2017 has been a funny old year musically, from Ed Sheeran demolishing chart records to the likes DJ Khaled and Justin Bieber hopping on the apparent trend of Spanish music through songs like ‘Wild Thoughts’ and ‘Despactio’ (both of which are embarrassingly poor tracks). But a major aspect of the music industry in this bizarre calendar year for me at least is the resurgence of angst and emotional turmoil in the hip-hop genre, most notably from Soundcloud rappers such as Lil Peep and XXXTENTACION, the latter of which has gained colossal recognition because of his unthinkable styles. These artists often make you wonder what they’re motive and aim is, it seems like they could be leading a new wave in the genre of rap, whether you like it or not.
Linking the genre of hip-hop with aggressive and disdained styles such as grunge and emo-rock is something I never thought I’d see, but you could sense it was on the way when Lil Uzi Vert smashed the top of the charts with his hit single ‘XO TOUR Llif3′ where he uses styles and sounds very similar to those of musical influences such as Marilyn Manson, who Uzi himself claims is his favourite artist and biggest inspiration. Uzi has even declared that he is preparing a rock album and if you’ve ever heard one of his songs you’ll realise how ridiculous of an idea that sounds. In a recent interview with Zane Lowe, the Philadelphia born rapper claimed that he would do the album entirely off the cuff, not writing any lyrics and instead just finding influence from the sounds of his entirely female backing band. He often calls himself a true rockstar of this generation, but this seems like a crazy risk to make as he could end up truly embarrassing himself on the musical stage, but it could also be a masterstroke if he gets the right people to help him on the way.
XXXTENTACION is another artist who has been very open about his deep tied roots with metal genres and the feelings on teenage angst he sings/raps about in his songs. Slipknot and Nirvana are his main idols musically and its direction such as his which could change the face of hip-hop altogether. X has very recently released his debut album ’17’ and I have to say it’s not only nothing like I could’ve ever imagined him performing, but it’s also absolutely brilliant; something I never expected to be saying after he became somewhat of a meme in recent months. There are very few examples of 808’s or hi-hats on the instrumentals, usually staples of a rap album. Instead he favours soft acoustic guitar riffs and gut-wrenching piano keys, a technique you’d never hear the likes of Kendrick Lamar or Drake occupy.
This leads me to one question. Are the steps these artists are taking moulding a whole new era for the genre of hip-hop? What these young men are all doing is creating a sound none of the conventional rappers could come close to recreating, it’s exemplary in a way and is a great cause for excitement to see who they may influence in the future or to see if any other artists may follow suit to show perhaps their true colours rather than ticking the boxes of record labels and producing rap bangers. Love or hate them, they’re heavily in touch with their emotions and have the perfect way of delivering these heartaches onto a project. There’s an argument to be had that they are glamourising the idea of being depressed and feeling trapped, but the way I see these artists working, or at least the majority of them, is that they’re being a beacon to their millions of fans; giving them belief and the knowledge that they’re not alone in this everlasting battle with your own thoughts.
Now I’m not saying they’re perfect role models, it’s very well documented how terrible X has allegedly been in his past, hence why he served a stint in prison; not to mention Uzi stapling his own face and promoting bizarre antics which really shouldn’t be put out in the open. With all that being said, however, I have to give them plenty of credit for the way they create their music and live their lives as free spirits, the exact way it was intended to be done. Labelling it ‘teen angst’ may be harsh, but that’s how it comes across at the moment in its early infancy of relevancy, I just hope they don’t go too far with these issues because it’s an extremely dangerous and destructive thing to sing about or cope with, there’s a devastating number of cases to demonstrate that.