THE FACE’s guide to the American rap underground

Tired of listening to Drake disses? Let us introduce you to wild worlds of rage rap, jerk, krushclub, terror plugg and ambient plugg.

As you read, the world’s most famous ageing rappers are churning out lukewarm disses in an attempt to stay relevant. If that’s not inspiring you, then you’re better off following the anarchic American rap underworld, where younger artists are keeping fans excited the old school way: by making exciting music.

Every couple of months, a new micro-scene, sound, or rapper emerges in electrifying style. The underground is decentralised and lawless. While rappers once represented specific regional cultures or zipcodes, today it feels like everyone lives in a disembodied digital village teeming with provocative stylists, cult collectives and internet-native outcasts.

While the 2010s saw many underground artists – from Chief Keef to Playboi Carti and Lil Peep – rise from the underground to the mainstream with the help of major record labels and radio support, most of today’s uncompromising rap world will probably never reach the charts. Instead, they command varying gradients of clout in a slippery mountain range of transient virality. On X, producers beef with journalists about the origins of Asian Rock genre pluggnb. Shitpost pages like Hyperpop Daily rank the rappers with the most aura.” Fans worship niche rappers on Reddit pages and claim their idols are God’s greatest gift since oxygen.

If the above paragraph just made you feel utterly confused and out of touch, don’t worry – this article will guide you through the deep and thrilling maze of contemporary internet rap.


You can trace rage’s dystopian thrum all the way back to things like Future’s furiously distorted, Metro Boomin-produced 2015 banger I Serve The Base, but the sound didn’t really crystallise as a scene until the pandemic. It’s ironic that such an aggro subgenre took off when everyone was locked inside. Unable to bash shoulders and elbows in the moshpit, we had to make do by blasting Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red – a brutally unfestive album that dropped on Christmas day in 2020 – while arguing on Discord and baking banana bread at home. The rage template lies in producer F1LTHY’s menacing beatwork on Carti’s opus, blending the buzzing frenzy of EDM and future bass with pixelated video game music. Imagine a WWE walk-in theme for cyborgian sumo wrestlers.

As rage rocketed into virality, a slew of clones and new faces charged into the fold. Yeat has become one of the genre’s biggest stars, with his alien shrieks and hysterical beats courtesy of production wizards like Synthetic and BNYX (who, like F1LTHY, emerged from Philadelphia collective Working on Dying). Ken Carson – a black-clad Atlanta rapper signed to Carti’s Opium label – vaulted the style to new heights of bass-obliterated furor with 2023 album A Great Chaos. Bktherula has incorporated rage into her shapeshifting sound, while British rapper Lancey Foux has given it a glossy psychedelic twist. Lil Yachty even popularised the distorted rage rap texture with his accidental viral hit Poland. While listening to this music via headphones in your bed provides a raucous thrill, there’s nothing like hearing it live – imagine the ecstatic exhaustion of shaking wildly to Carti’s On That Time.

Pioneers of the style: Working on Dying, Playboi Carti, Yeat

3 rage anthems:
Yeat – Sorry Bout That (prod. Trgc & Sharkboy)
Playboi Carti – On That Time (prod. F1LTHY & Ojivolta)
Ken Carson – Succubus (prod. F1LTHY & AM)

What to wear to a show: Vampire fangs, Rick Owens, chainmail armour

How to describe it to mum and dad: I might call you from the hospital after the gig

Ambient plugg

This subgenre is SoundCloud rap for audiophiles who love meditating in the sun and sipping kombucha. It isn’t gentle ASMR’n’b so much as intelligent dance music with a sample pack of experimental rap percussion. Jaded flexes and glitch-fucked ad-libs shatter against 808 pulses and alien gurgles. Micro-sounds stack on onto each other, expanding geometrically like organic architecture. These mosaics of percussion and synth prioritise texture over meaning. As the late artist iokera wrote in their SoundCloud bio: weaving Cocoons of sound: for you to Rest , to Sleep , and even to Dream.”

The style dates back to late 2010s originators such as wifi and Izaya Tiji, whose soft, elastic voice floats like a ribbon over his collaborators’ subtly entrancing beats. Take the Zjakkies-produced vox test 4 80, which brings to mind a Pokémon: Mystery Dungeon level in heaven.

While ambient plugg has to date mostly been relegated to the backpages of SoundCloud and diehard obsessives, it’s surging into the spotlight now. Weirdo collectives like Shed Theory are combining creaky tones with chilling bass thuds and earning Cole Bennett cosigns; ian is blowing up and facing accusations of being an industry plant. LA-based underground star Babyxsosa is dropping vocal-less soundscapes (and an 8‑minute epic of AutoTuned trills over gentle ambient drones). With so much blown-out noise across the rap landscape, ambient plugg offers sweet reprieve.

Pioneers of the style: cLOUDDEAD, Izaya Tiji

3 ambient plugg anthems:
iokera – vines ft. Jedwill (prod. histarkey/​iji)
ian – A Shame (prod. gyo)
Izaya Tiji – jus my mood (prod. lulrose)

What to wear to a show: A vintage t‑shirt with nature graphics on it

How to describe it to mum and dad: Rap music for sensitive souls who like Aphex Twin and Brian Eno


The biggest moment of the new jerk movement took place in December, when the New York’s Xaviersobased, Virginia teen star Nettspend and Alamaba rapper Yhapojj accidentally sparked a mini-riot outside of Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge. Their performances were delayed because the show had oversold. Impatient fans dragged the venue’s hefty security scanner into the middle of traffic. The trio relocated to a skate park where they performed atop a cargo van to a sea of feverish fans.

It seems like every other day people are declaring war on each other over what to call this style, but so far jerk” is beating other contenders. The genre – which was pioneered by California producer kashpaint and then popularised by Xaviersobased and his collective 1c34 in the early 2020s – is defined by fidgety rhythms, staggered snares and mangled vocals. Take Nettspend’s whirlwind track drankdrankdrank. It makes you feel like you’re stumbling and twitching through the uneven beats. Some jerk beats get so fast they resemble the frenetic Chicago club genre footwork: an adrenaline rush of dizzy swagger. The style often integrates tics from other scenes – the kinetic claps of Milwaukee rap, the computerised mania of digicore. While many of the rappers boast and stunt, a quirky and sensitive lyrical undercurrent tends to lurk beneath the tough-guy facade. Lines about SpongeBobs flying Dutchman and goofy wolf roleplay dissolve into violent threats.

Jerk has only a faint resemblance to the late 00s LA-originated rap subgenre of the same name, which centred around party vibes and the wiggly jerkin dance, an early social media trend. Fans and artists seem to have conflated the original jerk with the new 2020s jerk because some new-generation artists are also making tributes to old-school jerk (and late 2000s swag culture, generally) on SoundCloud. The new jerk sound has been co-signed by underground heroes like Duwap Kaine, who made a jerk-inspired album, and some of its main players like Xaviersobased, UK rapper phreshboyswag, and Subiibabii (known for the high-speed vampjerk” strain) have amassed millions of streams and gone viral on TikTok and X.

Pioneers of the style: kashpaint, xaviersobased, 1c34

3 jerk anthems:
xaviersobased – patchmade (prod. kashpaint)
Phreshboyswag – inspire (prod. Ss3bby & xaviersobased)
Nettspend’s – shine n peace (prod. mag & xion)

What to wear to a show: Baggy pants, silly graphic tee, skateboard, school backpack

How to describe it to mum and dad: My internet friend made it

Terror plugg/bass

The best thing about this sound might be the riffs in the comment section: 808s asking forgiveness for their sins,” one person quips on a video for an outrageously blown-out track by wildkarduno. 808s tryna get a verse in,” someone else adds with a crying emoji. Terror plugg centres around basslines cranked so deep into the red zone they morph into morse code signals. A sickly evil cousin of rage, this music also feels like a spiritual descendant of the no-melody scene that took off in the late 2010s with Texans like Splurge and Quin Nfn rapping over spartan bass thuds. While these songs aren’t completely devoid of sweet synths or melodic vocals, the low end tends to brutally crush the rest of the mix, burying rappers like squillo, Smokingskul, and wildkarduno in a hurricane of noise.

The scene revolves around producers like boolymon, tdf, perc40, and twovrt, who’ve been cooking up bass blitzes since at least early 2022. The most experimental beats sound almost hazardous, like prolonged exposure will permanently harm your ears. Self-described 808 scientist” silenzc’s beats sometimes call to mind robotic werewolves wailing under the moon. Overclocked bass is flooding the rap world as young upstarts like Osamason and LAZER DIM 700 fuse bludgeoning beats with pogoing flows and cybernetic synths (and bizarrely, SpongeBobs grating giggling). They’re backflipping on the border of addictive and unlistenable. Perfect.

Pioneers of the style: boolymon, squillo, tdf, Smokingskul

3 terror bass anthems:
Wildkarduno – i dont give a fuxk bout da 808s (prod. perc40 + utrippin)
Smokingskul – Jenga (prod. tdf)
Osamason – Trenches (prod. LEGION)

What to wear to a show: Earplugs

How to describe it to mum and dad: Speaker abuse


An unholy union of dance genres, hyperpop, and Yung Gravy-esque doofus raps, krushclub is the latest genre to soar on TikTok. Teens make anime and Fortnite edits using the songs and write this shit is FIRE, blud.” It comes across as the sort of juvenile rap you’d play at a Gen Alpha school prom: it’s geeky and kitschy, but it makes you feel like a protagonist in a video game.

Krushclub’s unofficial leader, the substitute teacher-turned-hitmaker Odetari, has nearly 10 million monthly listeners and the same amount of Billboard Dance/​Electronic chart hits as Marshmello and David Guetta. He describes his sound on Spotify as FINAL BOSS MUSIC” and sings about dressing girls like his Barbie and falling in love with fans. While most of his music gives the image of a sleazy nerd trying to flirt with women by flexing his social media stats, others on the scene have come up with some crazed gems. (The ultra-fast version of Lumi Athena and xxanteria’s Kurxxed diamonds!, for instance, is like a Jersey club rager from the nether realm.)

What’s most striking about the sound is how it pulls from two of the most ignored and influential SoundCloud microgenres: hexD and sigilkore, which rewired rap with torrents of noise and freaky vocal techniques. Krushclub injects these niche sounds with a pristine bombast to suit mass audience appeal.

Like trap, plugg, and other instrumental formulas, krushclub is exploding as artists blend bitcrushed fuzz with every possible groove. There’s krush-jerk and krush-cumbia, krush-funk and krush-phonk. The future will be krushed. Or at least the next six months — until another delirious subgenre comes along to make it history. Feeling dizzy? Maybe it’s time to log off and go outside.

Pioneers of the style: Luci4, Lumi Athena, 9lives

3 krushclub anthems:

Kanii – Go (Xtayalive 2) (prod. 9lives)
Universe – Mile Away ft. removeface (prod. Universe)
Lumi Athena – SMOKE IT OFF! ft. jnhygs (self-prod)

What to wear to a show: Discord hoodie, black pants, occult jewellery

How to describe it to mum and dad: Hyperpop for the Roblox gen

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