Why Rap Turned Emo
Once punk was the outlet of rage for a generation of frustrated youths. Anti-establishment, anarchistic, nihilistic, it provided the soapbox for a misrepresented demographic to voice their opinions to the world. The clash, The ramones, Black flag all sought out and lampooned the hierarchy, calling into question its treatment of their fellow citizens and led to great social upheaval. Then it sold out, or rather, was bought out. The problem with good music is that it sells well and the capitalistic powers that be are always interested in another dollar. They did some market research and worked out who was buying the records, and it wasn’t the same guys selling the records. Then things got truly eveil, they deloveloped emo, a music style no one outside the record industry would dare to call ‘punk’. For starters the typical emotional range of a punk extends from outraged angst to lets start a riot. Rarely will you meet a punk with “emotional issues” they channel that shit through a complex array of mirrors and convex lenses forming a crude anti-societal death ray. Choosing to wipe out the cause of their troubles rather than medicate against the symptoms. A happy punk is a bruised and bloodied punk.
But still they had to endure the bastardisation of their grime polished pristine distillation of sonic healing by the would be usurpers of emo punk. Its litany of pseudo suicidal, anti depression medication fans, Fresh with horizontal cut marks on their arms from the last time mommy or daddy said no, destroyed punk with their high disposable family incomes and their brand new leather jackets and designer torn jeans. unlike punks before, they could afford the tortured middle class child look including its hair saloon bad haircut. where punks of old used to do that shit drunk in a squat we had broken into. That was the edge these newcomers were trying to replicate. An edge hardened in the forge of self medication and anti authoritarian retaliation, who needs counseling when you can headbutt somebody. And just like that punk was dead, but thankfully another art form of disaffected, underprivileged youths was growing, blossoming and blooming out of the cracks of the concrete jungles.
Fertilized by the blood of societies wastrels and raised in the womb of the misunderstood downtrodden ethnic minorities. Rap was finding its feet and marching down the street with an army of angry eloquent provocateurs of change. Both rhythmically and lyrically gifted, its artists not only disassembled, disintegrated and melted down the chains of elitist oppressors, but did so with an infectious style that transcended racial, economic and linguistic barriers. Rap was as dangerous as punk once was, if not more so due to its lack of racial boundaries. Its proponents were rightly considered outlaws, and its performers revolutionaries. Within its verse lay the power of self empowerment that could free an otherwise servile populace. It was all going good until they got the attention of the middle class.
Nothing had changed for the middle class in the twenty years from the advent of emo punk to the advent of emo rap, nor indeed since the Magna Carta. The same demographic suffers the same struggles and sees the same psychiatrists and is prescribed the same medication. Their true problem, as always, was a lack of identity. Nobody has ever taught these kids how to stand out from the crowd, in fact they’ve only ever none how to shrink into it. But thats okay because they always have a solution, buy an identity. If you can’t make it fake it must be written onto the spinal cord of every middle class person in existence. The only problem in their way was that rap, like its predecessor punk, had a strict no posers rule.
What worked for punk would also work for rap. No room for posers, okay lets change the rules a little. The first rule change was Auto-tune. Mark my words that was the day rap all its street credibility. The same can be said of punk. That and the rise, and subsequent demand, of high production values. Both art forms moved from garages, street corners and abandoned buildings to pay by the hour professional recording studios. Gone were the street warriors , replaced by industry gatekeepers. The orders from on high, keep the kids with all the money for merchandise happy, and don’t piss off the parents too much. Oh, and see if you can get them to join the army. Slowly both genres became a stale and pathetically pale mockery of their selves.
No we are inundated with lame imitations who have more style than substance. Self titled ‘artists’ who spend more time posing for selfies and making status updates than honing what little talent they have. Veritable mannequins whose greatest draw card are their professionally done “prison style” tattoos. But we are not the real victims here. The true victims are the culturally poor middle class making an endless stream of poor life decisions. These kids had been left without any form of identity for so long that they’re just going to buy whatever philosophical creed their golden coins can buy them. Again no one will teach them how to actually become to the self confident, independent agent for change they wish to see in the world. Because this in turn will lead them to become the toxic, mental health care dependent adults that are incapable running their own lives. All of this is good for investors and stock holders of “ghetto” or “urban” fashion boutiques. None of which is good for music or the psychological well-being of their human piggy banks.