Vaporwave and the Future of Funk: An Investment for What’s to Come

NOTE: since the creation of this article, I have written a MUCH better and accurate history of vaporwave. Please read that one over this: https://medium.com/@Thorcb/vaporwave-revisited-a-second-look-at-the-forever-mutating-genre-b7da26d76ca3?source=linkShare-92276cc588cd-1525452903

Ok, so let’s talk about electronic subgenres that have made it onto the music scene over the past half decade. We’ve had seapunk, witch house, chillwave, and plenty of others, but there’s one that has stuck out like a sore thumb. A sore thumb that could have the possibility to change music. This sore thumb is called vaporwave, a mixture of chopped and edited tracks from past decades (mostly 70s and 80s) that are then formed into songs of their own. There’s a catch though- according to many who follow vaporwave, it was stated as a “dead” genre in 2013. But is it really dead? When you look at what’s been happening since, it could be an evolution of electronic music as we know it.

Vaporwave, a subgenre that can be coined as being created in 2010 through the creation of records such as “Eccojams Volume 1” by Chuck Person, has had its fair share of the limelight. Through the likes of artists like Macintosh Plus and Macross 82–99, it has managed to leak its way into the underground music scene quite easily. The aesthetic that vaporwave uses, which is a mixture of old school technology, old windows computer wallpapers, and Japanese advertising, has basically become a meme in its own right. And like all memes, they must come to an end at some point, but that didn’t stop artists from evolving their craft. That’s when future funk came in.

Future funk is a genre combining old funk and disco tunes with new-school electronic techniques, almost like an updated version of Daft Punk’s album “Discovery”. The most famous of these future funk producers would be Saint Pepsi, who originally molded his craft to the vaporwave genre, but it slowly made itself into something more fast and clarified. Through hits such as “Better” and “Fiona Coyne”, Saint Pepsi has been picking up more and more followers on music media websites such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp, inspiring more producers to jump onto the future funk scene, including other well-known vaporwave producers like Macross 82–99. Future funk is rising, and as funk music and all of its funkiness is jumping onto the music scene in all sorts of ways (Thundercat and Daft Punk’s latest work for example), vaporwave may have been an investment made by music fans that led to the creation of one of the next big music trends.

Vaporwave, just like many trending genres, feeds off of nostalgia. Though the songs used in vaporwave are rarely heard in today’s society, the classic elevator sound still remains familiar to many people, so it is easily embraced and doesn’t take a lot of growing accustomed to, making it an easy transition genre that you can listen to very smoothly. Music has always been something that takes something accessible to get into deeper and more complex sounds, and vaporwave does a magnificent job of that. The nostalgia brings the listener back into the days of marketed and advertised funk and disco of the 70s and 80s, while the way it’s presented puts you on a trail to lesser known electronic genres and vaporwave’s predecessors like the previously mentioned seapunk and chillwave. In some ways, vaporwave is the perfect example of a gateway genre as compared to a gateway drug, and it easily lets you branch out into a different corner of the music universe. Why is this important though? Well, without a better way to explain it, Internet is our future, and if vaporwave, an Internet created genre, can prove the evolution of music we know of, it only shows how things will continue to evolve.

As I previously went over, future funk is that next evolution. The sound is more marketable, the beats are more danceable, and the sound is even more accessible to the average music listener compared to vaporwave. What’s not to love about a genre full of chopped, screwed, and danceable funk tracks? Artists such as Saint Pepsi (as previously stated) have started making a real name for themselves and are starting to pop up in larger music festivals, so it’s almost everyday there are more people finding out about the genre. One could even say overall there is a funk revival going on, especially with Kendrick Lamar’s latest LP “To Pimp a Butterfly”, which is a hiphop album that is basically hanging on the edge of being a funk album featuring classics such as George Clinton. People need something new to dance and move to it seems, and this revolutionized funk scene, future funk, is just what people need, and that only will become more apparent over time.

But one might be able to argue a genre like vaporwave could never reach the mainstream; big time producers would never embrace such a bizarre concept. Though this is a prediction that could be made, I think it’s less likely than a future funk/ vaporwave blast since the sound is already making its way upwards, even if we haven’t completely noticed it yet. The most unlikely things have made it onto the larger airwaves over the years, for example the grunge uprising of the 90s or even hip hop’s blast into the mainstream in the early 2000s. It seems like over the decades, bigger labels have been looking to spice up the music they put out more and more, so it would be no surprise to me at least. Just look at Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, a funk song like that hasn’t had as much air play as it got in quite some time, and if elements from songs like that are implemented more and more into the mainstream, there would be a steady growth of fresh and smooth funk in our everyday lives. Vaporwave seems to have triggered a snowball of funk and new sounds into the music business, and the investment upon vaporwave and its prodigal sons is a pretty safe bet on a new future of music.

So, in conclusion, it’s time to invest your interests into vaporwave and future funk, and whatever else may emerge from all of this. Electronic music and the techniques used in music are evolving in general, and this whole uprising only shows how the Internet can bend and mold music into new things, letting never before seen genres find a place in the forever-growing ecosystem of music that exists. With signs of intrigue already showing up on music websites and social media, the word can only spread further, and maybe one day vaporwave will be a household name, or at least one with a very strong notoriety in the underground. For now we can wait and see what happens, and who knows, maybe some other genre may blast through the scene as well. The Internet and human culture is very unpredictable, after all.

A taste of some refreshing Saint Pepsi:

The opening track to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly:

A vaporwave classic from Macintosh Plus:

Sources used:

“Invest in Vaporwave Futures!” Essay: Invest in Vaporwave Futures! Dummy Mag, n.d. Web. <http://www.dummymag.com/features/essay-invest-in-vaporwave-futures>.

“Vaporwave Is Not Dead.” Vaporwave Is Not Dead / The Catch Up / Features / The Essential. The Essential AU, n.d. Web. <http://theessential.com.au/features/the-catch-up/vaporwave-is-not-dead-nmesh-dream-sequins>.

“Vaporwave and the Observer Effect.” Chicago Reader. Chicago Reader, n.d. Web. <http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/vaporwave-spf420-chaz-allen-metallic-ghosts-prismcorp-veracom/Content?oid=8831558>.

“Daft Punk Get Lucky at Grammy Awards.” BBC News. British Broadcasting Company, n.d. Web. <http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-25850644>.