Emo Rap – a new spin on dark and grim topics


Drawing by Narkary Neang

Jayden Jones, Staff Writer

Music has always been a medium to convey social injustice, heartache, the allure of drugs and alcohol, and the dark subjects in life. But a new genre ― known as Emo Rap ― adds a new layer on a much deeper level to the already popular hip-hop genre.
Emo rap flips the rap genre on its head with more melancholy vocals and darker lyrics. Some of the most notable artists that come to mind are Juice Wrld, Lil Uzi Vert, and the recently deceased XXXTentacion. In Juice Wrld’s song “Lucid Dreams,” the struggle and heartache after a beloved relationship ends is conveyed through the reminiscent and disorientated mind of the artist: “I still see your shadows in my room/ Can’t take back the love that I gave you/ It’s to the point where I love and I hate you/ And I cannot change you so I must replace you.”
Although these somber lyrics may be a first for the hip-hop genre, music from the emo genre has been present for generations.
“To me, it feels like a revamp of the emo rock of the early 2000s,” junior Ethen Smith said. “It’s the same genre except with a different skin to it, with new artists and new faces.”
Smith is referencing the generation of older emo-punk and rock bands such as Green Day, Panic! At the Disco, Blink 182, and Nirvana ― all bands whose music is similar in subject to today’s Emo Rap.
“I think that every generation has gravitated towards some dark subject,” Bear Creek school psychologist Jennifer Shirron said. “When I was younger, there was dark music like The Cure and The Smiths, so I don’t think this is a new thing.”
Regardless of the recycled subject matter, the genre remains timelessly appealing to teenagers. For many, it’s the sense of security and comfort that the music brings. Rapper XXXTentacion’s music reached critical acclaim before his death ― even in other countries such France, Italy and Russia ― and continues to spread to other western cultures.
“I feel like he understands me because he’s going through bad things, and I’m going through bad things,” Italian foreign exchange student Beatrice Dalle Via, a senior, said.
For many teenagers today, especially in Western cultures, people develop more as individuals and often don’t have another person to relate to or to empathize with. This individualism creates a community suffering from loneliness where music may be their only outlet.
“Having someone to relate to can provide a sense of hope… a sense of security that I am normal, other people go through this, and I can get through this,” Smith said
Another deviation between generations is the increasing isolation among adolescents often attributed to the rise in social media.
“I think teenagers today are more alone,” Dalla Via said. “I feel like when my parents were young, everyone knew each other and were together. I don’t even know who my neighbors are.”
Psychologists and sociologists have noted the changes in family lifestyle in Western cultures, as students aren’t as close to family members and neighbors as previous generations. The decline in the traditional family model has been compounded by increasing awareness of mental health issues compared to past generations.
“In the world, we know more about depression and are peeling back the layers where people used to hide mental health issues,” Shirron said. “Nowadays, we have more information about mental health issues, so it becomes less stigmatizing where people are talking about it more, and are more comfortable and honest about it than before.”
With the increase in popularity in such a dark and morbid genre comes the rise in fear amongst adults and parents of its potentially damaging aftermath. Emo rap is most likely the worst offender of any previous renditions of the genre as several artists somberly feature suicide, depression, and the promotion of self-inflicted harm and self-medicating in order to cope.
“I don’t believe it’s necessarily a bad thing, but with certain lyrics, there’s definitely a detriment as it romanticizes suicide and makes it something almost trendy,” Smith said.
Many artists are shifting to a new aspect of the genre and using their music to do the opposite.
XXXTentacion funded and promoted several charity events and even created the song “Hope” dedicated to lives lost in the Parkland shooting in his home state of Florida.
Artist Diego (previous affiliation Lil Xan) has promoted a similar campaign as he condemns drug use and self-medicating by writing music about the negative effects of drugs on the psyche and body.
If emo rap artists continue to represent themselves as positive and genuine models for teenagers, the genre is likely here to stay and continue to give the teenagers the hope, while still spreading messages of anti-drug use and uniting communities.