These days, genre labels are becoming less and less important for rappers and emcees. Trippie Redd, Death Grips, and Lil Pump are as influenced by rap as they are by pop punk. Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition shares its name with a Joy Division song. BROCKHAMPTON insists that they’re a boy band. Hip-hop isn’t afraid to borrow from rock’s rich past, and some of today’s most exciting music comes from the point where the two merge.

The Beginning
Punk was created as a reaction to the shattered world left behind by the late 60s — think Watergate, Vietnam, and the assassination of MLK. The scene started transforming into New Wave in the late 70s, around the same time that hip-hop emerged. Both movements were centered in New York City and shared the same provocative, experimental energy. Blondie’s “Rapture,” for example, features spoken-word lyrics from lead singer Debbie Harry that mimic the style of rap. Hip-hop borrowed from punk too, most notably in A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” which sampled Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.” This sound fractured into rap-rock, electroclash, and trip-hop, which remain huge influences on today's vanguard of rappers.

The Look
Punk laid the foundation for grunge, which inherited the same angsty attitude that hip-hop holds today. Kurt Cobain’s wardrobe has practically become rap's uniform in the past few years — mohair sweaters, shredded jeans, and flannel shirts included. The white, oval sunglasses Cobain made iconic are the most visible example of this trend. The shades have been around since at least the 60s and were revived by Christian Roth in the 90s, but they blew up in 2017 after being spotted on Lil Yachty, Playboi Carti, and Pharrell, among others. They reached a new peak when Denzel Curry released a video in which he declared, “These ain’t glasses, baby! These clout goggles.” By adopting the iconography of grunge, rappers have become the figures that most embody the outsider spirit of the genre.

The Lyrics
Our generation was raised on earlier descendants of punk like blink-182 and Panic! At The Disco, which in turn influenced today’s vanguard of alternative rappers. You know the way the lyrics go: the singer is sad because he’s going to lose the girl he loves, and he’s hurt and lonely because of it. Through this lens, so much of today’s hip-hop fits the melancholy image of pop-punk. “Growing sick of this and I don't wanna make you sad," the late Lil Peep moans on "Save That Shit." Lil Uzi Vert occupies a similar space on "XO TOUR Llif3," mourning a relationship turned sour. “I'm committed, not addicted, but it keep control of me / All the pain, now I can't feel it.”

You may also like

Back to Top