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Snippetcore Is the Post-Genre at the End of the Internet

OF 2021, as the vibes shifted around us, 20-year-old musician Wolfacejoeyy uploaded a 19-second clip from a song called “Miss Me” to his TikTok page. Joey, who started making beats at 14, says he was encouraged in an Instagram group chat with rappers Sofaygo and Dom Corleo to try his hand at vocals. “Miss Me” proves it was good advice. Joey raps with a breezy, melodic wit, and as a singer, he balances the tension and energy of New York drill with softly disarming charm. “Lemon pepper wings with my order like I’m Drizzy,” he raps. “Shorty wanna pull up to my crib, said she miss me.” 

The track’s opening verse would get stitched and remixed across TikTok, which thrives on split-second, near-unconscious desire. “I think it was my first or second video on my page,” Joey explains. “I posted it at the dead of the night, at 1 a.m., and I was like, ‘All right, I’m just going to go to sleep and see what it does.’ And I woke up with 50K views on my song, and I was like, ‘What the fuck? This is really strange, but I’m going to keep running with it.’ ” 

Most of Joey’s songs are already pretty short, running at around the two-minute mark, but they tend to start out even shorter, emerging on his feed in snippets attached to clips and stitches from other creators. More than making ready-made dance trends, the spirit of viral audio clips from artists like Joey is in how they coax something human out of the algorithms that breathe artificial life into our feeds. The snippet is not merely a hook, or a catchy verse, but a short burst of music that has become a distinct form of communication — part of the unique language of short-form video feeds. If you’ve ever been around a kid scrolling through their phone with the volume on, you’ve probably heard the sound. Let’s call it Snippetcore, the genreless sonic ocean that makes up the modern listening experience. Songs like Steve Lacey’s “Bad Habit” and Sam Smith’s “Unholy” became so ubiquitous in the past few years that they’re by now embedded in our language. Try saying, “I bite my tongue,” without finishing Lacey’s hook.

The increasing prevalence and impact of snippets point to a shifting paradigm in artistry. Many young artists are instinctively making music that can convey their ideas quickly. “I look at it as a challenge almost. It’s like, ‘All right, how can you make the shortest song but make it really fucking good?’ ” Joey says. “I’ll know if I like a beat within the first five seconds.’ ” 

Joey’s biggest hits on TikTok so far are two Jersey-club-inspired tunes produced by frequent collaborator whereis22: “Shake It” and “Buku,” which features Joey singing the repeatable hook “Ooh-ooh, baby/I got bands like Buku, baby” over the song’s clubby, sweat-inducing drum rhythm. Both songs started out as short snippets on his page that were remixed by thousands of users before an official release ever dropped. 

There’s likely no better example of the power of snippets than Ice Spice, whose viral hit “Munch” marked a watershed moment in social media’s relationship to how we experience music. “Munch” was not just a song, it was also a mantra, capable of adapting to different contexts; using the song in your post communicated the idea that you’re hot without having to say it, while borrowing the bravado that Ice Spice displays in her video.

“I was recording in my room, and I was like, ‘Let me make a song fast. As fast as possible,’ ” Ice Spice told me at the start of the song’s viral ascent. And “Munch” remains a sensation — in the year since a short clip from its music video went viral, Ice Spice managed to maintain the world’s attention with a bevy of well-timed snippets. First, from her debut, EP Like..?, clips of songs including “Princess Diana,” and “Bikini Bottom” spent weeks soundtracking thousands of memes and viral videos before being officially released. Then, there’s chart-topping “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2,” her collaboration with fellow snippet veteran PinkPantheress, whose 2021 hit “Pain” may have set the blueprint for navigating this new feed-driven landscape. It’s still hard to escape snippets of “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2,” on social feeds, as it soundtracks thousands of new videos each day. Now, Ice Spice is a bona fide pop star, working with Taylor Swift on a remix of the superstar’s “Karma” and performing with her in New Jersey. 

What Ice Spice and other artists of her generation are increasingly proving is that the only way to overcome an algorithm is to be yourself. Chances are, your people will find you, and fast. In February, Pascal Wallisch, an associate professor at NYU’s Center for Data Science, published a paper suggesting as much. “What we can show in our research is that within seconds, people can accurately identify the vibe something has — the overall vibe — and whether they like it,” he explains. 

As part of the experiment, Wallisch compiled five-second snippets of chart-topping songs from each of the more than 6,000 genres identified in Spotify’s database. The nine-hour edit is striking in its similarity to overhearing someone scrolling through videos on their phone. Bursts of immediately identifiable vibes, each triggering a region in your mind with the precision of acupuncture needles. “What we could show, and this is pretty conclusive, is that even though all kinds of things are changing throughout the song, psychologically, you’re responding to the overall vibe,” Wallisch continues. “Music is more like a texture. You immediately recognize it.”

Part of his team’s findings was that many commonly held beliefs about why we like certain songs may not be what they seem. He offers the example of a song growing on a person over time. “That can happen, but most typically, your very first exposure is the best,” he says. “And even during the song, your pleasure zone drops a little bit because it’s just repeating chorus and slight variations,” he says. “Ideally, from a psychological perspective, if you can maximize variety while keeping in some kind of narrow taste space, that will be optimal.”

On TikTok, beats from beginner producers are flipped into what can feel like entire movements. Phoenix-area rapper Subiibabii’s 60-second earworm “Zendayuh” is an almost avant-garde take on jerk-era rap that relies on the melodic rhythm of the Euphoria star’s first name. Produced by Blade, the track is often paired with dance videos from the mid-aughts, adding a layer of nostalgia to the sound that registers somewhere in the deepest corner of your mind. On TikTok, an old clip of Zendaya doing the “Dougie” set to the track has more than 2 million views.

The snippet is also a product of increasingly online fan bases. Playboi Carti paved the way for many in the current generation of underground artists. Snippets have long been an essential part of his lore, a product of his air of mystery and the prevalence of leaks of his unreleased music. Sometimes just a verse or a hook leaked via some backroom message board would transform into a full-blown single. The best example is “Pissy Pamper,” a 2019 snippet uploaded to streaming platforms by a high-school-age fan under the title “Kid Carti.” During Playboi Carti’s Coachella set that year, he performed the verse, and a few weeks later Young Nudy hopped on an unofficial remix. Before it was taken down, the unauthorized upload even reached the U.S. Viral 50 chart on Spotify, with more than 2 million streams.

Clay Bonin, 25, and Tanner Moeves, 28, work in video production and music promotion in Cincinnati and have a podcast where they nerd out about underground rap. On one episode, they compiled a list of the best rap snippets of all time: Moments like Kodak Black in the studio listening to a snippet of what would become his hit single “Tunnel Vision,” and D Savage 3900 sitting in his car listening to the still-unreleased “I Know.” “Snippets, more oftentimes than not, are these unforced natural moments that someone just happened to capture,” Moeves says. “The Lil Yachty song that just dropped, ‘Strike (Holster)’: The snippet that went viral was his little sister singing, and then the song drops, and I’m like, ‘This sounds totally different from what we heard on the snippet, but I still love that song.’ ” 

“I have a very different TikTok feed from my girlfriend’s. There are still sounds that bleed over where I’m like, ‘Why does my girlfriend have a Yeat snippet playing under a video of some nails or something?’ ” Bonin adds. “One of the most interesting parts of the snippet ecosystem is it starts with people in this hip-hop space, people putting Yeat vocals over guitar solos and things like that. And then it permeates itself into spaces where on paper it doesn’t belong.” 

Wallisch sees the increasing impact of viral snippets as part of an evolution toward tracks getting even shorter — well under two minutes. “The question is, why are songs so long when they don’t have to be? The TikTok generation is capitalizing on that. My prediction would be it’s going to get shorter because you need maybe 30 seconds, maybe less. Music is not about the notes. It’s about the vibes.”

Joey says that the emphasis on snippets can sometimes be tricky. “You know how TikTok is. It can favor you one second and it cannot the other. But regardless, when you have that little fan base, and those 100 to 200 people keep communicating with you, you build that core. You really build the solid relationship between artist and fan.”

When I call, he’s busy finishing up the school year, while keeping an eye on the future: “I’m just releasing more music, man. I just got to finish these fucking finals first. Then I’m really just going to be dropping a lot.” 

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