As Kanye West famously said, “rap is the new rock 'n' roll”.
Hip-hop has a long connection with rock music, stemming back to its first mainstream crossover being a meeting of Run-DMC and Aerosmith. Rappers have been taking the daunting plunge into the world of guitars more often in recent years; who could forget Lil Wayne’s 2010 'Rebirth', which gave the world one of the most iconically disastrous guitar solos of all time? Kid Cudi’s 'Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven' and Eminem’s 'Revival' both represent pitifully low points in the respective artists’ careers, garnering notoriety for making rock records that were hard to sit through.
Even more recent than that, though, lies a new and larger generation of wannabe rock stars, including a fresh inductee just this month via Trippie Redd’s new deluxe reissue.
Let’s dig deeper into this new roster, this synagogue of shredding, who are all as godlike as a pizza-faced teenager playing Guitar Hero in their bedroom. Rock on...!
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Trippie Redd & Travis Barker - 'Neon Shark vs Pegasus'
Trippie Redd has threatened more rock-leaning songs on past projects, but 'Neon Shark vs. Pegasus' packs all that into one diabolical weapon of mass destruction. This is a deluxe re-release of his third studio album Pegasus, possibly as a cruel joke because the original album was such an indignant assault on the ears at times. He enlists Blink-182 member Travis Barker to lend some surprisingly decent rock instrumentals, even if they sound like they were picked off the shelves. Redd’s goofy vocals deserve a full recall, clipping the mic on the hook of ‘MEGLADON’, and rampaging through ‘FEMALE SHARK’, whose lyrics were seemingly scrawled in crayon.
Trippie even managed to drag Chino Moreno of Deftones on here, which went over as well as a whoopie cushion in a coffin, and for contrast, the only solo cut without even Travis Barker ‘DREAMER’ is a concussion of 808s and the shrillest of guitars. The music on here is perfectly represented by its album cover and title - a bad experiment made with too many E-numbers, left to be covered up by someone competent.
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Machine Gun Kelly - 'Tickets To My Downfall'
It should be a testament to Eminem’s power that he managed to kick Machine Gun Kelly out of an entire genre. After being grilled by Em in 2018, he came back and was ready to bring back the punk(!), in the process becoming that irritating guy that walks into a new culture and thinks he knows it better than anyone else. In December, the banished rapper had the absolute gumption to question pop-punk’s authenticity when he went on a podcast and became triggered by rock artists wearing “comfortable shoes” onstage.
To play devil’s advocate, he may well have been an avid, lifelong fan of this style. But no evidence of that shows itself in the drab, by-the-numbers pop-punk that stinks out 'Tickets To My Downfall'. Take the track ‘Bloody Valentine’, which has nothing to do with the Loveless band and everything to do with shoddily-written Kerrang fodder that should have been left in the high school playground where it once thrived. If this rap-rock crossover felt any more like a business move, it would be called LinkedIn Park (yes, I’m far too proud of that pun).
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Logic - 'Supermarket'
Hurriedly bolting away from bad pop-punk, we arrive at Logic’s attempt at indie rock. Supermarket is a grotty little tie-in to his undercooked novel of the same name, and the record displays the type of wince-worthy material characterised by a dogged determination to bring something so deep and revelatory, yet is so surface-level. It’s a clown-shoes farcical that takes the worst elements of pop-rock and ramps them up to the point of parody, the worst example being the tear-strained lyrics of ‘Pretty Young Girl’ that read like a Plain White T’s track.
Just like the other picks, the music here is so shallow and childlike, because this is “baby’s first rock album” for Logic, complete with Garageband-quality loops and a hideous insistence on turning every track into a trap beat. Supermarket is the sort of thing you make in the comfort of your own home, cringe at and leave on a hard drive tucked far away in the cupboards. Yet here are, staring at it in total bemusement.
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G-Eazy - 'Everything’s Strange Here'
'Everything’s Strange Here' was one of the sigh-lights of 2020, as California rapper and walking Brylcreem commercial G-Eazy raked indie rock through the soggiest of mud to create The xx for frat boys. In fairness, its title does entice with potential themes of disillusionment or bewilderment at the world around them. Unfortunately, the main emotion it riles up is embarrassment, and not for myself. Some moments on the album have to be seen to be believed, such as the prepubescent vocals on the oh-so-gracefully-titled ‘Free Porn Cheap Drugs’, or the simp anthem ‘Stan By Me’, which captures his devastation in realising his one true love has an OnlyFans account.
Plodding on with all the appeal of a corpse in a bathtub, Eazy makes an obligatory ‘Where Is My Mind?’ rip-off on ‘All The Things You’re Searching For’ - we get it, you’ve watched Fight Club. Yet this is not even the worst reference to a rock artist, as he later devises an utterly jaw-dropping cover of David Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’. Handing even the most minute of streaming money to this record feels like taking part in a money-laundering scheme.
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Vic Mensa - '93Punx'
For anyone wanting to recycle more, Vic Mensa has provided a handy trash bag of foul-smelling punk-trap. After years spent brushing shoulders with the likes of Kanye West, Pharrell and Chance the Rapper, he’s now in a world of his own, determined to be Chicago’s belated answer to Rage Against the Machine. Results are, to put it generously, unconvincing; ‘United States Of Evil’ makes Yeezus sound like wedding music, and ‘numb’ is an ill-advised attempt to be sexy whose slapped bassline and sloppy lyrics sound like a crude, biker gang-themed porno soundtrack.
What’s worse is the mindset that plagues Mensa throughout. '93Punx' exudes this high-and-mighty attitude that rears its head on the snarky pot-shots throughout the lyric sheet. Mensa is so shameless here, he could be part of the Gallagher family, adamant in this narcissistic need to tell the world that he is “not someone to be messed with”. But when he comes through with toothless hooks like ‘Camp America’, it only becomes even more insufferable. That track is less of a song and more of a situation, as it includes one of the most infamous lines in his career: “Take your clothes off baby, let me see what you got / We can have a good time if you're legal or not...”
If you are a rapper who wants to make rock music, please file a restraining order on these albums unless you want to make the world a worse place.
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Words: Nathan Evans
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