Kendrick Lamar is (almost) unanimously considered to be the “savior of hip-hop.” From his debut album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” to his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Damn.,” Lamar has proven himself to be a master lyricist and icon of the hip-hop community. His songs carry an emotional weight that is hard to find anywhere else in modern art. YouTubers like “rum world” have shown us a way to add another layer to his music, often by using an audio mixer online.
Lamar’s 2017 single “Humble” is an upbeat song about struggling to keep yourself grounded after success, but rum world created an edit of the song that turns the track into something else entirely. The original song simultaneously brags about success, mocks rap that focuses on success and reminds listeners of the dangers of hubris. However, in the rum world edit, “Humble” changes completely.
By slowing the song down and adding a faint hint of reverb, rum world transforms Lamar’s viral anthem into a sinister banger. Not to imply that the original song is somehow carefree, but the deeper and slower vocals create a more focused narrator. Lamar’s voice has a significantly less satirical bounce to it.
Remixes of songs have been uploaded to YouTube since its inception. The platform has forever changed the way music is shared. Because of YouTube, anybody can upload a song, and anybody can find it. It also creates an environment for these people to witness success and failures unfold in real time. When one person finds a niche that works for them, others begin to emulate it, which fuels new trends in that given category.
Notably, the most recent example of this online movement is livestreams of “lo-fi” music. These YouTube streams, filled with soothing, low-key instrumentals, run 24/7, and the music is primarily intended to be background music. One of the most popular, “lo-fi hip hop radio,” plays instrumental beats one could associate with underground rap, while another example of this trend is ripped straight of the mid-2010s when songs were remixed to sound like “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”
So, what makes this new trend of slowed+reverb worthwhile? Just by slowing down the song, these YouTube users are finding new methods to rework finished, popular music into different works of art. Conversely, with the lo-fi livestreams, the songs used are typically original works created by internet DJs, and the “Alvin and the Chipmunk” covers exist on their own goofy plane of reality. But slowed+reverb offers us a fresh perspective on music that listeners are already familiar with.
How many times have you heard the song “So Sick”? That sad piano leading into Ne-Yo’s singing has been stuck in the head of anyone who listened to R&B in the early 2000s. There is nothing new to gain from revisiting that song again until you listen to a slowed+reverb edit. This version, created by YouTube user Chovies, gives the song a new life.
If you’re unfamiliar with the track, the 2005 single is a run-of-the-mill R&B jam. Ne-Yo is singing about a breakup months after the fact, wondering why he is struggling to move on. However, in the slowed-down version, listeners are treated to an introspective look into the inner thoughts of the narrator. The original might not be fast-paced, but the tempo is far from slow and the lyrics are not sung with much remorse.
The slower lyrics provide the words with more weight; the lyrics come across as more personal and the slightly warped flow makes Ne-Yo sound more sincere as he sings, “No more walking around / with my head down / I’m so over being blue / crying over you.” The singer sounds much more vulnerable when you are not distracted by his vibrato.
All in all, this weirdly charming trend has taken off and is not showing any indication of stopping. Check out some selected tracks that will get you fully immersed in the slowed+reverb trend.