welcome back, class! i'm actually kinda having fun with this project lmao. dive into the comments and let me know what you lot are thinking! this is the second installation in, what i believe will...
welcome back, class!
i'm actually kinda having fun with this project lmao. dive into the comments and let me know what you lot are thinking! this is the second installation in, what i believe will be, a four part series. enjoy!
in the last chapter, we learned a little about how rap in the 90's began to get a bit more introspective, self-reflective, and focus on some generally harsher, more grating topics. while all eras definitely have their hype music (see: "Nuthin' But a G Thang" x Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg or "Slob on my Knob" x Three 6 Mafia, we slowly began to see songs like "Slippin'" x DMX or "Rock Bottom" x Eminem which slowly began the trend of rappers using their music to really peel back the curtains of their lives, using their music as an escape into catharsis from their daily struggles.
however, emo rap does seem to have something else happening inside of it. it's not just simply sad or emotionally-charged rap music, that's been around for quite a long time! what's that extra layer that gives us the gritty, rough, and often-whiney nature to modern emo rap? for that, we turn to the name of the genre itself.
not only did the 90's prove as a time of great growth and evolution in rap, but it saw the expolsion of a new genre of rock music as well. with roots set in the 80's, emo rock first gained major commercial popularity with bands like Green Day and The Offspring quickly moving albums to the tops of the charts with songs like, respectively, "She" and "Self Esteem". as the genre fell face-first into the zeitgeist, we quickly saw a rise of early emo rock groups like Lifetime, Jimmy Eat World, and one of the most influential early emo groups - Texas is the Reason. throughout the decade, the prophecy foretold by the Rolling Stones in their track "Paint it Black" quickly began to unfold. teenagers were wearing black, goth kids slowly started to emerge from the depths of the underworld, and hot topic was finally starting to make money. the foundations and roots of emo have been set, ready and waiting to lead us into the 21st century.
the year is 2000, and pretty much everything is fucking awesome. we see the launch of the indestructible classic Nokia 3310. we get video games like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, and of course, Pokemon Gold and Silver. the billboard charts are full names that make us go "oh yeah!" like Destiny's Child, Aaliyah, Erykah Badu, Montell Jordan, 3 Doors Down, Backstreet Boys, Creed, Madonna, and the list goes on and on and on.
the 2000s saw an absolute unit of a revival of the newly restructured emo genre, quickly launching off massively influential tracks like "All the Small Things" x Blink 182, and we even see the creation of the first emo-centric record labels across the late-nineties and early naughts. this means that a lot of the emo bands of the time had not only better representation and access to the innerworkings of the industry, but better access to resources which would help them promote and distribute themselves as well - this is what allowed a lot of bands to leap and bound right into the hot topic t-shirt wall.
one of the bigger labels we came to see was Vagrant records, moving to quickly sign groups like The Get Up Kids, Hot Rod Circuit, Dashboard Confessional, and Saves the Day. with the internet in their toolbox, some major corporate sponsorships funding the whole gig, and a huge amount of confidence in the future of emo, Vagrant set out on what's considered to be one of the most influential projects in the (still) early days of emo when they launched a nationwide tour with every band in their label in tow.
shortly thereafter, Jimmy Eat World launches the biggest single of their career "The Middle", Dashboard Confessional break heavy into the mainstream, and Madison Square Garden goes absolutely wild for Saves The Day, Blink-182, Green Day, and Weezer.
emo is starting to get big, and people are starting to realize that there's money to be made here.
this brings us now to the mid-ish 2000s. everyone's on myspace, everyone's got a motorola razr, everyone's getting into skating or bmx, and every chick with jetblack black hair or fishnets is going absolutely fucking crazy over Brendon Urie from Panic! At The Disco. this is the part where the big money steps in and major record labels start signing a lot of emo bands left and right. this massive cash injection into the industry saw the rise of a lot of bands which would go on to not only define the industry, but to define the middle school and high school lives of a great number of their listeners. as the emo singularity entered the phase of it's big bang, we saw the rise of a number of stars like Taking Back Sunday, Simple Plan, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and many many many deep breath many others.
fueled by industry investments, teen angst, and a desire to be different, this led to an explosive rise in popularity for the genre, with many songs quickly moving to RIAA gold/platinum status and Billboard chart success like "Misery Business" x Paramore, "Miss Murder" x AFI, or "Check Yes Juliet" x We The Kings. this massive influx of success inspired some of the best parties, most genuine moments, and most cringiest photographs of our many young lives. very frequently this music was used as an escape for those who felt that their problems were going otherwise unrecognized or misunderstood, who felt that they were sad or alone, who hated the seeming lack of control that they had in their own lives - constantly living under the legislature of parents, school systems, or cops that always seemed to hate us edgy confrontational teenagers.
however, like Sam Smith would come to say, "too much of a good thing won't be good for long." what happens when a star shines too bright? what happens after a supernova?
things go dark.
it's now that we begin to enter the part of this whole movement that we've all repressed - and it starts with bracelets.
vuvuzelas are hilarious, "TiK ToK" x Ke$ha is topping charts, and highschools everywhere are full of Silly Bandz and sex bracelets. we've reached a point of absolute pop culture saturation with the emo vogue. while songs of the previous era like "Welcome to the Black Parade" (linked earlier) or "Dirty Little Secret" x The All-American Rejects still hold an anthemic position in the musical zeitgeist, by and large, emo simply was no longer enough. the all-black motif was drab and dark. the music didn't cut deep enough, the lyrics didn't hit hard enough, the vocals weren't powerful enough. we needed something stronger, something more powerful.
this desire for harder hitting music led to an underground rise of hardcore bands like La Dispute and Pianos Become the Teeth. these bands were very much hitting in the right direction, blending the angst and yearning of modern emo music with the strength of metal instrumentals and vocals hit home with a good number of people still looking to hold onto the last bastions of the emo movement.
and, as we've seen before, as this demographic loves to live fast and hard, the remodeled emo genre quickly skyrocketed into popularity with bands like Asking Alexandria, Bring Me The Horizon, and A Day to Remember rushing to the forefront of the movement. the rough, gritty nature of the instrumentals paired with the phenomenally screamed vocals seemed to add several more layers of separation between what we were listening to, and the "traditional" music we had been brought up listening to. this was new, this was edgy, but more importantly, this was ours. this was music that we knew the lyrics to, music that we could sing along with because we'd teach ourselves how to scream-sing when we had the house to ourselves, and music that, most importantly, we were pretty damn sure our parents weren't going to get into. they started using myspace, we left for facebook - abandoning the customized purple, black, and sparkly profile pages of yore.
however, there was something missing here. this was music we could connect to, sure. we were glad to have the songs we did to relate with! even still, we got greedy. connecting to it wasn't enough. we needed music we could fuck to. we needed eyecandy. we needed music that was brutal, strong, and beyond comprehension. we got gluttonous.
now we begin to enter the scene age. flashy colors and attitudes replace the black nature of the previous era. ostentatiously hardocre and brutal instrumentals (or alternatively, very pop-y, electronically inspired instrumentals) back vocals sang by artists who's image was crafted under nature and umbrella of being unconventionally attractive to this new audience. this led to projects such as "You Aint No Family" x iwrestledabearonce, "Sex Ed Rocks!" x SMOSH & ISETMYFRIENDSONFIRE, and (oh god,) "Bree Bree" x Brokencyde.
i know my language here is pretty overtly negative, not to make it seem like i hate every band from this era. i actaully like iwrestledabearonce, and a lot of these bands hold a great amount of nostalgia in my life. tracks like "Knives and Pens" x Black Veil Brides were anthemic of this late-stage emo-rock era, checking a good number of the boxes above, and drawing attention to the struggles of people of this era. for example, it can be said that the way emo-rap heavily goes about drawing attention to drug use/abuse is very analogous to the way that a lot of this late-stage emo rock draws attention to self-expression and self-harm.
this era was loud while it was here, and saw the popularity of a lot of projects like the following before it quickly died out around 2014/2015:
We Butter The Bread With Butter
"Wake Up" x Suicide Silence
Pierce The Veil
Sleeping With Sirens
and, often, scene music held no semblance of it's metal roots at all! you may remember hits of the era like "DON'T TRUST ME" x 3OH3!, "Shake It!" x Metro Station, "Good Girls Go Bad" x Cobra Starship, or "Sexting" x Blood on the Dance Floor.
palette cleanser: "Dirty Diana" x Michael Jackson (The Weeknd Cover)
so here we've arrived. the year is 2014, and the billboard is topped with pharrell, meghan trainor's debut single, "Shake It Off" x Taylor Swift, and the debut tracks from the likes of Lorde and Sam Smith.
...and some guy named Young Thug?
Wait, who's this Bobby Shmurda guy?
something's a-changing... where's the industry headed?
find out next time on the emo rap deep dive - chapter three: dirty sprite.