Over the past couple of years, a new style of rap has hit the market bringing with it numerous rappers trying to break into the scene with their overly produced vocals and repetitive lyrics passing for deep metaphysical quandaries that end up sounding like a freshly pubescent teen’s diary entry. This genre is known as “emo” or emotional rap and found its start primarily online, making SoundCloud, the free music sharing site, its home. Popular artists, such as Lil’ Pump, Lil Gnar, and Lil Xan belong to this genre of “sad” rappers that are pushing to get their recognition in the rap game today.
While SoundCloud has become a medium for rappers lacking industry connections and cash-backing to be able to push their music to the masses successfully, like Lil Yachty and Post Malone (two overnight SoundCloud successes that come to mind), it has also become a breeding ground for every neighborhood rapper with a beat producer to get their 15-minutes of fame for a track they spent the same amount of time working on. Though each artist has individually picked up a significant following and traction, their popularity is primarily based on social media presence, fine-tuned personas, and celebrity connections rather than genuine effort and talent. Arguably, Lil Pump’s single that shot him to the spotlight, “Gucci Gang”, contains no more than 100 or so varying words, and repeat the same, albeit catchy, chorus more times than a new inventive verse is spit. The song is heavily reliant upon the instrumental production that provides a heavy, striking bass boosted beat and metronome-esque snare that cause the listener to bop to the almost entrancing dance rhythm. Lil Xan’s song “Xanarchy” (wonder where the title inspiration came from) is a puzzle from the moment it begins. The rapper leads the entire song with a background track of him repeating the words “ayy”, “what”, and “yeah”, which neither adds depth to the song nor energy to the listener. Don’t forget the constant bird calls and gun shot imitations the rapper somehow deemed was better than perhaps actual sound effects. Lil Gnar’s song “Drop Top Benz” featuring another Lil, which there seems to be no lack of in this subgenre, Lil Skies, mimics the old sound of fellow rap artists Rae Sremmurd, but their delivery is subpar. The lyrics seem forced against the beat rather than flowing effortlessly upon them like a rock skipped upon the water; their words are boulders that hit the water then sink. This song is another example of heavily produced beats over basic verse spits.
Though their lyrical content may lack substance, these artists make up for it in their larger than life personas and stunts. Lil Pump regularly posts videos on his Twitter jet skiing off the coast of Miami, his home, and Instagram pictures with celebrities like Gucci Mane or his latest mentor, Kanye West. Lil Gnar made headlines when he posted a video of him adorned with electrified brass-knuckles, smoking marijuana and then proceeding to punch his hotel television until its screen was falling out of the framing ending the video with a smile to the camera, and most recently getting in legal trouble for owning a rocket launcher. Lil Xan became widely recognized for his relationship with Noah Cyrus, youngest child of Billy Ray Cyrus and sister of Miley Cyrus, and then we he proclaimed he was leaving rap after Mac Miller’s passing; news that was met with crickets.
It’s evident that these rappers have made a padded enough flotation for themselves out of their earworm songs and social presence to wade the shallows of the rap game, but when thrown into the waters where other more lyrical rappers in their genre they barely can keep their heads above the waves.