Welcome to Genreception, a (hopefully) series of articles where I do a deep dive into some of the most idiosyncratic music available online.
Do you have vivid childhood memories of playing Pokémon SoulSilver on your DS Lite at every social event your parents made you go to? Do you miss sitting alone at lunch in middle school listening to nightcore on your $20 SkullCandy earbuds? Did you grow up spending an excessive amount of time on dark, secluded corners of the Internet to the point where it has irreparably changed you as a person and the way you view the world? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should consider therapy. You might also be a fan of Surge, a cloud rap microgenre that’s recently seen a lot of growth in the underground. Common elements of Surge include bitcrushed, icy production, highly compressed auto-tuned vocals, and a shoegaze-like approach to song structure and composition that renders most of the verses impossible to decipher. Despite its admitted on-the-nose inaccessibility and willful bastardization of mixing/mastering principles, what draws me and hundreds of thousands of other fans to Surge, and how did the genre even form to begin with?
While the Surge label is a fairly new phenomenon, aspects of the sound can be heard even before the 2010s. Notably, SpaceGhostPurrp and associates of his Raider Klan group are well-recognized pioneers of the blown-out, lofi, arcade-sound-effect-laden songs of Surge. Even early Raider Klan’s agnostic approach to mixing and mastering ties back to influences from underground Memphis hip hop from the 90’s. While the genre is still small, notable artists in the scene are incredibly diverse in their influences, with some artists like Nosgov drawing more on the bright, cutting high-pitched synths and autotuned crooning of hyperpop and Drain Gang while others like Reptilian Club Boyz (RCB) draw on the fast paced trap microgenre of Tread while mixing in elements of an lo-fi emo rap sound pioneered by artists like Yung Bruh and Lil Soda Boi in the mid 2010s.
Speaking of RCB, one of the noisiest takes on surge originated in a bitcrushed mix of RCB songs entitled “Rare RCB hexD.mp3” by tomoe_✧theundy1ng (also known as cargoboym). This gave rise to a new “HexD” label being given to the more crushed and distorted mixes present in the genre, such as projects by Eternity God and his group with Y2Kri$i$, $pirit Gurlz. In a DM conversation I had with Eternity God over Instagram, I asked about his place in the HexD scene and what influenced his creative process.
Me: What would you say inspires your style? Anything from other artists/scenes, personal events, friends, or other media?
Eternity God: I definitely got the bitcrushing thing from cargoboym. I can’t really name other inspirations than James Ferraro. And like, Chrono Trigger soundtrack. There’s this Portuguese shoegaze band called Mellonta Tauta. I like them. Julee Cruise too.
Me: How would you describe your creative process?
Eternity God: I let my subconscious make everything, that’s where they’re called free songs. It’s not just a free verse. The entire thing is improvised.
Me: Like surrealist painters?
Eternity God: Yeah basically.
Me: Do you freestyle then?
Eternity God: Most of the time. Unless I really want to flow. Then I write lyrics. All the $pirit Gurlz stuff is written.
Me: Do you use samples? Or synth presets? Or custom synths?
Eternity God: I usually use presets but I’ve been trying to make my own recently. I use Omnisphere. I just combine presets to make a mega preset.
Me: Do you have any thoughts on the future of HexD? Or if there is one?
Eternity God: The inventor thinks it’s corny and so do I. It’s a lazy excuse for bad music.
Me: Do you plan on looking for a new niche in the future? Or a new sound?
Eternity God: I’m just gonna keep doing me. I’m learning guitar. Going to make my own shoegaze.
Me: One more question. I always thought this was really weird. Every major service is like two or three providers, like Verizon/AT&T/Sprint, McDonalds/Burger King/Wendy’s, but there’s like 1000 different gas station companies, one company for each locality, but they’re all doing the same thing. Thoughts on gas stations?
Eternity God: Gas stations are like junk emporiums. They got nice hats.
The way Eternity God explained his creative process encompasses exactly why I love this genre so much. The dichotomy between the droning lyrics and beautifully blown-out, screeching production creates an eerie and distinctly inhuman atmosphere that brings the listener into a haze of syrupy 8-bit goodness. It’s also incredibly interesting sonically, with idiosyncratic approaches to mixing giving each song a distinctly outsider quality. As someone who often listens to beats before lyrics, the huge presence and detail of the production in Surge songs is incredibly refreshing to listen to when compared against the more lyrical tendencies of many underground rap groups.
You can find Eternity God’s most famous project and my personal favorite of his, 12:12 by $pirit Gurlz, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_FQeT1PXSU (different versions of the album have the tracks sped or slowed, but the YouTube version is my favorite). As Surge is a relatively underground genre, some of the best songs the genre has to offer are unfortunately not on streaming. As such, I’ve created a SoundCloud playlist of my personal favorites.