Editorial: Has Rap Overthrown Rock?

Jack Goulet, Arts and Entertainment Section Editor

The term “mumble rap” gets thrown around a lot in this day and age. With artists like Lil Yachty getting their starts on Soundcloud, a whole genre of music like Yachty’s is being embraced by the next generation. And it’s already getting bigger than rock.

Kids in high school want music that they can listen to and feel rebellious or somehow express their teen angst. Kids in the 70s and 80s were listening to “The Ramones” or “Black Flag,” punk artists who had strong messages and weren’t afraid to get loud and in your face to share them.

Now, cars full of angsty teens blast the latest tracks from rappers who, until a year ago, were unknown and unheard of. The bass-driven tracks boom through speakers and kids rap along to things they might not even relate to (like having stacks of money or expensive jewelry).

Rapper Post Malone’s song “Rockstar” isn’t just a catchy rap tune, but a message to listeners from Posty about how he sees himself. He talks about living the lifestyle of a rockstar, even though most categorize him as a rapper. In the past, he’s talked about how he likes all sorts of music and doesn’t want to be limited to just one label.

This isn’t just in how he talks, but also how he dresses. Rappers like Malone and, most notably, the Atlanta-based “Migos” dress like “rockstars,” wearing designer brands with gold chains layered on top. This is part of their appeal to the masses.

Rappers are embracing their role as the new rockstars.

The thing is, rock music just isn’t as prevalent as it used to be. Rock artists are still making music in their bedrooms and garages, but so are Soundcloud rappers. With technology at the point where a rapper can throw together a beat and rap over it, going from idea to published song can be just a day or two.  With the current technology, the possibilities are seemingly endless.

According to USA Today, “Rap…experienced the second-highest growth of any genre, spiking 25% over 2016 and coming in just behind Latin music, which was up 30% in total volume.”

However, a lot of the reason for rap’s overtaking of rock is rappers who have always been in the mainstream. Drake and Kendrick Lamar are still selling millions of album equivalents, but newcomers like Lil Uzi Vert and the aforementioned Post Malone had hits like “XO Tour Llif3” and “Congratulations,” which got their names out there.

Those more unknown artists are collaborating with rappers who are already stars, and their names are spreading like wildfire. A name like Desiigner comes to mind, as Kanye West sampled “Panda” in his song “Famous.”

This lack of rock listeners can also be attributed to the fact that rock music just isn’t as good as it used to be. Bands like “The War On Drugs”  and “The National” are well-known in the alternative music world, but generally below the current of the zeitgeist. They churn-out heartfelt rock songs, but not the headbanging beats a lot of teens crave.

Alternative music in general has gotten more and more mellow, as artists making music from their bedrooms have traded in their fuzz pedals and guitar kits for synthesizers and drum machines.

Music has to evolve and change, getting inspiration from the past to aid in the future. With rap already being a popular genre, an addition of a more punk rock influence has appealed to the generations of kids who, in the past, would’ve been listening to the latest from punk rock or heavy metal groups.

So, is it for the best?

It’s more than okay for people to like what they like, and if someone doesn’t like mumble rap or rap in general, they can avoid listening to it. Sites like YouTube and Bandcamp have a slew of new artists to find, not to mention the usual Apple Music and Spotify.

And who knows? Maybe mumble rap will fade away.

The “Migos’” style draws influence from punk rock stars like the “Ramones” (above right), who were the creators of cool in their signature leather jackets. Mumble rap is taking over the regularity which used to be rock music among teens. (Still from Migos’ “What The Price” music video, Ramones via Pilsmo)