Over the past few years, an infinite loop of an anime girl in headphones has taken the internet by storm, and has become an icon of the lofi hip hop scene. Whether she is scribbling down into her notebook or staring solemnly out her window, millions around the world are able to recognize this girl along with the downtempo music livestream of lofi hip hop tracks.
At its core, lofi hip hop is an amalgamation of hip hop and jazz, with a sprinkling of nostalgic ambience that has roots in the 80s DIY music scene. The recent resurgence of this musical trend, however, is slightly different, in terms of its formulaic and consistent ingredients that make up the genre. Muffled drum beats, unobtrusive voice samples from vintage sources, grainy noises, retro synth beams, and many more are iconic sounds that makes a track “lofi hip hop”.
Although not every one track is alike, there are so many elements that overlap from track to track, it would be difficult to recognize a song apart from another from one listen. Yet, it has gathered for itself a niche fanbase as well as a steady mainstream following for its chill vibes that are ideal for zoning out, studying, or relaxing to. The resurgence of lofi hip hop could also be associated with the introduction of YouTube livestream features, streaming and recommendation services such as Spotify, and audio distribution platforms for growing artists such as SoundCloud. Anonymous YouTube figure, ChilledCow, has utilized the popular features of said platforms in sharing lofi hip hop with the internet crowd.
Lofi hip hop and ChilledCow’s livestream playlist also has the added benefits of having a hand-picked, curated taste that comes as an added bonus that cannot be similarly recreated in the algorithmic approaches to music recommendations we see from Spotify and other streaming platforms. This creates a connection between audience and artist that creates a stronger following from its artisanal quality. Although it is yet unknown for how long this trend and following will last, it is extremely reassuring to know that there is a push against Silicon Valley’s approach to turn music into an automated mechanism, like they do with everything else. Music is a pure form of artistic expression, and lofi hip hop and its playlists creates a brief beat for all of us to relax/study to.