Rap stars launching ASMR into mainstream

Tapping fingernails triggering goosebumps, whispers sending shivers down the spine: The brain-tingling world of ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, has the Internet clamouring for sounds that feel good.

The auditory-sensory phenomenon sees people experience waves of calm and pleasurable quivers of the mind often referred to as "brain orgasms" - and it is emerging from the depths of the Web into the pop culture mainstream as a means to relax.

ASMR has become a full-fledged Internet sensation, with YouTube creators notching millions of views for clips featuring stimuli - soft whispers into a microphone, long nails tapping, noodle slurping - to set off a prickle at the back of the neck.

"It is that moment when all the hair on your body stands up," said Ms Bianca Hammonds, who works on an ASMR series for the music-centric US digital cable and satellite television channel Fuse.

So far, acclaimed trap producer Zaytoven along with rappers T-Pain and Wiz Khalifa are among those to appear on clips.

"You kind of feel your body vibrate. It is like this zen moment," she added.

A beer commercial aired during the Super Bowl recently showcased ASMR, with US actress Zoe Kravitz whispering, drumming her fingers against a bottle and pouring the liquid to release a gentle fizz.


But it is largely hip-hop's tastemakers who have ushered it onto the scene, with rap stars making their own ASMR videos or even integrating its techniques into their songs.

"I love ASMR," US rap queen Cardi B whispers during a clip she made with fashion magazine W, lightly tapping and caressing the mic with her signature extra long nail extensions.

"My husband thinks it is very strange and weird that I watch ASMR every day to go to bed."

Dr Craig Richard, an ASMR researcher at Virginia's Shenandoah University, said there is a "clear trend of integration of ASMR into hip-hop".

21 Savage - the British-born, Atlanta-based rapper whose immigration travails recently launched him into the global spotlight - has a song titled ASMR and also introduced whispering onto his track with producer Metro Boomin, Don't Come Out The House.

Dr Richard said the ASMR-rap marriage makes sense, adding: "With hip-hop and rap, there can be incorporation of spoken word, which allows the ability to whisper and still be within their musical genre."

Plus, he said, rappers aim to stay fresh.

"They are reflecting back to their younger fanbase because they drive the trends." - AFP