Lo-fi music isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination. Short for low fidelity, Lo-fi was brought to mainstream consciousness through acts like The Beach Boys and Paul McCartney. The lo-fi sound is characterized by everything that modern music isn’t.
Where modern music is obsessed with perfecting musical quality, lo-fi music lays it all on the line and doesn’t care whether it messes up or not. Half of the time, artists will intentionally garble their music by using the wrong notes or adding artificial vinyl crackles.
A lo-fi artist thrives on musical imperfection and then markets it as an Aesthetic. A lot of listeners resonate with lo-fi’s homemade feel because it often sounds like something, they could produce themselves.
And something with a touch of humanity is always soothing. As technology advanced and became more accessible to the masses, the barrier to entry in the music industry became smaller and smaller. Then mobile phones appeared and turned into the critical mass that would allow any person who willed it to become a celebrated music producer.
During the late 2010s, bedroom producers started popping up everywhere. Some users even created makeshift radio stations that live streamed lo-fi music on the popular video platform YouTube.
The curated live streams attracted millions of followers, who branded the new microgenre as Lo-fi Hip-hop. The musical genre is characterized by its downtempo style, its use of musical distortion, and its use of samples from classic movies.
One of the most popular Lo-fi Hip-hop live streams on YouTube is the ChilledCow channel. ChilledCow features the best artists from the genre on loop, 24 hours a day. The channel’s depiction of a girl studying drawn in the anime style has become iconic for those in the know about Lo-fi Hip-hop.
Indeed, for many people, the channel has become a staple of their own study sessions. As of this writing, one of ChilledCow’s live streams has more than 13,000 people tuned in. At any given time, a thousand people will be listening to the stream.
Lo-fi Hip-hop is a growing microgenre. As artists become more established, the musical style of the genre will be revealed and refined. Artists such as Jinsang, Vanilla, and Nujabes are the godfathers of the sound, but many more hope to be known in their own right as the best in the burgeoning arena of Lo-fi Hip-Hop.