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A Year of Lil Wayne: Did Mannie Fresh Invent Vaporwave?

Call it Far Side Manuel.

Day 132: "Snitch" – Tha Carter, 2004

Let's Talk About Mannie Fresh some more. Specifically, let's talk about how he invented vaporwave all the way back in 2004 with this beat from Tha Carter. Vaporwave—at the risk of unleashing an army of teens upon myself for defining it improperly—is basically a genre of synth-driven electronic music that mines the aesthetic of the early digital world, recreating sounds reminiscent of 80s, 90s, and early 00s stock music. Imagine the music that might play between segments in a training video for your department store job or in the background of a bad tourism video about Hawaii and you have the basic idea. My colleague Ezra Marcus at THUMP defines it as "an electronic subgenre based on sampling and reclaiming vintage corporate sounds including smooth jazz, elevator muzak, and 80s lounge rock." The magnum opus and blueprint of vaporwave, for my money, is James Ferraro's Far Side Virtual, released in 2011. It sounds like this:


I don't want to take away from the vaporwave generation's aesthetic accomplishments. After all, true vapor is a full-on aesthetic that goes past the music. But as far as the music is concerned, Mannie Fresh got there in 2004 with "Snitch," which might be the perfect vaporwave track. Not only does it nail that buoyant, artificial synth palette, none of these Bandcamp producers have Lil Wayne sneering about the consequences of talking to the authorities over their tracks (consequences that include getting your finger chopped off and mailed to your family). This song is awesome because Mannie Fresh paints this super cheery digital landscape, which you could imagine being the soundtrack to an animated video about a happy home full of digital avatars. You could play the shit out of some Myst listening to this. But instead, to make it extra badass, you have Lil Wayne rapping some of his darkest bars on an already-dark album. It's a great contrast, proof of Wayne and Mannie Fresh's unique chemistry and shared genius. Anyway, enjoy this song, whether as a great rap track or as a great piece of vapor. Call it Far Side Manuel.

PS. As a bonus for the real vaporheads, Ezra points to DJ Screw's mix of Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight" as the first vaporwave track. He makes a compelling case. You should definitely listen to it here.

Illustration by the author / Vaporwave photo by thelastvoice via Flickr  

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