Artists, label heads, and industry intriguers know that success in pop music today requires racking up plays on TikTok and streaming services. But there’s another unlikely platform gaining momentum: Roblox.
Roblox is a game creation engine, first released in 2006, that allows players to customize their own sandbox worlds, create mini-games on multiplayer servers, and enjoy a second life online as square-shaped beings called Robloxians. Unlike Minecraft, a game that immerses users in a fantastic “other world”, Roblox’s most popular mini-games (or, as Roblox calls them, “experiences”) are rooted in real life. These are “role-playing games”, which means that the player plays a certain character; you can be a sheriff, an adoptive parent, a pizza maker.
Last year, the platform created its own musical genre – roblox core. Primarily made by young teenagers, it’s a variety of chaotic, profanity-laden rap, overloaded with frenetic sound effects. tunes like “Threatens,” Instead, a 13-year-old musician, emulate being in a digital dimension where every bass thump and synth tremor is an enemy you pass, every vocal stutter and squeal short-circuited a new obstacle to avoid. The scene made waves in the underground music circuit and earned a nod from Phoebe Bridger on Twitter.
Music has become such an important part of the Roblox community for one major reason: Starting in late 2013, users were able to upload their own MP3s to the platform, which other players can access. Inside worlds, you can equip an item called a “boombox” – a system of shiny gold speakers – and play the music to players around you. The closer you are to another user, the louder the music is for them.
While the platform’s creators have praised how music has become one of its hallmarks – “the fact that Roblox is spawning a new musical subgenre speaks to the current generational and cultural ubiquity of Roblox”, wrote Jon Vlassopulos, its global head of music, in an email — in fact, many of its young users are doing things that are supposedly forbidden, like pirating illicit music in the game.
Originally, the founders of the platform set a filter for profanity because it’s supposed to be kid-friendly. Yet, inventive users have come up with a workaround. “Audio bypassing” refers to a technique by which people distort or disguise an audio file so that it passes through detection systems intended to filter out offensive language and copyrighted tracks. (Methods include layering a song 32 times so the lyrics become deafening and indecipherable, or deliberately raising or lowering its pitch so it sounds inconsistent to moderators, before readjusting it in-game.)
While many players are bypassing tame mainstream music that would otherwise have been blocked due to copyright issues, a large number of users are boosting intense, swear-filled underground rap music. That’s part of how robloxcore exploded, after dozens of gamers downloaded these kinds of tracks and trumpeted them with their boombox stuff, inspiring other users in the same game worlds to listen to the music and share it too.
Lieu, a longtime robloxcore and Roblox pioneer player whose pronouns are they/their, said that whenever he joins games, he hears people playing his music. “It’s crazy because none of this was ever my goal, I just wanted to make music and be funny,” Place wrote on Discord, the popular chat and texting app for gamers. Without the game, Lieu says, they doubted the music would ever be popular, “or at least anywhere near as popular as it is now.”
So who are these mysterious and influential players who bypass the music in Roblox?
They call themselves the Roblox Audio Makers. Known for their devious methods of circumvention and their fondness for aggressive rapping, they mostly congregate on Discord in secret groups and chats hosted by exclusive collectives. Audio makers sell methods to sneak songs onto Roblox like stealthy arms dealers; some can fetch thousands of Robux, around $20-40.
“Community can be very dangerous at times,” a Robloxer known as DigitalCrimes, 14, said on Discord, explaining that aggravating the wrong person can lead to unpleasant consequences — your personal information leaking or worse. , players who call in a SWAT team to raid your home.
Largely populated by teenagers and even young gamers, the scene has a reputation for trolling behavior. “A lot of them have egos and are pissed off and toxic,” marty_red, a popular Roblox TikToker, explained on Discord. “The scene is weird but in a good way – it’s interesting how people can relate to something that’s against the terms of service.”
Skipped tunes started circulating in the mid-2010s, around the same time Roblox’s demographics were changing; kids who grew up playing the game in the 2000s were turning into teenagers and adults with a taste for restricted content. Suddenly there was a whole slew of outlaws willingly bypassing Roblox rules for blasting rap music blasting out of their boomboxes.
“When I was first playing, there was no distorted rapping – maybe the worst you hear was Eminem’s ‘Rap God’. and everything was censored,” said mart_yred, who has been playing for over nine years. “You started hearing bypassed audios in late 2015, then there was a really big spike in 2017.”
The scene really took off in 2021, when popular audio manufacturers on Roblox, like DigitalAngels and CriminalViolence, has settled on the vast video-sharing platform TikTok, establishing an entire subgenre of audio maker-themed videos. Roblox has always had a big presence on TikTok — users post gameplay footage, flashy animations, and quick edits — but this content is different. Audio makers rate each other, brag about their influence, and compose slideshows of codes that you can use to download the newest bypassed audio in the game.
Over the past few months, the most successful bypass TikTokers have garnered tens of thousands of followers, bringing a group of newbies into the dark world of audio creation. And some of the tracks they use as audio for TikToks end up draining into the larger TikTok pool.
The biggest so far is “Foreign” by lungskull. The 15-year-old Parisian started out as an audio creator bypassing other people’s tracks for gaming, but since 2020 he’s been creating his own distorted rap songs. After a Roblox friend of his used “Foreign” in a TikTok video in late 2020, the tune got a mini-moment and has now racked up over 45,000 TikTok videos. Eventually, the song leaked beyond the realm of gamers, becoming the backdrop for goth girl memes and a video of dashing cockroach to escape insect repellents.
Other tracks initially lifted by Roblox players that later spread across TikTok’s wider horizon include Axxturel’s macabre “Ave Domina Lilith,” which gained popularity after a Roblox post. TikToker. a video of a group of male avatars wearing cat ears and maid costumes dancing to the song with the caption “me and the boys”. More recently, user cybyrbae made a video which helped propel Yameii Online’s “Baby My Phone”, which ended up reaching No. 2 on the Spotify Viral 50 playlist in March.
Although none of these songs fall into a defined genre, they are bound together by their quirky vocal styles and a lo-fi sense of incompleteness – a decaying quality similar to that of bypassed tunes. Many fans call the amorphous sound social rejection music, which captures their wry sense of themselves as the lowest of lows, playfully arguing for devouring such crude, shoddy rap tunes.
“When I wasn’t so well known, I thought it was crazy for people to play my music on Roblox — sometimes I’d walk up to them and say something funny, like, ‘Hey, what song is that? ‘ like I was just a random player,” lungskull said on Discord. But ultimately, the game provided him with something bigger than an audience: “I’ve met so many friends from Discord and the community sound.”