What Today’s Hip-Hop Owes To Punk

Whether you like it or not, new wave hip-hop has been an unstoppable cultural force. Even to those who stand against it, the fact that the new wave has any real estate in day-to-day conversation is proof enough for its prevalence. Mainstream artists like XXXtentacion, Lil Uzi Vert, and even rising underground players like $uicideboy$ may have Trojan horsed themselves through internet culture and memes, but make no mistake, they conquered Troy with their music.

A little while ago, Lil Uzi Vert announced a future collaboration with longtime idol, Marilyn Manson. And as incongruous as it seemed, this was something that strangely made sense. The intersection of their shared aesthetic, stylistic decisions, even down to some of the thematic details in their lyricism. There was a definite line to be drawn between Uzi, a new wave hip-hop artist, and Manson, a purebred rock artist through and through. The same can be said about XXXtentacion. Beyond aesthetic, style, and thematic details, something about his most objectively hip-hop songs still screamed of rock. This wasn’t something you could just chalk up to a Thrasher sweatshirt, leather chokers, or dyed hair. There’s no denying it: modern hip-hop owes a substantial amount to the punk and post-punk rock scene.

 

Hip-hop and rock has historically been at odds with one another. Its always been a struggle for dominance over a given audience. Recently, hip-hop overtook rock for the first time in US history in the form of chart rankings and record sales. And one cannot help but feel a decent portion of this success is owed to the punk-hop prodigies like Lil Uzi Vert and XXXtentacion, and in turn, punk rock itself. The logic stands that if the source of their appeal is how different and transgressive they are, and what makes them different and transgressive compared to conventional hip-hop comes back to their punk influences, then their appeal and subsequent success is because of punk. Right? The two genres are not as day and night as one would initially assume either. Both new wave hip-hop and punk rock tend to express themselves in a more visceral and unfiltered manner than their parent genres. Both have traditionally been the voice of the dissatisfied, the disaffected, and the downtrodden. And both represent some sort of “other”. Misfits, the angry, and youth alike.

 

The Who‘s Roger Daltrey once said “… the sadness for me is that rock has reached a dead end… the only people saying things that matter are the rappers…”. But maybe this isn’t so much of a passing of the proverbial baton as it is scenes unifying vis-a-vis Kanye West’s remix of Fall Out Boy (the song incidentally being ‘This Ain’t A Scene‘). Modern day, new wave hip-hop would not be where it is today without punk rock, and it’s high time that it gets the deserved recognition. On that same note, as increasingly notable as new wave hip-hop may become, it will never be punk rock. Artists may come and go, trends may rise and fall, and genres keep evolving, but only one thing is for certain: the music will live on.

Garry Lu

The short man that people say is holding the long leash. Shameless dilettante and sceptical audience member. garry@luxity.com.au

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