Cloud rap refers to a form of hip hop, whose distinguishing features include ethereal, dreamlike beats (which often use wordless vocal samples, wherein singers harmonize or hold long notes, to produce a majestic effect) and abstracted, sometimes deliberately absurd lyrics.
The mannerisms of cloud rap vocalists have produced several catchphrases, which listeners commonly associate with the genre, such as the interjection “swag” and references to being “based”. The term “cloud rap” is based on an anecdote involving Lil B, a pioneer of the genre, who once expressed a desire to make music that sounded like a castle floating in the clouds.
Cloud rap producers often rely on unconventional sample sources, incorporating elements from indie, experimental and ambient songs into their beats (in his beat for Main Attrakionz’s “Illest Alive” for example, Clams Casino samples “Bachelorette” by Björk). Heavy use of 808 drum machines, snare rolls and random syncopation reveal a strong influence from southern hip hop and trap music.
Cloud rap artists tend to produce and release their material independently of major labels, often relying on the Internet as their primary means of distribution and promotion.