Punk is back, and it's changing hip-hop.
Punk music doesn't go away. I used to think of it in rigid terms, as something loud and angsty that emerged in the 1970s before slipping into the vague identifier “alt rock,” and finally tapering off into generality.
That chronology is kind of right, but it didn’t taper— it bloomed. Punk is an aesthetic of attitude, and even into the late 1990s many of the bands being called alt still saw themselves as punk. By the time I was in middle school, the big “punk” acts were people like Paramore and Fall Out Boy, now working under the “emo pop” and “pop punk” labels. Ten years later, I wonder how many middle-school emo fans could have predicted a resurgence of that genre coming from rap musicians.
Hip-hop has become pop music’s alchemy. Any style is fair game to be sampled, chopped, warped, mixed, and spat back out with newfound urgency and intimacy. One style that is quietly undergoing this process is punk music (in a broad definition of the word).
Rock has a long production history in hip-hop, but only recently have the sonics been so thoroughly incorporated into vocals and lyrical content. Lil Uzi Vert’s mega-hit, “XO TOUR Llif3” is angsty and melodic enough that it could be thrown over drums and power chords and nothing would seem out of place. It’s no surprise that Uzi cites Hayley Williams, lead singer of Paramore, as his biggest influence and calls her the “best of [his] generation.” He’s joined in this appreciation by Lil Peep, who also idolized the emo-punk-pop generation that included My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, along with metal rock acts like Slayer.
Lil Uzi Vert and Peep represent the most mainstream lineage of punk rappers, though not the only one. Some musicians have more fully incorporated the scream and noise of classic punk, while others have latched on to the mid-2000s angst and melody. Spanning a spectrum of punk styles, we have created a list of ten artists you should check out, ranging from established names to underground SoundCloud celebs.