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The Rowdy World of Rap’s New Underground

But sometimes, as at the Seattle show, the extreme behavior spills into the real world. Ski Mask the Slump God was attacked onstage while performing in Los Angeles. On social media, Lil Pump bragged about crashing a new Porsche and, after reaching one million followers on Instagram, celebrated with a Xanax-shaped cake. The current XXXTentacion tour has been riddled with problems: One night, he was attacked onstage by a rival; another, he punched a fan; at another, Wifisfuneral stage dove only to find himself on the receiving end of a beat down, landing him in the hospital.

XXXTentacion was arrested twice in 2016, including on a charge of aggravated battery of a pregnant woman. While he was in jail — he was released in March — “Look at Me” became the scene’s breakout hit, making him the movement’s troubled and troubling poster child.

His public behavior since his release has toggled between earnest interactions with gobsmacked fans captured on social media — something many SoundCloud artists excel at, communicating directly to their audience in their language — and less savory choices, like tweeting the apparent home address of a rival, or saying impolite things about Drake’s mother in retribution for Drake seeming to have borrowed his “Look at Me” rhyme patterns on a recent song.


The crowd at the Roseland Theater in Portland at the Smokepurpp and Lil Pump tour in March.

Kyle Johnson for The New York Times

Before he went to jail, he was on the same popularity level as many of his generational peers, but now, seemingly in large part because of his outlaw reputation, his fame is growing the fastest. On his current tour, while a potential criminal trial looms for the aggravated battery charge, he is performing to more than 1,000 people a night; online, T-shirts, skateboard decks and iPhone cases with his mug shot abound. In one example of cross-promotion, XXXTentacion was handed the keys to SoundCloud’s Snapchat during Rolling Loud, but a representative for the streaming service declined to further detail how the company had directly worked with these artists. (XXXTentacion’s representatives declined to make him available for an interview.)

Though these rappers operate on the fringes of the hip-hop mainstream, they are not without antecedent. They are the bad-boy junior league of the genre’s emerging psychedelic era, inheritors of experimentalists like Lil Uzi Vert, Young Thug and the internet-rap hero Chief Keef. And in some ways, this is a regional scene passing for an internet phenomenon: Most of the crucial artists and producers hail from the Miami area. The sound’s aesthetic lineage is traceable through several of that city’s micromovement stars over the last few years — Spaceghostpurrp and the Raider Klan, Denzel Curry, Yung Simmie, Fat Nick and Pouya.

It’s a sound attributable to a handful of rappers, but an even smaller number of producers. “Everything is literally made with me not even getting out of my bed and a kid coming and getting on the mike and screaming or rapping,” said Ronny J, producer of Smokepurpp’s “Audi,” among others (and who recently signed with Atlantic Records as an artist). Mr. Duval made the original beat for “Look at Me” almost two years ago for a different rapper. “No one had ever pushed it that far — that was very extreme,” Mr. Duval said of the song’s distortion. “Now these kids are all coming to me, and they’re all like, ‘I need that sound.’”

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