Why the Latest Trend of ‘Rap Challenges’ are More Than Just a Bit of Fun.

0 Editorials / Features / Music

The past two years have seen a number of high profile “rap challenges” go viral over social media, with a number of people – certified stars and new upstarts alike, taking to the platform to showcase their lyrical ability. With more and more challenges popping up online and the views steadily increasing, it’s clear just how important they can be and why everyone should be listening…

For those not in the know (and if not where have you been living?!), a rap challenge consists of a instrumental beat, shared online, with people recording their verses/bars/lyrics etc. and subsequently sharing the results.

My first experience of this was back in 2016 with the arrival of the #sogonechallenge. Chance the Rapper, is credited with kick-starting the movement, dropping a video online in which he spat a verse of the instrumental version of the song So Gone , by R&B singer Monica, which was released in 2003. Within days, the aforementioned hashtag had gone viral and celebrities such as Missy Elliot , Kevin Hart and Dwayne Wade were all taking part and sharing their responses. Never to be outdone, the UK produced some savage inclusions, including the likes of Wretch 32 and Avelino , Little Simz , Bonkaz and Ms Banks .

The most interesting thing to me was that while the instrumental gave everyone a level playing field, everyone took to it in their own way, like painters with a blank canvas. While Wretch and Av looked to outdo each other with some top wordplay, Bonkz used the riddim to pen an open letter to his ex. This idea of creativity spread online and within two weeks of Chance’s original video – there were hundreds of videos online with people utilizing the platform to showcase their talents. Following on from this, the craze continued with the for the p**sy/d**k challenges as well the #maskoffchallenge which saw people online reimagine Future ’s track with instruments such as an electric guitar, a violin and a cello. With the number of challenges growing, the views got higher and higher and the interactivity grew deeper.

Looking to capitalise on this trend, artists started releasing their own instrumentals and encouraging their fans and fellow artists to get involved. While this provides a perfect platform for rappers/artists to get involved and go head to head lyrically but also pushes the instrumental out to more and more people. Krept and Konan’s Wo Wo Wo got the rap challenge treatment back in 2017 with rappers using the super catchy instrumental and dropping their own versions, all while paying homage to the South London duo. The #WoWoWoChallenge saw big names from the UK scene such as Double S , Blizzard , Bonkaz as well as a number of younger stars, looking to make a name for themselves. UK media outlets such as GRM Daily and the Grime Report re-posted and shared the best versions as well as Krept & Konan themselves. One of my favourite versions saw Whvsper drop an infectious freestyle which racked up hundreds of retweets/likes and lead to an official video being dropped for the track via SBTV . This as well as several others was proof that these challenges are more than just a bit of fun and can provide a credible start to a newcomers career.

The latest challenge has been the #PenGame2Challenge, set to the beat of Marg’s hit of the same name (obviously!). Knowing the beat was one that everyone wanted to get involved with and ride, Margs opened an “open invitation” via his Instagram and challenged everyone to go in. The social media buzz was crazy with hundreds of videos flooding in, with Margs himself picking personal favourites and reposting them. As with the aforementioned challenges, the pen game beat invited interest from well known heads like Ghetts , Dappy , Cadet (a regular of the rap challenge circuit!), Manga St Hilaire , Bonkaz , drew out classic names such as Nolay , Stylo G , So Solid ’s Harvey and Shystie but most importantly shone a much needed light on young up and comers such as Trillary Banks, Jordy , Karmah Cruz , Laughta , Jevon and Ms Banks . The challenge has seen rappers from all over the world to get involved including verses from the USA, Canada, Australia and Jamaica. The hype worked both ways with views on the original track soaring up in their thousands and Margs being more widely recognised to a younger audience. He even had to set-up a separate Instagram account to handle the submissions and the views and love are growing with every day.
In the modern world of social media and online interaction, the rap challenge phenomenon has proved it’s worth, providing a blueprint to get more listeners (and potential fans) to your music while also being an “audition” to the world, with everyone using their 60 seconds of fame to shine. So next time you hear a sick freestyle when the next rap challenge rolls around, just think that you could be listening to a star of tomorrow…

Words by Nathan