An anime-like illustration of a girl peacefully making some notes on her study table with headphones covering her ears while her cat perches on the nearby window and looks at the view outside. That’s the image you’ll find in Lo-fi Hip-Hop Radio.
Lo-fi hip hop radio-beats to relax/study to is a YouTube video that has been streaming on an infinite loop since last year by a channel called Chilled Cow (yes, the name pretty much sums up the vibe of its content). With the same anime image in sight, a playlist of curated smooth and slow hip-hop instrumentals keep on playing on a loop. Usually, there’s a lot of synthesizers and slow drumming involved too.
These songs can be put in the ‘chillwave’ or ‘lo-fi’ genre of music. Usually lo-fi (low fidelity) recordings aren’t filtered finely and have some audio imperfections like background sounds and abrupt samples. These faulty elements are deliberate and many of these songs end up giving a dreamy, broken, lonely sound.
But then again, the exact vibe depends on the listener. A live chat involving mostly post-millennials seems to be happening in the live stream on a chatbox to the right. Here, many YouTube users interact with people from other countries and find common interests, while some type out random information like video game cheat codes!
Some confess how these lo-fi beats help to make them feel less lonely, while for some, they feel sad on listening to this ‘relaxing’ music. Suddenly the world starts to feel small!
Some even open up about struggles with anxiety or depression as they hear Chilled Cow’s tunes. Stereotypically, many lo-fi songs are being associated with mental health. With tracks titled ‘solitude’ or ‘Flunked this semester’, the sad new age feel to the playlist only gets clearer. An article from Medium puts it well, ‘Don’t go to a therapist listen to Lofi Hip Hop music to cure depression’!
But Chilled Cow isn’t YouTube’s only provider of chill hip hop vibes. In fact, one of the earliest known YouTube videos featuring a lo-fi chill beats playlist was posted April 23rd, 2013 by Chillhop Music which garnered nearly 2 million views.
These days, many similar YouTube live streams have propped up. Even producers are leasing lo-fi beats online. And not just YouTube, such curated playlists are gaining a limited yet cult following on Spotify too. The music seems to give off that same minimal dreamy sound but still doesn’t seem to get old, and probably won’t get old for the days to come.
What do these curators get out of making these 24-hour lo-fi playlists? A little bit of ad revenue and a whole lot of bringing people together. As DJ Ryan Celsius who runs a few lo-fi channels on his own says, ‘It's less of a business for me, personally,’.
Shaurya Singh Thapa