Beginning in 2016 and carrying into this year, “SoundCloud rap,” the genre term for an emerging lo-fi hip-hop community based primarily in south Florida, helped define the careers of rising rap stars like “Gucci Gang” hitmaker Lil Pump, Ski Mask the Slump God, and Smokepurrp. Even though most of the scene’s biggest players originate from the sunshine state, the “SoundCloud” part of the term meant (and means!) that any young hip hop talent with a solid internet connection, SoundCloud account and ability to record their own stuff could join the movement. That democratic, digital space is where Trippie Redd, an 18-year-old rapper from Canton, Ohio, kickstarted his career.

But who is he, really?

Redd, born Michael White IV, stood out among his peers when he first started recording in 2017 and continues to do so—where much of SoundCloud rap is abrasive; Redd goes soft, illustrating a penchant for melodic songwriting. The best example of this is “Luv Scars” from his 2017 mixtape, A Love Letter To You (below.) A combination of his nasal vocal performance, sing-rapping delivery and quotable ad libs defines Redd’s trademark style. (One of his most popular ad libs, a quick declaration of “Woah,” was expanded into its own full song, 2017's “Woah Woah Woah.”)

In his impossibly short career, Trippie Redd has signed with Elliot Grainge Entertainment and released a full length album, September 2017's A Love Letter To You 2. This spring, he’ll hit the road with “No Limit” rapper G-Eazy. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t even been in the game for two whole years yet.

Outside of his talent, Trippie Redd’s name has made a regular appearance in hip hop headlines over the last few months because of a series of controversial collaborations. He released a song with Brooklyn rapper 6ix9ine in April 2017, “Poles1469,” the same guy who, in December, Jezebel discovered lied about the sexual assault of a minor. Redd publicly distanced himself from 6ix9ine in the summer of 2017 when the allegations first surfaced, calling him a “pedophile.” 

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That might seem like a step in the right direction, but Redd has worked with and continues to work with another alleged abuser, Florida rapper XXXTentacion (in 2017 alone, two singles—“Fuck Love” and “Uh Oh Thots”). XXX currently faces numerous charges including domestic battery and false imprisonment. Perhaps he’ll change his tune on the guy, just like he did 6ix9ine, but right now, it’s concerning.

Until then, 2018 looks promising for Redd. His rap-singing separates him from others in the SoundCloud rap genre, and it’ll be interesting to see where it takes him. If you’re curious about his sound and don’t want to dive into his less-than-savory collaborations, (I’d urge you not to), check out 2017's “Bust Down,” below.