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    1. the emo rap deep dive - by earlgreytea. chapter one: sprite.

      howdy there folks! there's been a new breed of rap/hip-hop coursing through the industry in recent years. some songs riding the wave up to the crest in the industry, and gaining some popularity,...

      howdy there folks!

      there's been a new breed of rap/hip-hop coursing through the industry in recent years. some songs riding the wave up to the crest in the industry, and gaining some popularity, some artists intermingled in major controversy, and most relevantly, a lot of really sad late-millenial-early-gen-z kids getting together to cry in the dark, hug each other, dance until their bodies hurt, and get absolutely fucked up.

      this wave, as you can tell by the title of the post and my ceaseless, shitty, un-asked-for poetry, is that of

      #emo rap.

      (edit: as i was writing this i realized that i started to write for a really long time, so i'm just going to leave this at chapter one for now. if you want me to keep going, or if you saw any big ol' lies in here, feel free to let me know in the comments downstairs!)

      chapter one - sprite. the crisp history of emo rap.

      the modern evolution of emo rap is a lovechild of two unexpected homes - the montagues and the capulets. (sorry.)

      the first origin source is from exactly what the name of the genre suggests - emotional rap. in the 90s, the world of rap was vastly different than it is today. rock music was very much still the cultural zeitgeist, most kids daydreamed of being rockstars, and rap lyrics could be seen bouncing between the usual subjects: struggles of racism/classism, or bragging rights over the monetary, the loud, and the beautiful. the quality of life in the inner cities or housing projects, who had the best shooters, gang representation (east side / west side), or just how damn good weed is.

      it goes without saying that, since the birth of the genre, rap has had the capacity to be very introspective and reflective on the lifestyle and living conditions of the artist who'd penned the track. however - it, to my knowledge, was not all that common to see artists focusing on internal struggles, the pressures they faced to succeed financially for the sake of themselves and their families, the pressures they faced to perform well under their labels.

      very early examples of these more self-reflective types of songs come from the big dogs themselves.

      "Trapped" x Tupac Shakur speaks very much on the idea of being "trapped" inside of his neighborhood. this very politically charged song gets right into the perspective of Pac himself, and more importantly, the raw emotion flowing through his head as he looks around his day to day.

      "Suicidal Thoughts" x Notorious B.I.G Biggie himself coming out with one of his most vulnerable tracks he'd ever produced. this relatively short song proves to be very dense and curt, with the man himself talking about how he doesn't believe he's fit to get into heaven, how he believes his mom would have rather aborted him, and contemplating the effects that his death would have on those around him.

      tracks like these set the stage for the next wave of introspective rappers to take the stand, and interestingly enough, our three biggest culprits all seemed to be involved in some form or fashion in the music of the others.

      jumping from the nineties to the naughts, we see our next field of rappers entering stage right - kanye west, kid cudi, and drake.

      one of the first major albums to set the stage for the emo rap that we very well could see carrying the rap torch into the next decade, was none other than kanye west's "808s and Heartbreak". with features from kid cudi, we see kanye exploring a lot of heartbreak, loss, and loneliness on this record. for example, we've got tracks like "Bad News" where it seems like ye recants moments of his finding infidelity in the girl of his dreams, with lyrics like

      Didn't you know
      I was waiting on you
      Waiting on a dream
      That'll never come true
      Oh you just gonna
      Keep another love for you
      Oh you just gonna
      Keep it like you never knew

      over the next two years after 808s' release, we see cudi come out with a series of small records under his "man on the moon" project, featuring absolute earworms like "Day N' Night" and some of his deepest work like "Soundtrack 2 My Life". over the course of the project we hear cudi very often speaking on topics like depression, the death of his dad, and lots of drugs that were used as a means of escape from his own head.

      and in the next year, drake drops what (i would) consider to be his big-break record "Take Care". after his debut album saw a good deal of commercial success, and got drake a good amount of fame for himself, "Take Care" as an album serves as a bit of cathartic introspection for a young drizzy - often touching on topics like failed relationships, materialism, and loneliness. (mostly though, a lot of heartbreak. i think this is the album that gained drake a lot of negative attention in the rap community for being "soft", and "a bitch". i disagree, but hey, toxic masculinity, what ya gonna do.)

      the most notable songs off of take care came to be "Marvin's Room" with lines like

      Guess she don't have the time to kick it no more
      Flights in the morning
      What you doing that's so important?
      I've been drinking so much
      That I'ma call you anyway and say
      Fuck that nigga that you love so bad

      and of course, the title song of the album "Take Care" featuring topics of trust, heartbreak, and this yearning for someone's heart, at the expense of your own emotional wellbeing.

      'Cause that truth hurts, and those lies heal
      And you can't sleep thinking that he lies still
      So you cry still, tears all in the pillow case
      Big girls all get a little taste
      Pushing me away so I give her space
      Dealing with a heart that I didn't break

      and with these tracks leading us well into 2012, it's officially been made socially acceptable for rap to reach this level of introspection. yes, you will still catch shit for being "soft" (though less-so nowadays i find), but with absolute industry influencers like ye, cudi, and drizzy, it would be hard to argue that there's no place for this kind of music or these kinds of lyrics in the modern rap scene.

      the tone has been set, and we look onward to the next six years of rap music. what's to come of it? will there be more heavy r&b influence like we saw in Take Care? will electronic beats like we saw in 808s, or futuristic production styles like we had in Man in the Moon take charge? will these trendsetters who have now allowed rap to get interpersonal, raw, and introspective in a new field be paired with some new, unexpected style and add a brand new face to the game?

      join us next time for chapter two: dirt.


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