March 2024

Papyrus Rap

How “Soft Irony” Fueled The Rise Of Rap Collectives Shed Theory And 1c34.

(as seen on No Bells)

Papyrus font with Rio de Janeiro filter.
(Source: Know Your Meme)

Two years ago, when my friend found out that I liked Joeyy, he pulled up some Discord server with too many notifications and sent me an audio file. It was an unreleased snippet from Joeyy’s 2019 song—the one with the r-slur as the title—in which the enigmatic and revered Lil B was featured. Lil B just kept repeating one thing on the hook: “This song is the title! This song is the title!” his tone equivalent to a toddler saying, “Blah! Blah! Blah!”

The Based God dismantled Joeyy’s whole schtick, dunking on his post-edgy revamp of “Let’s Get It Started” and redefining their arranged—and likely monetary—agreement as a one-sided dickriding instead of a collab.
A young Joeyy and Lil B.
A young Joeyy and Lil B.
(Source: Reddit / /r/joeyy)

There’s a photo on the internet of a young Joeyy with Lil B. When it was taken, Joeyy was a nobody, posing with probably his idol. An internet legend, Lil B pioneered how an underground rapper can set themselves up to be worshipped via memes, organically generated by randos who simply thought that pearl necklace, dress and snapback look funny. His tatted-up appearance clashes with American Apparel clothes shown in the selfies and music videos on his original 114 MySpace pages. The bait lured meme creators into riffing on his involved lore, mixing with his unserious tone and lyrics. He became an ungroundable character, an enigma, an inside joke, an aura, to lean into. “Who is the Based God?” was the question, and why did he need to be thanked

In the modern internet, one far away from the slow algorithms of MySpace and YouTube, a new generation of rappers are using Lil B’s meme method for TikTok success. TikTok’s ephemerality recommends non-viral content to non-followers, allowing it to feel like both the front page of the internet and the deepest part of it. For rap groups like Shed Theory and 1c34, having an inherently riff-able online persona is the key to building an organically generated meme spread. In a rapper’s Instagram photos, if they can convey an aesthetic mystery that took layers of irony-poisoning to achieve, then meme creators will want to be in on their joke. They’ll spread their likeness to let others know that they’re “in” and, like a meme, they’ll spread...

For the rest of this piece, read it on the No Bells website here.

Papyrus font meme from bug2sick.
Papyrus font meme from bug2sick.
(Source: Instagram / @ug2sick)