Papyrus Rap

How “soft irony” fueled the rise of rap collectives Shed Theory and 1c34.

Two years ago, when my friend found out that I liked Joeyy, he pulled up some Discord server with too many notifications and sent me an audio file. It was an unreleased snippet from Joeyy’s 2019 song—the one with the r-slur as the title—in which the enigmatic and revered Lil B was featured. Lil B just kept repeating one thing on the hook: “This song is the title! This song is the title!” his tone equivalent to a toddler saying, “Blah! Blah! Blah!”

The Based God dismantled Joeyy’s whole schtick, dunking on his post-edgy revamp of “Let’s Get It Started” and redefining their arranged—and likely monetary—agreement as a one-sided dickriding instead of a collab.

There’s a photo on the internet of a young Joeyy with Lil B. When it was taken, Joeyy was a nobody, posing with probably his idol. An internet legend, Lil B pioneered how an underground rapper can set themselves up to be worshipped via memes, organically generated by randos who simply thought that pearl necklace, dress and snapback look funny. His tatted-up appearance clashes with American Apparel clothes shown in the selfies and music videos on his original 114 MySpace pages. The bait lured meme creators into riffing on his involved lore, mixing with his unserious tone and lyrics. He became an ungroundable character, an enigma, an inside joke, an aura, to lean into. “Who is the Based God?” was the question, and why did he need to be thanked?

In the modern internet, one far away from the slow algorithms of MySpace and YouTube, a new generation of rappers are using Lil B’s meme method for TikTok success. TikTok’s ephemerality recommends non-viral content to non-followers, allowing it to feel like both the front page of the internet and the deepest part of it. For rap groups like Shed Theory and 1c34, having an inherently riff-able online persona is the key to building an organically generated meme spread. In a rapper’s Instagram photos, if they can convey an aesthetic mystery that took layers of irony-poisoning to achieve, then meme creators will want to be in on their joke. They’ll spread their likeness to let others know that they’re “in” and, like a meme, they’ll spread.


I learned about Joeyy when he made a song with Sam Hyde, the infamous comedian who’s openly donated to neo-Nazi campaigns. Hyde’s aggressive yet self-aware “incel rage” tone that toes the line between irony and provocative alt-right trolling has earned multiple copycats in comedy—people who try to repurpose his style but sanitize the underlying dogma. Regardless of his internet influence, Hyde seems like a bad connection for an early rapper to have.

Seemingly through New England proximity and opportunism, Joeyy ended up working for Hyde’s group Million Dollar Extreme in the late 2010s. This led to the (regrettably) amazing “GOOe” video in which the swagged-out duo rocked low-brow, hypebeast wear from their local Against All Odds.

A crew started to form around Joeyy. Originally known as 1team, the clique was later re-named Shed Theory, composed of rappers like Marlon Dubois, Laker, Ricky Chix and [Facy] (to name a few) who seemed to want to deconstruct rap, routinely reversing bass notes and intoning like they’re nodding off on the beat.

But I didn’t know about Shed Theory back then. I just knew about Joeyy and the slew of over-edited selfies on the man’s Instagram. His piercing blue eyes and perfect low-taper fade made me laugh. With each quip and ironic affirmation in his comments, I realized that everyone understood—“Movie 📸.”

I decided to dig deeper. I found Joeyy memes that used his Instagram photos. There weren’t many, just some on Twitter. They added nonsensical top captions to his selfies, like “Look at my lawyer dawggg”—a simple “funny image + caption.”

It was small at the time, but it was obvious that Joeyy could inspire organically fan-generated memes. By associating himself with Hyde, he opened himself up to Hyde’s audience—a chronically online fandom that uses memes to communicate. Joeyy’s dystopian photos made communication easy. In any template, he could be “the mf sitting next to me” or “Next Up Out Of Atlanta?” Music and meme nerds used Joeyy to subtly establish themselves as being “in” before anyone else, inviting others to lean in and wonder, “Who is this guy?” An air of masculine nihilism surrounds these (and all) ironic memes. They’re too lazy to explain and they’re too cool to try hard. They’ll put his face and a caption and say, “You figure out the rest.”

Through his music, too, Joeyy grew his following by playing into memes. His 2022 songs with DJ Smokey deployed “Legalize Nuclear Bombs” and other knockoff Trap-A-Holics tags. These hip-hop parodies blended in with the language of Hood Irony meme videos made popular by TikTok’s mystical algorithm, where the sounds and visuals of the genre are degraded through a slew of video reposts. Because his music was used in Hood Irony videos, Joeyy also shot up through TikTok’s algorithm.

In early 2022, I went to a Joeyy concert at The Living Gallery. Being one of Bushwick’s smallest and least ventilated venues, most people congregated outside on the hot summer night. My girlfriend and I knew this space limitation, so we arrived early to get in line. The only other person who was faster than us was a short, pimply kid wearing a Dark Iron Gains troll face tank top. Joeyy went on first, did his six songs and he was done. Then, it was BBY Goyard’s time to shine. The crowd went mild.

A year later, I went to my second Joeyy show (a fact that would put most people on a watchlist). I went with my girlfriend again who, at the time, was probably a bigger Joeyy fan than I was, obviously influenced by his piercing A10s.

The show was happening right at the end of Shadow Wizard Money Gang’s normie indoctrination. It was packed with teens and twenty-somethings. Two tall boys wearing Aeropostale jeans and Nike shirts were blocking us from front-row glory. Through the first act, the duo were opening Snapchat Streaks under the lights. I could see the photos of girls’ bedroom ceilings. 

I stood with my girlfriend after the show next to three college boys in their own little circle. Eventually, we all joined. Not two paragraphs into our conversation, my girlfriend said, “So, is Joeyy a Nazi?” 

Immediately put off by the question, the most vocal kid in the group said, “What, because of Sam Hyde?” He warded off the question, playing down their association while his other friends weren’t entirely sure who or what Sam Hyde was. Instead, they compared their Joeyy merch.


A concurrent wave is underway with 1c34, a new clique that’s fostered a successful cult of personality through their strain of digital party rap and countless fan-made memes. At the helm is xaviersobased, a young New Yorker who came up during the end of Surf Gang’s small but vital 2019-2021 glow-up that was ultimately stunted by the pandemic limiting live performances.

I saw xavier perform for the first time in late 2022 at a bar called Heaven or Las Vegas.  He stood in the middle of a half-packed room, shirtless with a microphone. He did what was in retrospect the best music from his 2022 album install. It’d later become my most-played album in 2023 but—I’ll admit it—seeing the songs live wasn’t what did it for me.

In March 2023, a newly viral TikToker named Slayworldalbania mashed xavier’s “patchmade” video into a hyper-fast edit with cute cats. So-called Pinkcore built on the avant-garde Corecore before it, mixing shooting game footage, silly animals and e-boy jerk music to make a soft-around-the-edges version of MLG edits. Pinkcore—and the genre of images associated with it known as Soft Irony—bridged an important link between a well-manicured poodle and the idea of upping the blicky on someone.

In Soft Irony memes, top-white captions juxtapose with obtusely chosen filters. Then, the whole meme is rotated, as if it’s been screenshotted at an angle. The combination infers an imaginary pipeline of reposters who were so collectively bad at screenshotting that by the time it gets to you, it’s unreadable. Ancient and hilarious fonts like Papyrus further label the screenshot as an artifact, coming from the jailbroken phone of a dark entity.

As Pinkcore and Soft Irony grew alongside each other, its aesthetic’s founders—a small group of TikTok and Instagram pages—grew with it. These anonymous admins then used the visual language’s popularity to inject their own fashion, art and music tastes into the scene of e-teens available to them.

That’s why when I saw that “patchmade” edit, asking me, “How you living life with no passion?” gears started turning in my head, connecting a line between who I saw at Heaven or Las Vegas and the rapper on my phone. Who were these fans and was I one of them? I began associating the edit’s visuals with my perception of xavier himself, as its creator taught me how to interpret his music. One top comment read, “the xaviersobased agenda begins 😈😈.”


In December, I was at the Yhapojj/xaviersobased/phreshboyswag/Nettspend concert in New York where a riot happened. The line stretched around the block and the guards stopped admitting people. Some responded by waddling the full-body metal detector onto the street. The flooding ranks of the show’s rejected crowd refused to be bound by the sidewalk. The show that advertised itself as free and 16+ was (surprisingly) not big enough for everyone.

Kids with nose rings picked their noses. Short girls had one friend too drunk. The occasional gaggle of suburban boys—seemingly lost, pulled from New Jersey because of their one quirky friend’s algorithm—appeared disappointed. The tension outside was simmering and the venue kicked everyone out—the rappers included. 

The crowd followed to where the acts stood on top of a van, denting it while their music played on janky speakers. At that moment, 1c felt very real. They could have been holding a single JBL up there and our bodies still would have shaken. They had made it somewhere.

Hours later, xaviersobased is home. He finds himself alone in bed, still wearing the same clothes he had on all night. He decides to record himself getting emotional. He posts it to his story. He’s barely getting the words out. “I love y’all.”

Just a year before, he was at that bar, looking at my stupid face in an audience with no passion. What had changed?

It’s undeniable that xavier’s sound is the current moment in the underground. Bubbly and hopeful, his beats could fill a helium balloon. His lyrics bend Gen Z references into a worldview that’s both nonchalant and unapologetic. The combination attests that he’s just being him, sipping bubble tea, so stop hacking.

Like Joeyy, xavier has also curated an inherently riff-able internet presence. Snapchat dog filter selfies clash with photos of looking tough at Saks, ultimately drawing parallels between going hard but being silly.

Inspired by this and toying with it, the Pinkcore and Soft Irony memes that shill xavier and his crew also blend this divide between e-boy and gangster. Lyrics like, “And I get a lot of hoes, yeah, ’cause I love cats,” literally mirror the cute and lovable animals that are ironically portrayed in 1c-adjacent memes.

The leader of the Soft Irony meme scene is Instagram user Bug2sick, whose rise in the meme world mirrors Shed Theory and 1c’s rise. Bug’s organic promotion of these groups, which reads like a cool kid’s sense of humor, inflated the fanbases with a digital language scrawled in the font Papyrus.

Bug is often credited as the originator of the Papyrus font meme, however, he admits that he was inspired by Shed Theory’s Tek lintowe, who apparently had a jailbroken Android where he changed all of the fonts to the cursed text back in 2022. 

All Papyrus font memes lead back to the Wait I’m Goated t-shirt that Bug created. What started as an inside joke among him and his internet friends grew flesh and became rap’s latest fad—underground rap shows are full of kids wearing the tees now. But unlike memes, which have an inherently short lifespan, clothes, fashion and music can live much longer. For Bug, starting a clothing brand offers a chance that memes do not—valid ownership and longevity.

If you’re anywhere close to Instagram’s “irony” algorithm, chances are you’ve encountered countless Bug2sick clones that replicate his style. If they aren’t copycats, then they’re just blatant rip-offs who simply screenshot Bug’s latest story and repost it–something sadly common in the meme realm, where ownership is almost nonexistent and everyday viewers often don’t expect or care if a meme is original content.

For Bug, he’s learned this the hard way. “I’m always at a tug-of-war,” he said to me on a call, “because my stuff always seems to become a new meme.” He described Papyrus and the Rio de Janeiro filter as two of his schticks “at the brink of almost dead in terms of irony.” He’s worried that an imminent mainstream adoption of his meme style could sideline his role in its rise, but he also understands that a meme page is inherently transient and just a way to “influence culture.”

Unlike many of his irony-page contemporaries, Bug has succeeded in turning his memes into a physical income—one that’s both fulfilling creatively and monetarily—and he didn’t do it by promoting an OnlyFans model or starting a podcast.

Regardless of where you put Wait I’m Goated on the cringe spectrum, it’s proven itself successful. Any tick on your cringe meter is a sign of real-world saturation and therefore success. For proof, ask the kid standing next to you on the subway why he’s wearing the three words on his chest. Bug’s unserious digital work ultimately landed his creative direction onto something that you can touch—something your little brother wants for Christmas.

Digressing, he said, “I’ve never actually seen anyone wearing one.” Bug’s from Chicago where apparently people aren’t as goated. He’s soft-spoken and to the point. He knows that his memes have had an influence, but he doesn’t believe me when I say how much.

Still, it’s undeniable that the memetic language Bug created—and his peers like Slayworldalbania spread—has greatly aided 1c’s recent rise. Bug’s memes parallel and propel the hard-cute contrast in 1c’s music by existing in their own visual and humorous realm of masculinity subversion.

Take the Bug memes that seem to imagine a jaded 20-something’s venting process, using nonchalant slang like “faded,” “thug it out” and “vro.” He contrasts this zoomer male-coded nihilism with cute animal signifiers like an astronaut-cat in space. The more chaotic motifs in his memes—Papyrus, bad crops, unnecessary filters—play back into that post-ironic method in which an absurd, nonsensical signifier is understood as irony and therefore, understood as an inside joke to be in on. 

By using post-irony association, Bug can put people onto a rapper by shitposting about them, equating the knowledge of them to a joke to be in on. That viewer might cross the dreaded “10 listen” threshold that holds back so many from realizing an underground rapper is groundbreaking.

But Bug2sick doesn’t take credit for xavier’s rise. “I wouldn’t say memes are even close to what blew him up,” he said. “It’s his influence on the underground scene, and his sound, and the culture he’s created.”

“But an artist like Joeyy…” he went on, “I remember he blew up just because of ironic memes. So, like, out of both of them, one blew up because he’s creating culture and the other one…” He paused to think. “The other one, he’s good but I remember the wave of irony that took him up and it happened just because he’s so funny-looking.”

The Shed Theory guys repost the memes Bug makes about them, embodying the symbiotic relationship that benefits both meme and musician, melding their online presences into one, growing simultaneously and together.

But compared to their precipitous rise, Bug’s has been far more volatile. Bug’s original page @bug2sick was banned last year, taking all of his work and influence with it. For rappers, that kind of creative loss is unprecedented. Even if their original songs get deleted from SoundCloud, those tracks will still float around the internet, on different platforms, always associated with their name because their voice is in it. Plus, people listen to music over and over. People don’t look at a meme over and over (unless it’s really, really good). The demand is always there for music, or at least, the probability of a repeated user is higher.

Bug’s memes and visual voice have been copied and bastardized because ownership and voice in memes are hard to identify and seen as unnecessary. This is something that some rappers can understand—the real groundbreaking ones—how their sound or flow gets copied and bastardized, like that famous Soulja Boy quote, “He copied my whole fucking flow!” But Bug2sick’s Papyrus, a generic font, is nowhere as unique to him as a rapper’s voice.

Bug met Shed Theory once during their 2023 North America tour. After the show, he was led into the green room where Joeyy, Marlon and the rest of the goons were.

“I was just a random guy there with all of them,” Bug recalls.

Joeyy was sitting nearby him when he walked in. He was really out of breath because he just performed. “Oh, you’re, like, Bug2sick, right?”

“Yeah,” Bug said back.

Joeyy asked him if he liked the show. Then they just talked about “random shit.”

The two talked for a while until Shed Theory’s manager, a guy named Nextel (who used to manage Yeat), finally came over and stole Bug away.

He remembers Nextel’s thankfulness. “Thanks for pushing the narrative,” Nextel said to Bug.

Then, Bug said to me, “If you notice, not a lot of underground pages cover Shed Theory.”

A picture started to form in my head of the “industry’s” prejudice, barring Shed Theory from the most lucrative co-sign—a meme posted by Hyperpop Daily.

Bug alleged that Hyperpop Daily (and other unnamed Instagram pages) were blackballing Shed Theory due to Joeyy’s connection to Sam Hyde. Bug claimed Nextel was fully aware of this. Bug even told me that one time, Nextel allegedly ranted about Hyperpop Daily on his Instagram story, going on and on about the page’s admins.

Nextel vs. Hyperpop Daily is a ridiculous beef at face value, the preliminary stages of underground dementia. However, for him and the rest of the Shed boys, it was supposedly serious and Bug found himself in the crosshairs of his brand and theirs. Bug was Shed’s Hyperpop Daily, and keeping good relations with Bug was important to Nextel.

Because of this, I wanted to know—had Bug posted more Shed Theory memes after the concert?

He answered that nothing changed—the same amount. “I didn’t expect anything to happen after that,” he said. “It was just a cool moment in life.”

He also described his encounter with Tek, the one who came up with the Papyrus thing, backstage at the Shed Theory show. 

Bug said, “Yo, what’s up I’m Bug.”

And Tek was like, “I’m Tek.”

And then the two just stared at each other for like 20 seconds.


Although a rapper like Joeyy or xaviersobased can be blessed by meme promotion—and their managers will see it as something to reward and astroturf—it’s a dangerous game to treat yourself like a meme.

That’s why so many successful meme creators try to get out of the sphere—build a brand, start a blog, write a book. Anything’s more tangible than memes themselves.

When a page promotes a rapper’s music, they seemingly want to influence a broader culture that’s more real to them than memes. They want to be known in a history that will be recorded.

In the meantime, they bide their time with memes, promoting rappers equal to them in clout, establishing themselves as the original fan by writing “S.O.S.” in the sand and hoping the rapper flies overhead and notices. Eventually, one day, they might take notice. They’ll follow you. They’ll ask you to come on LIVE with them. They’ll pick your brain about why you’re famous. And maybe you won’t be disappointed by your idol because, well, you had a hand in making them.

Alternatively, you could just sell OsamaSon “before 10,000 monthly listeners” screenshots (without a watermark) to bring all the peasants up with you.

From Tek lintowe to Bug to the mainstream social media posters, the algorithm-mind that self-inflates and self-inserts can decide what’s next in rap through visual signifiers alone. Riding the wave and knowing when you’re close to being perceived is the key to staying ahead. Never before has this “meme to star” phenomenon been more prevalent and replicated. 

The meme pipeline described might have even become too predictable; already many consider it cringe to blow up off memes and TikTok. Raging against being perceived will likely take new forms in the years to come. But maybe the pipeline is too big to fail.

10 thoughts on “Papyrus Rap”

  1. Really interesting piece. For a guest writer from “Know your Meme” they really do know what’s up and are pretty good at showing the whole process of this. Have them do more!

    Also, deeply embarrassing! Way too nice on a Thiel money “⬜️” (managing to get blackballed by hyperpopdaily lmao)
    At least the moment is already passing and we’ll be done with this soon enough.

  2. Breaking: This article is actually a schizophrenic rambling this article is actually just frankenstein papyrus meme brain control nonsense please never write anything again stick to fucking know your meme

  3. This article is kinda crazy ngl. It has such an insanely anti-Joeyy bias it’s near-unreadable from the perspective of someone who knows even a little bit about him and how he blew up. You keep bringing up the Sam Hyde connection and how he used to work with someone WHO DONATED TO NEO-NAZI CAUSES, GUYS, implying he himself must also lean into this, but Joeyy has never EVER done that…and in fact, hasn’t actively worked on any of Sam’s projects in over a year now. I think asserting there’s somehow a Nazi connection because he was once Sam’s audio/video guy is pretty bad faith and dishonest; besides, if you actually go to any of the MDE videos featuring them, the comments are full of people angry at “the zoomer crew,” claiming they ruined MDE and are unfunny losers Sam shouldn’t be hanging with. It’s clear they weren’t kept around for the ideology.

    Going to one of his concerts to try to press his fans over whether or not the artist they like is a Nazi is unhinged, loser behavior, by the way. And no, before you try to lump me in, I don’t watch Sam Hyde neither consider myself a fan whatsoever.

    Also, some minor corrections: 1Team had been a thing before they worked for Hyde – bicflame and Joeyy, the two primary 1Team members before the transition to Shed Theory, have known each other for probably a decade or more now and were producing music together as early as 2017 (maybe earlier – a lot of early SoundCloud stuff is lost, and it’s before my time being fans of them). Also, Joeyy wasn’t exactly a “nobody” when he met Lil B – most of the evidence of this is long gone now but he had a non-insignificant following in the Basedworld community then. Search #OBESEMOBB on YouTube.

    Anyway. I’m expecting a lot of journalistic integrity from an editor at Know Your Meme. Stick to editing skibidi toilet pages to make sure the dates are accurate.