In the age of the internet, the avenues in which we consume music are constantly changing. From DatPiff to Apple Music, artists and fans constantly chase one another around, assigning value to platforms using the metrics of social media and, often times, pure volume of music available. When people see new communities form, they flock, just as we have watched happen with SoundCloud in recent years.
With this, eras of music are becoming increasingly defined by these avenues in which they’re experienced and therefore, remembered (Napster, being a prime example). We associate music with the platform we enjoyed it with, and not until the 2000s has this platform-defined nostalgia truly come to prominence — just look at social media and you can find a plethora of odes to the not-so-convenient methods of getting music that sites like Napster and Limewire once offered.
Adjacent is the fact that, in the age of digital streaming, the decision of which platforms are prominent and which platforms are left behind can often exhibit listener-induced trends in the ways we all consume and promote music. For SoundCloud, characterized by its accessibility and DIY spirit, it’s time to assess where we are on this curve, all the while asking the people whom the SoundCloud community was essentially built on what they think of it all. From here, the question becomes the following: How has SoundCloud been able to launch artists into fame and what defines their artistic existence after this launch, especially when the platform they first found success with begins to fall out of use?
A perfect case study for this idea began in 2015, when a song called “Parkin Lot Pimpin” by UnoTheActivist and Thouxanbanfauni was released on SoundCloud. Ever since, garnering millions of plays in its first few months of release, this song has not only achieved widespread notoriety in a numerical sense, but it has also come to be known as one of the most influential songs of the so-called “SoundCloud Era”. While Uno and Fauni’s first hit single has proven to be timeless in these ways, it’s important to take a step back and look at what this song — and what UnoTheActivist and Thouxanbanfauni — meant in the SoundCloud world as it first emerged; and further so, what it means now.
I had the opportunity to speak to each of these trailblazers about “Parking Lot Pimpin'”, coming up on SoundCloud and the platform’s death, coexisting with social media as an artist, and much more. Enjoy our conversation below.
How did you two first meet? at what point did you start making music together?
Fauni: We met when we did a track together. It was like December 2014, beginning of 2015 when I met Uno.
Uno: I think the first time we met, this n***a randomly called me. I was with some hoes, he randomly called. I showed him the bitches and he pulled up instantly. Literally, the rest is history. We made our first song after that. We were going to the studio on Stone Mountain for maybe two weeks and shit, we had still met like 2-3 days before, but he just took me to that studio and the rest was history.
What is it about each of your styles that makes you mesh so well? Especially through all this success, it’s rare that two people stick together, so how come you guys have?
Uno: That’s my brother. We’re the same, but he’s like my exact opposite at the same time. It’s like yin and yang.
Fauni: I think it’s more so that we’re both good artists individually. It doesn’t really matter who you pair us up with, we can make good music with anybody. We just have consistent records together so that’s why people feel like we have good chemistry and put a title on us that we’re a duo. But when you really break it down, it’s just because of the fact that we can both make good records.
Taking it back to the beginning of your careers, “Parking Lot Pimpin'” started an entire generation of SoundCloud rap. What did that song do for your careers and how did a SoundCloud community form around it?
Fauni: Speaking for myself, I’m about to go on tour in three days — my own headlining tour, which came out of that. In the beginning, though, I didn’t realize how many people were actually on the wave and really running with the sauce, you know? If I would have known that back then, then I would have approached the whole scene differently. I would have done a lot of things different as far as keeping shit more sacred. But once a sound gets that big and gets out to the world, I guess you can’t control it, you feel me? It’s cool that a lot of artists were able to see how we went about it, uploading music that we liked and finding beats that we fucked with, you know, just starting your career off that.
Uno: “Parking Lot Pimpin'” came when this n***a name Terrance Escobar sent me the beat. I liked the beat so much that I just started writing to it, and immediately, I could hear Fauni on it. So I made the song just for Fauni even though Terrance sent me the beat. Terrance rapped on it, but he did his own take after Fauni rapped on it. It was just like a mix of styles, my style and his, and that shit came out perfect. That shit just kind of opened people’s eyes to me and Fauni more, on a personal level. I think that’s when people started really really fucking with us, when that song came out. It wasn’t our first song, but I think that’s what started everything.
And the sad thing about it is that I never noticed it at the time. I’ve never been a big head ass n***a, you know what I’m saying? I never really noticed how the song was going crazy, I just noticed that I was getting booked for shows and stuff like that. To this day, it still never really blew up to me. I would know it blew up if I heard that shit on the radio [laughs]. But nah, in the underground world, it’s definitely top ten most legendary underground songs of all time. I think when I die, the shit will still be top ten. But really, the SoundCloud wave is dead.
You put that song on SoundCloud out of necessity, right? Because you didn’t have a plug to put music on LiveMixtapes?
Uno: Exactly. I was already putting shit on SoundCloud before, though. I had been putting shit on SoundCloud since like tenth grade.
Fauni: Yeah, Soundcloud was just available. With YouTube and SoundCloud, I could upload music and if people fucked with it, they could fuck with it and it would come straight back to me as far as seeing where my fans come from and having to deal with record labels or middle men. SoundCloud was wavy, uploading shit. I could upload whatever the fuck I wanted — interludes, intros, experimental music. I had so much music on SoundCloud. I was playing with sounds, for real — that’s what SoundCloud was.
Do you think it puts artists in a box when they’re referred to as “SoundCloud rappers”?
Fauni: It does put people in a box because I feel like it’s some hating shit that people try to put toward some artists. When someone calls you a “SoundCloud artist”, they’re trying to put a box over you, whether it be because of something like face tattoos or even the type of music you make; they’ll try to define you by calling you a “SoundCloud artist,” but we know that’s not always the case. Because 9 times out of 10, that artist probably has music on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music, too.
SoundCloud is a good place to start at for artists — you start off there, but there could be a whole different platform that everyone might use tomorrow, you feel me? Just like how Tidal came out of nowhere. SoundCloud was new at that time, so that’s what we used. There could be a new platform for n***as to upload music on tomorrow, you really never know. Any tools you can promote yourself with and upload music to, especially when it’s a free tool, people are gonna hop on that.
A lot of people say that the SoundCloud era is dying, if not already dead.
Fauni: I understand what they’re talking about because it’s definitely not what it used to be when it first came out. Spotify is taking over right now, in my personal opinion. You have to have Spotify if you’re trying to get heard. At the of the day, though, SoundCloud will always be rare because that’s where you find the rare gems at — you can find all types of crazy shit on SoundCloud as far as instrumentals and production. I’ve run into a lot of fye producers off of SoundCloud alone.
Uno: It’s dead because motherfuckers just put their music on Spotify now. Everybody who was on the SoundCloud wave went to Spotify and Apple Music — they’re just trying to get paid off that shit.
How does it feel to have outlived what seems to be the rise and fall of SoundCloud at this point? How does that change feel?
Fauni: It’s weird because I still feel like a fresh artist in music — a new face in the industry. SoundCloud was my origin, but now I can actually make a standpoint for myself in the face of music. SoundCloud got me to be where I am now. Even if SoundCloud is dying, at least I was able to use my tools and time wisely before it died out, you feel me?
Uno: It’s crazy because I’m only 22. That shit is wild, I think that’s why I never noticed it — because I was only 19 at the time. Like, when “Parking Lot Pimpin'” first came out, it was weird but n***as was hating on me. It was like a 50/50 split between n***as hating on me and showing me love. I loved it, though, even all the hate. Meek Mill said, “if you ain’t got no haters, you ain’t popping.” No cap.
How do you feel about giving credit where it’s due, especially in the age of the internet when it’s easy for mainstream artists to silently watch and take from the underground?
Fauni: I mean, I’m not the type of n***a who tells n***s they gotta pay homage. To me personally, that’s kinda lame — if somebody blew up quicker than me, or somebody got their notoriety quicker than me, and it’s even off of my sound, then that’s cool. It is what is, I’m going to keep doing me and continue to work, because being bitter about somebody’s progress isn’t going to help me at all, you feel me?
If anything, I shouldn’t even want that — for people to demand their credit. You can’t hide the truth forever, it will come when it’s time. I don’t know another man’s struggle, you know? I’m not worried about another n***a’s pockets.
So if you just stay in your own lane, then that shouldn’t matter.
Fauni: Exactly. Just keeping a positive attitude and continuing to do what I do is going to get me where I want to go. I didn’t think I’d get this far but at the same time, I knew I could. The people around me at that time made it seem like going this far was an impossible task, when in reality I just had to put in the work. So I had to surround myself with different people. Even some family members, you know, I love them and of course, I fuck with them, but I don’t want any negative energy to gravitate toward my art.
What other people got going on and what their outlooks are on life will affect what’s going on in your life, you feel me? And if it’s not for the best, it’s for the worst.
“Parking Lot Pimpin'” was a very influential song, stylistically. When you hear other artists copying your style, do you feel more annoyed or proud of it?
Fauni: I mean it’s a little bit of both. It’s cool that shit could go that crazy and it’s fye that a lot of n***as could peep the swag and then run with it and still blow up. But there are still a lot of annoying things that go along with it. For the most part, as long as people can benefit from it more, then that’s what I’m happy with, you feel me? It’s good.
Uno: They say that imitation somebody is the greatest form of flattery, so I just take it as love. I inspired them to be great. Shit, that’s what I wanted to do.
The line between the mainstream and underground nowadays is definitely blurred, if it exists at all.
Uno: The underground and mainstream — there’s no really no difference right now. There’s really no such thing. That line been crossed over, like two years ago when all the underground songs started to be what everybody listened to. I never thought I made underground music, though. People put me in a box. I don’t even know what underground music is — I don’t know what the difference is. It’s really just marketing, I guess. Marketing is what makes a song underground or mainstream, no cap. The more eyes on it, the more mainstream it’s going to get. More eyes, more media. As soon as that shit goes to the mainstream media, there are more eyes on it.
Fauni: I feel like nobody knows the difference between the two anymore because shit could blow up the next day. N***as could blow up in a heartbeat and go viral just because your music got in the right hands of somebody who was fucking with it heavy, you feel me? Everything is unpredictable. You could be a new artist making shit for fun one day and then it blows up, or it could take a minute for shit to pop off. Everybody is at a different pace. You could blow up like Blueface — overnight sensation — or it could take time just like Bankroll Fresh’s music took time, you know? [Bankroll Fresh] was rapping for over seven years and then he popped off. A lot of mainstream music is coming from underground music, though. A lot of mainstream artists steal their sauce from underground artists right now.
Right, and it’s always interesting to see how they pay attention whether they acknowledge it or not.
Fauni: They’re definitely paying attention. The thing about the mainstream is that they like whatever sells. It doesn’t matter how grungy it is or how underground it is, the question is just how much will it sell and how much of a chance are we taking by fucking with it. The mainstream will give almost anything the chance if there are a lot of consumers behind it; it’s a business, at the end of the day.
They don’t even really respect the art of it, for the most part. It’s just about what they can do to generate money and kind of pimp the art out. Don’t get me wrong though, I still feel like I can be a mainstream artist — I’m on my way there. I understand how shit works, but at the same time, I still keep that authenticity in everything I do, you feel me? I just have a good time with it. Social media puts a big facade over things, but I stay authentic.
People usually associate influence and impact with underground artists, too, because “impact” usually encapsulates the music that should’ve received more appreciation but never did.
Uno: Yeah, I feel like the mainstream isn’t very influential. America is dumb as hell. They don’t really have the time to listen to words anymore and their attention span is short as fuck. For example, people weren’t ready for [Live.Shyne.Die]. It was ahead of their time, so I had to slow it down for them. Limbus 3 is like Live.Shyne.Die Part 2. It’s Live.Shyne.Die on steroids, no cap.
What are your goals from here?
Uno: I have a couple goals. In general, my first goal is to go platinum. My second main goal is a sold-out world tour. What’s the point if you aren’t trying to elevate to the top? Another main goal I have is that I want to change people’s lives. I want to open up a school in my hometown and I want to have kids know that they don’t have to sell drugs to make it. They don’t even have to rap, you know what I’m saying? Just believe in yourself and you can do whatever you want to.
I never even really noticed this shit. Like, still to this day, “stomping him out in my Louboutins” — I never thought that shit was going to be so iconic. At that point in time, the shit was just unheard of. And we’re still coming with styles that nobody has ever seen. For Christ Sake 2 is going to have even more styles that you’re going to see people run off with. Facts.
What do you want your legacy to be when it’s all said and done?
Uno: 10, 20 years, I’m gonna go out like Michael Jackson. In 20 years, when it’s all said and done, that’s how people are going to look at me. That’s the number one goal. Another one of my goals is to be more famous than the Uno cards. Imma come out with my own Uno cards — the Act pack [laughs].
Fauni: I want to be known as somebody who believed in himself. I really just want people to believe in themselves; nobody really believes in themselves anymore, everybody just wants to be the next Young Thug, or the next Future, or the next somebody else. But nobody really gives themselves a chance to believe that they could be the first them. Just like I’m the first Fauni. I’m the first Fauni Figueroa and I’m the first Thouxanbanfauni. Matter of fact, I’m the only Thouxanbanfauni, all because I believed in myself. I just want to see how far my belief in myself can take me. I’m about to headline my own tour and perform at Rolling Loud, and it just makes me wanna take it further.
How has fame changed your views on life?
Fauni: It’s a great feeling. [Fame] makes me want to make sure that I watch everything I say and do with more caution, you know, because people look up to me. At the same time, though, I try to not let the fame get to me because I still have to be myself at all times. I still have to express who I am and how I feel about everything, so I don’t let any of that shit get to my head. I know a lot of people who let it get to their head.
At the same time, though, when you end up traveling and seeing different places, meeting different people, you get different perspectives on life, so a lot of things that I once valued or held close to me a year ago might not be as close to me now. A lot of things change. The more that I learn and the more that I travel, the more people I meet who have knowledge and wisdom to give. Things can change and I don’t have an issue with that. I just hope that everything I do can help somebody else in a positive way. I hope people can live through me, just living my life.
Uno: Fame is a feeling of relief, you feel like you earned it. I want money, though. I don’t really like fame because it’s too much work. You gotta stay in people’s faces — I really don’t like being in people’s faces because I’m antisocial as hell. Truthfully, I’m emo, but at the same time, I have a natural charisma. It was never my goal to be famous, though. My goal was to get rich. Fame just came with it. I don’t care if nobody knows what I look like — as long as that money is in there and they hear the music, then I’m up. But nowadays you gotta do that shit, so I do it.
And my fans are pretty smart. I’m not gonna lie, I probably have the smartest fans. They hacked my Twitter for like a whole year. Number one hacker. I think his name is XTM. My biggest fan. He just wanted some music. Literally.
Is that whack or are you proud of it?
Uno: Yo, people really fiend over my music. Like, a leak will go for a thousand dollars. It’s crazy. N***as done bought that shit for like $1000, $1500. Leaks are like Pokemon cards. Shit is wild. I hate it and love it.
How do you feel about social media these days?
Fauni: I have a phone, so I see what’s going on in the world. If there’s anything I can tell you, it’s that I know what’s going on out there. The thing about social media is that it’s all about content. Blogs and clout-chasers are at an all-time high because they keep feeding people content. When you know what they want specifically, it makes it easier, but as far as real talent, I feel like nobody’s looking for great artists anymore. They’re just looking for that content that’s going to make their page go up. It’s kind of like a rat race for who could post the craziest, most outlandish content. Nobody cares about actual talent anymore.
Every once in a blue moon, they’ll act like they care, but really, they only care about controversy and who has static with who — just bullshit, for the most part. There are a lot of people with actual talent who go unnoticed because they’re getting overshadowed by all the bullshit that’s getting views. You just gotta have a strong eye and be able to see what’s going on.
Uno: We’re in the hate generation, like literally 60% of comments that everyone sends are hate. We’re in the troll, hate generation. That’s just what it is. I try not to [pay attention to social media], but you gotta go through that shit. You can’t avoid it. It helps you understand what you need to focus on. They want that shit to throw you off your game. Nah, you gotta make ’em even angrier. Make ’em leave more comments. They hate when you don’t respond and get even bigger — they can’t stand that. The number one things haters hate is when you don’t respond and then go up. That’s my main motivation. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
And I’m supposed to be doing shit for myself, which I am. But I gotta shit on these n***as too, at the same time.
Do you feel misunderstood at all?
Uno: Yeah, n***as think I’m mean as fuck. I’m really very generous. I have a stale face. Sometimes people view me as unapproachable, but I’m a cool, nice guy and I’m intelligent. But I’m also not going for no bullshit. I heard that I act like I’m too cool because I’m antisocial. I really just don’t what to say to motherfuckers, you know what I’m saying. People try to take that like I’m trying to be cool. I don’t ever try to do anything, you feel me? That’s not me. Everything I do, I just act natural. I’m regular. I just don’t know how to talk to motherfuckers. I ain’t have to sell all the drugs and everything. Rob motherfuckers and all that. I ain’t have to steal, I ain’t have to break into n***as house, I ain’t have to steal, I ain’t have to kill nobody. I’ve been shot, but at the same time, I never had to take from nobody.
I always just did me, stuck to the music, and shit just came up. My eighth-grade teacher told me I was going to be rich as fuck off this shit. Everybody used to tell me that so I just stuck to the music my whole life and it worked out — or at least it’s working out. I’m not Drake or nothing yet. But like I said, I do feel misunderstood because I’m like a musical note. I’m an instrument myself. I put a lot of creativity into my albums and a lot of my metaphors just fly over people’s heads.
How do you feel about controlling who is around you?
Uno: I don’t have any yes men around me. People tell me I’m gonna start having that shit later, but right now, I ain’t got none of that shit around me. That shit’s fake. It molds you into being a fake ass n***a. Some people say I’m too real, but I’m like eh, I’m just going to stay real and be honest with myself. All that fake shit, I just can’t do it. But I do have to understand how to do it, I ain’t gonna lie to you. You gotta learn how to be fake in this industry, this shit is chess, man. It’s the fakest game, ever. The majority of people aren’t real. You gotta know that or your ass will get burnt. You gotta be smart, no cap. DIG?!