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|Cultural origins||Mid 2010s, United States|
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Emo rap (also referred to as emo hip hop or sad rap) is a subgenre of hip hop and SoundCloud rap fusing styles commonly used in hip hop music with lyrical themes and vocals commonly found in emo music, as well as elements of other closely associated rock genres such as indie rock, pop punk and nu metal. The term is sometimes conflated with “SoundCloud rap".
Emo rap has been noted to depart from the "traditional" tones found in modern mainstream hip hop in favor of more emotional and personal lyrical content, described by the Wall Street Journal as "giving their elders the finger." Lyrics tend to focus on topics such as depression, loneliness, anxiety, drug abuse, nihilism, suicide, heartbreak, and self-medication. The genre is characterized by its combination of musical elements commonly found in conscious hip hop with indie rock instrumentals. Horse Head of the collective Gothboiclique has described the music as "...sort of nostalgic, but it's new too...no one's really done shit like this. It's like emo rap and melodic trap". Fans and artist of the genre along with the scene that surrounds it are often referred to as "sad boys".
Emo hip hop beats generally incorporate real instruments. Sampling often utilizes 2000s pop punk and emo songs, a fusion first popularized by MC Lars in 2004. Much of the sampling is considered[by whom?] to have been influenced by artists who inspired the genre, such as Underoath and Brand New, and is usually accompanied by original instrumentals.
Despite emo hip hop being widely considered a new phenomenon, the usage of the term and hip hop containing lyrics associated with emo music dates back to over as much as 10 years with artists such as Gym Class Heroes, Hollywood Undead, and Eminem. Additionally, rappers such as Joe Budden, and Kanye West, have occasionally been labeled as emo hip hop due to their emotional lyrics as well as minor similarities with the genre, despite their music predating the movement. However, the use of this term did not yet refer to the genre, as the term "emo hip hop" was used to describe hip hop music with these characteristics in general. The term "emo hip hop" was originally coined by Slug of Atmosphere in 1997.
Kid Cudi is widely considered one of the largest influences on emo hip hop[not in citation given] with his lyrics discussing issues such as depression, loneliness, and anxiety in 2009 with his album Man on the Moon: The End of Day. Cudi later released Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven, an alternative rock album that was criticized for its messy and uncoordinated style alongside nihilistic lyrics, though he himself labeled it as "the most important album in existence" saying "in 5 years, you'll see its impact" – referring to Cudi's attempt to innovate beyond hip-hop's typical boundaries. Publications such as HotNewHipHop, DJBooth and IBTimes have all noted Cudi's influence on contemporary hip hop since his breakthrough in 2008, and have attributed both Man on the Moon and Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven as being major influences on emo hip-hop. Prior to the release of Man on the Moon: The End of the Day, Cudi co-wrote several songs on Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak, which, along with Drake's So Far Gone, is seen as a seminal influence on the genre.
Drake has also been noted to influence emo hip hop through his use of instruments and lyrics in his previous ventures. Drake's earliest projects such as Take Care and So Far Gone have been labelled as "emo", though this was used to describe his music, rather than to imply the projects were within the genre of emo hip hop.
With the popularity of rappers such as Lil Peep and Lil Uzi Vert, other hip-hop subgenres that were fueled by the internet, such as cloud rap were labeled as "sad rap" and included artists such as Yung Lean who have influenced emo hip hop through their lyrics and their difference to mainstream hip-hop.[text–source integrity?]
German rapper Casper, who fuses hardcore, punk rock and emo with hip hop, was one of the earliest artist to use the term "emo rapper" to describe themselves (albeit the term was applied to him prior and he simply accepted it), as is evident by a 2009 interview.[original research?]
In 2012, Elmo Kennedy O'Connor – then known professionally as Th@ Kid – changed his stage-name to Bones and gained popularity online for his reputation of moving away from cloud rap and blending different styles to create unique forms of music which included the sampling of emo bands, metal music and indie rock. Bones' influence on hip hop in the underground has led to him being labeled the "underground rap king." Artists like Lil Peep, Ghostemane and Yung Bruh (now known as Lil Tracy) with influences from[not in citation given] pop punk, emo and screamo began to appear on YouTube and SoundCloud in 2014 and 2015.
Artists in this movement generally stayed on the audio distribution site SoundCloud, and made a large impact on the movement known as "SoundCloud rap" until Lil Uzi Vert's "XO Tour Llif3" became a sleeper hit. The song, characterized as emo hip hop due to its lyrics referring to suicide and emotional breakdowns peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100. In August 2017, XXXTentacion released his debut album 17 with the lead single "Jocelyn Flores" which addresses the suicide of a friend and Lil Uzi Vert released his debut studio album Luv Is Rage 2. The release of both the projects and their high peak on the Billboard 200 led to people defining the projects as "emo hip hop"[original research?] and further speculation on whether emo hip hop was a legitimate subgenre and a part of the emo revival, with figureheads such as Lil Peep claiming that emo hip hop was not a part of the emo revival, but a subgenre of its own. At the same time, Lil Peep was branded the "future of emo" in January 2017 and fronted as a pioneer of the emo revival by The Guardian.
In November 2017, Lil Peep died of a Fentanyl overdose. Shortly afterwards, Lil Peep's debut studio album Come Over When You're Sober, Pt. 1 and the lead single "Awful Things" charted on the Billboard charts. His death also brought emo hip hop to the forefront again due to Lil Peep's popularity within the subgenre and the changing hip-hop mainstream.[further explanation needed] In June 2018, XXXTentacion was murdered, and like Peep, his albums 17 and ? charted the following week, along with his hit song "Sad!" charting at 1st on the Billboard Hot 100.
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