Picture this. It's 1995 and you're an artist trying to get your music and career out to the world and your career off the ground. Everyone you know says you're immensely talented with the ability to craft songs that not only move the needle, but the crowd as well. In your mind, you have the skills to become the next big thing in music with the proper exposure and guidance.
Yet, the only thing stopping you is you're living in a city not named New York or Los Angeles -- and you just do not have access to outlets to share your music to the world. So the chance of you being discovered by a major record label or producer goes from seeming like an uphill battle with small but possble odds to mission impossible. This leaves you with only two options: go for broke (literally) and follow your dreams or tuck those delusions of stardom away -- and focus on more practical things -- like a job, school, etc. And while more than a few current legends chose to go through the muck and the mire while managing to emerge victorious, many talents opted to do the latter.
Subsequently, their music -- along with their names -- have become lost in history never to be heard from again. Luckily, twenty years later, that unfortunate circumstance isn't the case in music any more, especially in rap. As the years went by, technology has evolved and helped revolutionize the music industry, and not just for the worse (i.e. Napster). From the way we discover new talent to the classics we revisit time and time again, 2015 is vastly different from eras of the past. Record labels run by useless middlemen and lame radio programmers dictating who gets airtime no longer are the only ones you have to impress to become a star. Even your geographic location is less of a factor on the careers of aspiring artists from across the map. The Internet has helped homogenize music trends and styles. So, it's doesn't matter where you're from, it's still all about where you're at. The current landscape of music may come with its shortcomings, but the ends justify the means and like it or not, things will never be the same again. But what we can take solace is knowing that an unlimited amount of artists can now deliver music directly to the consumers. No longer do we have to wait for an artist's every move and song to get approved by the label.
Now everytime we sign online, we get the luxury of hearing songs that would be relegated to a demo in the past and the power to take those songs, share them, and help them become viral sensations, or better yet, actual hit songs that rule the radio on our terms.
One of the top outlets that help make all of this possible is SoundCloud -- the free music sharing service. Founded in August of 2007 by Swedish sound designer Alexander Ljung and Swedish artist Eric Wahlforss, Soundcloud has grown from an outlet to share music among friends to a full-blown operation that has made a seismic impact on the music industry. After reaching one million subscribers in May of 2010, that number ballooned to fifteen million in a two-year span, an indicator of the website's growing popularity among artists and music consumers alike. That appeal has caught the attention of major recording companies like Warner Music, who struck a deal with SoundCloud as part of its "Premier Partners" program, which allows both Warner Music and its publishing division to collect royalties for songs they have chosen to monetize on the site.
While other record labels aren't as gung-ho about that particular business model, that hasn't stopped SoundCloud from flourishing, as evidenced by claims that 175 million unique listeners used the site each month in 2015. It's now estimated about 12 hours worth of audio were being uploaded every minute on Soundcloud in th past year.
The upside of the service is a major one for indie artists, as it gives them numerous options on how they can share their music, as well as full-reign over how they interact and engage with their fanbase. In the past few years, SoundCloud has proved to be a breeding ground for superstar talent, with artists like Lorde -- who broke through after uploading her 2013 EP, The Love Club, to the site. Thousands of unknown artists have also sercured recording contracts and endorsement after having massive success as a result of utilizing SoundCloud.
While all genres of music have been altered by the advent of SoundCloud, it's impact on hip-hop and R&B can simply not be denied. In a genre that embraces independence and DIY ethos, SoundCloud serves as a great tool for emerging artists to get their weight up without the help of the majors. This was especially true in 2015, when a bevy of artists took the site by storm and made it their ticket to the big time by accumulating eye-popping totals in streams and servicing their fans with a consistent flow of new songs that the culture as a whole grew to love throughout the year. Also, established artists continued to use the platform as the quickest way to get their latest work to the listeners.
Taking note of this, we highlighted fifteen artists that have used SoundCloud to advance their career, in one way or another. From superstars to brand new talent, these artists were the standard when it came to building a buzz on SoundCloud in 2015.
Rap fans should be more than aware of Chance The Rapper by now, but his longtime musical friend Donnie Trumpet stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight in a big way this year.
Continuing to live off the widespread fanfare of his Acid Rap album, Chance gave his crew a chance to steal the show on the Surf album, which Donnie had a huge role in. The Social Experiment album attracted fans to Donnie Trumpet's own Soundcloud page and has given him an identity of his own outside of the collective, making him one of the more slept-on success stories of 2015.
Listen to Donnie' Soundcloud here.
Post Malone was one of 2015's biggest winners and Soundcloud played a huge part in making that happen. The New York native, by way of Texas, would unknowingly release the song that would take him from a virtually unknown to one of the most sought after newbies in the game in late-winter of this year, and nothing would be the same.
That song was "White Iverson," which he uploaded to Soundcloud in February. BY Internet terms, it would instantly become a viral sensation, racking up a million plays within a month's time and earning Malone a record deal with Republic Records. And "White Iverson" isn't the only song from the rapper that garnered attention. Tracks like "That's It," "Too Young," and "Holyfield" also got major burn, with over 20 million streams between the three proving that Post Malone is one of Soundcloud's most prominent success stories from 2015.
Listen to Post's Soundcloud here.
Virginia has a long lineage of musical talent that burst from its borders onto the national music scene, and D.R.A.M. just happens to be the latest.
Grabbing the public's attention in the latter months of 2014 with his Epic Summer project, which features his claim to fame single, "Cha Cha," D.R.A.M. parlayed his strong finish into a blazing start this year, releasing a botaload of material via Soundcloud that has kept his name buzzing. While the success of Drake's "Hotline Bling" may have clipped his wings a bit, he's continued to post solid numbers -- with his Gahdamn! mixtape approaching 800,000 plays on Soundcloud in less than three months time. That's pretty impressive if you ask us.
Listen to D.R.A.M.'s Soundcloud here.
Looking back on the eventful year that was 2015, one could make a strong argument that Bryson Tiller was the most buzzworthy new artist in hip-hop and R&B from the 'Net. And the fact that he came out of nowhere to steal the show makes his rise to power even more awesome,
Popping up on the scene in late 2014 with the standout tracks "Break Bread" and "Let Em Know," Bryson ramped it up in early 2015 with his single, "How About Now," which Drake took a crack at himself, raising Bryson's profile exponentially and paving the way for the release of his ballyhooed project, Trap Soul.
While Trap Soul wasn't liberated to Soundcloud, he has continued to stick to his bread and butter and uploads occasional treats for fans that have resulted in more than 50 million plays to date, a lofty number for any artist, let alone one that just came to our attention less than 365 days ago.
Listen to Bryson's Soundcloud here.
Bay Area sensation Kehlani has made quite a name for herself in 2015. The stunning songstress may have been on the verge of breaking through in 2014, but the following year has seen her rise to star status with every new song released, most of which get major burn on Soundcloud, and millions of streams on her account. Between loosies like "Down For You" and "Jealous," and her latest full length project, You Should Be Here.
Kehlani has taken full advantage that Soundcloud has to offer and has cultivated quite the following thanks to the streaming service.
Listen to Kehlani's Soundcloud.
Future is easily the most accomplished artist on this list outside of one Toronto star and 2015 proved that he is truly the real deal -- and far from a novelty act.
Giving a stiff-arm to the mainstream aspirations his record label had for him, Future started off the year in a big way with his Beast Mode mixtape, following up on his late 2014 release, Monster, both of which he uploaded to his Soundcloud account at the top of the year. Those two tapes, along with the third release in the trilogy, 56 Nights, would accumulate hundreds of millions of streams on the app. It would also serve as a major conduit for 2015 as his online fanclub, Future Hive, helped usher in new converts on to the gospel of Naydavius, resulting in the smash success that was his third studio-album, DS2.
Ranked as the fourth most streamed artist on Soundcloud in 2015, Future may have been good for club bangers prior to this year, but with the help of Soundcloud he wet from a glorified fringe artist to a full blown superstar in less than 365 days.
Listen to Future's Soundcloud here.
PartyNextDoor had a relatively quiet 2015, but the few times he popped up, great things happened. After releasing two high-profile projects in 2013 and 2014, PND rested on his laurels a bit this year, but one-offs like "Things & Such" were devoured by fans hungry for a serving of some new tunes from the Canadian crooner, resulting in it tallying more than 20 million streams in less than a half-year's time. Not to mention he landed at No. 6 on Soundcloud's most streamed artist of 2015 list, beating out superstars like Chris Brown, The Weeknd, and Chance The Rapper, which tells you all you need to know about PartyNextDoor's cult following on the app and among music fans constantly looking for who's got next.
Listen to PARTYNEXTDOOR's Soundcloud here.
Ramriddlz is more of an artist to watch than one that had a breakout year, but that's not to say that he hasn't given fans a reason to know his name. The Canadian first caught listener's attention with his single, "Sweeterman," a groovy, mid-tempo banger that was so enticing that fellow countryman Drake dropped his own rendition. With Drizzy's version serving as an inadvertent cosign, Ramriddlz took full advantage of the spotlight, liberating his P2P project and accumulating millions of streams in the process.
Ramriddlz career may still be in its infantile stages, but Soundcloud helped him harness the buzz surrounding one record and built a respectable following for himself.
Listen to Ramriddiz's Soundcloud here.
A year can change a lot for an artist, just ask thirst trapper Don Monique. The femme fatale, hailing from the Big Apple, went from being just another rap hopeful to being one of the most talked-about rappers -- male or female -- in her bracket. A large chunk of her popularity stems from her enthralling live performances and constant stream of quality new material that pops up on her Soundcloud page, which she began tending to roughly a year ago.
Despite her rookie status, she is closing in on a million total plays on her Soundcloud page and is a testament to the hype a new-jack can generate off the strength of a few uploads that can move the crowd.
Listen to Don's Soundcloud here.
If you claim to be on the cutting-edge of what's next in hip=hop, Jazz Cartier should already be on your radar. The Toronto, Canada spitter may hail from the same region as Drake, but resides in the towns grittier downtown section and his music seems to be a direct product of that environment.
Although a little light on content in comparison to some other names on this list, Jazz Cartier's Soundcloud was booming in 2015, with much of the thanks going to his Marauding In Paradise tape. Despite not yielding massive numbers off the rip, his buzz seems is trending upward, with his last three Soundcloud uploads collectively reaching more than half a million streams in less than month -- a great indicator that Jazz Cartier will be in high demand heading into the new year.
Listen to Jazz's Soundcloud here.
One of the more surprising album releases of 2014 came courtesy of G-Eazy, who released his debut album, These Things Happen to the tune of 47,000 copies sold in its first week and the No. 3 slot on the Billboard 200. Those figures may have raised many eye-brows, but the Bay Area rep would prove that it was no fluke when his sophomore LP, When It's Dark Out, moved over 135,000 copies sold and capped off a memorable year for the rapper.
However, it's safe to say that Soundcloud played a huge roll in G-Eazy being able to put up such lofty numbers. Spending much of the year dropping buzz tracks, G-Eazy was able to expand his reach off the strength of touring and Soundcloud, ending the year as the third most streamed artist on the app, which is all you need to know about how Soundcloud has affected his career for the better.
Listen to G's Soundcloud page here.
Kodak Black is one of the fastest rising newcomers in rap -- and is primed to blow at a moments notice. The teenaged Floridian may be heavy on the street talk, but is equally relevant on the 'Net, especially on Soundcloud, where the rapper is one of the more popular new artists and regularly reaches upwards of 500K plays on songs uploaded to his account.
A cosign from Drake has given his name even more weight in the eyes of music mavens and his newly inked record deal with Atlantic Records has Kodak Black in the conversation of artists that have been able to transcend Soundcloud fame to make that translate into notoriety on the big stage.
Listen to Kodak's new mixtape here.
Drake may be a surprising entry on this list being that he's already one of the biggest stars in all of music, but 2015 saw Drizzy wreak havoc on the comp, as well as unleash collaborations, via Soundcloud, to keep his name on top.
The Toronto boss' first notable upload was the remix to Fetty Wap's smash single, "My Way," with Drake tacking on a verse that would be one of the more memorable guest spots of the year. But Soundcloud would be most useful to Drake during his back-and-forth with Meek Mill following the MMG's rapper's ghostwriting allegations against him with the diss tracks "Charged Up" and "Back To Back," the latter of which garnered over 100 million plays on the streaming app. Despite his deal with Apple and his Beats1 radio show, Soundcloud was where fans first heard "Back To Back" and prove the platforms power as a conduit for up and comers and megastars alike.
Listen to Drake's Soundcloud here.
The state of R&B may be a layered topic to discuss, what is not up for debate is the year that Justine Skye had. The Brooklyn, New York bombshell rose to the occasion in 2015 and put listeners on notice that r&b was very much alive with a litany of releases, including her singles "Bandit" and the Vic Mensa assisted, "I'm Yours," both of which cracked more than a million plays on Soundcloud, which is no easy feat for an up and comer. Riding that moment and unleashing even more material throughout the year to keep her name buzzing, Justine Skye was one of the more active artists on Soundcloud this year and her uploads have translated into a following for the singer that stretches far outside of the five boroughs.
Listen to Justine's Soundcloud here.
Boston may be a metropolitan wonder, but the rap talent to emerge from Bean Town in recent memory have failed to take the world by storm for a lack of better words. But Cousin Stizz may be able to change that notion if 2015 was any indication. After entering the year running off the momentum that his one-off's "Shoutout," "Gone Til November," and "A-World," Stizz rolled out his Suffolk County tape, which garnered millions of plays on Soundcloud and was pivotal in his rise to prominence. Primed to be crowned as the next big thing any minute now, Cousin Stizz is a Soundcloud success story and proves all it takes is an organic following rather than massive promotion to level up these days.
Listen to Stizz's Soundcloud here.