of his self-incriminating lyrics, Teejayx6 stated that he was only worried about seeing somebody he has scammed in real-life.
“If I ever get big, somebody that I scammed in the past might book me for a show just to rob me. In the life I live, I always have to be careful. I scammed so many people from different cities, different states. I don’t know who’s trying to book me. So I’m really terrified.” In his No Jumper interview, the 19-year-old perfectly sums up the doubts we currently harbour in the back of our minds, “Even if I was under investigation, there is no proof, there’s no video proof. I could be saying all this, it could be a lie, it could be entertainment.”
While scam rap’s influence is yet to ‘ill-favourably’ manifest itself in popular culture, you can either head to the comments section of these music videos for detailed how-to guides from other fans (in hopes of not being scammed yourself in the process) or bop your head to its anxious synths and off-beat rhymes. The so-far legal choice is yours.