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Seapunk is a music and visual art genre that utilize imagery from 1990s cyberpunk culture, including dolphins, pyramids, bright colors, beach scenes and dreamscapes. The music often incorporates ocean sounds and electronic beats.
The term “seapunk” was coined by Brooklyn-based DJ Julian Foxworth, better known as Lil Internet. He claims the term came to him in a surreal dream, which he tweeted to his followers on June 1st, 2011.The next month, the first seapunk record label, Coral Records Internazionale, established by Chicago-based producer Ultrademon, launched a Bandcamp page and Facebook fan page where they shared links of other unaffiliated artists that exemplify the music they wanted to release.
SEAPUNK LEATHER JACKET WITH BARNACLES WHERE THE STUDS USED TO BE— @ LIL INTERNET (@LILINTERNET) June 1, 2011
One of the earliest releases that specifically was classified as seapunk was Zombelle and Myrrh Ka Ba’s five song EP “Tropicult,” (shown below) , made available to download for free on July 26th, 2011. That October, Coral Records held the first Seapunk showcase in Brooklyn, coinciding with that year’s College Music Journal Festival, featuring Lil Internet and five other DJs and performers.
Some of the earliest attention to the trend was a September 2011 post on Mishka NYC’s blog. The next month, digital marketing consultant Luna Vega posted an in-depth look at the styles and trends involved in the scene. One of the earliest press mentions of Seapunk occurred in January 2012 with a print aritcle in the British culture magazine _Dazed & Confused and featured on news websites San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Chicago Reader and SSG Music. That February, a seapunk show featuring performances by Zombelle and Starscream was reviewed by the Village Voice. Three weeks later, seapunk was featured in the Fashion and Style section of the New York Times, where it was billed “a web joke with music.” This led to response articles on Hipster Runoff, Stereogum and Vice’s music blog Noisey, where the history of the term and scene were laid out via screenshots of tweets and Facebook posts.
On November 10th, 2012, singer Rihanna used a seapunk-inspired background during her musical performance of “Diamonds” on Saturday Night Live (shown below, left). Her out of the ordinary performance was featured on Mashable, the Los Angeles Times, the Hollywood Reporter and Popcrush. However, Tumblr and Twitter users spoke out against the performance, comparing the backgrounds to the art and animation work of Jerome LOL (shown below, right).
In the first four days following the performance, the backlash from the sea punk community was reported on by internet culture and music blogs including Buzzfeed, Uproxx, The FW, the Atlantic, the Examiner, Salacious Sound, Flavorwire, Spin and the Daily Dot. On November 13th, a single topic Tumblr titled No Seapunk Rihanna Copyright launched, compiling GIFs, photoshopped images and edited videos of the perfomance, as well as of rap artist Azealia Banks who was accused of co-opting sea punk musical styles in her June 2012 song “Aquababe.” Nick Briz created a green screen version of the performance, encouraging artists to create their own backgrounds which he collected on a personal homepage.
Despite the backlash, on November 11th, 2012, Azealia Banks released the video for the song “Atlantis” which was also sea punk inspired.
Fans collect on Tumblr with posts tagged “#seapunk” and “#sea punk” As of November 2012, a Facebook fan page for Seapunk, created in September 2011, has more than 3300 likes. In March 2012, Sea Punk Gang launched as an online collective to share new seapunk music, posting an exclusive mixtape every month. Their Facebook fan page has 1670 likes as of November 2012.
Salacious Sound – Apocalyptic Retro Rave from Enigmatic DJ/Producer ‘LIL INTERNET’
The Village Voice – This Weekend In New York: Parts & Labor Bid Farewell, Seapunk Washes Ashore
Hollywood Reporter – ‘SNL’: After Odd First Performance, Rihanna Debuts New Song ‘Stay’ (Video)
The Atlantic – How to Talk About Seapunk Like You Already Knew About It
Salacious Sound – Rihanna, Azealia Banks, and the Commoditization of Seapunk
The Daily Dot – Why Rihanna’s “seapunk” is about more than just dolphins