The Punk Era of Hip-Hop
What do the punk bands: Descendents, Fear, The Adolescents, and hip-hop artists: Lil Yachty, Machine Gun Kelly, and WifisFuneral all have in common? (Besides all being musical acts, of course.) Give up? Don’t know who I’m talking about? Don’t care? Great, I’ll tell you anyway. They all shared the stage at the Musink Tattoo Convention & Music Festival that happened this past March in Costa Mesa, California.
When buying tickets for this event, I noticed this pairing of punk acts and hip-hop/rap artists, and thought that it was a strange mix of genres for a music festival. How could punk and hip-hop possibly be similar enough to grace the same stage during a weekend festival? Also, could fans from one genre relate to fans from another? After listening to both genres and after much thought, I have concluded that hip-hop is punk.
Now, you must be thinking, “Heresy! There is no way hip-hop is punk! Punk is, blah, blah, blah.” You may also be thinking that the two genres sound entirely different, but forget about the actual music for a second, and think about what is behind the music. Underlying each type of musical genre, there are certain values and a community in which the physical music is built on top of; an ethos if you will. The ethos behind punk music is also reflected within modern hip-hop music, which causes hip-hop to be punk.
Let me explain…A big part of the punk ethos is its DIY nature. When punk first came around in the 1970s, all the bands self-produced their own albums and distributed them through small independent record labels, or would create their own label to distribute their music. The band would just do everything themselves, from producing to distribution. For example, the band Minor Threat released all their recordings through Dischord Records, which is a label created by two members of the group, Ian MacKaye, and Jeff Nelson. Most punk bands still use this method. Now, fast forward to the 21st century, everyone has computers, and the internet can shoot information to every part of the world. Also, anyone with a computer has the capability to create their own music. Ask some of the newer popular hip-hop acts today on how they got started, and most will say that they just started creating their own beats/music. Then, they would upload them onto music sharing sites/platforms/apps. With sites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp, this type of music sharing, via the Internet, has made it easier for newer artists to get their music to a broader audience than ever before. Artists, such as Post Malone, Lil Uzi Vert and Travis Scott, have all found success through using SoundCloud. This type of self-producing and distributing mirrors the pre-Internet punk music scene. Hip-hop has this DIY culture behind it, and that is one reason why hip-hop is punk.
Hip-hop is also punk because of the subject matter of the songs that is reflected through the lyrics. Punk music frequently comments on social and political issues of the time, but not all punk lyrics follow this formula, nor do all hip-hop lyrics. However, there is an anti-authoritarian vibe that cascades throughout both the punk and hip-hop community. With albums like Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and Black Flag’s Damaged, the political sphere is not safe from ridicule and scrutiny by either of these genres. This political commentary is a common thread that ties these two genres together.
With musical acts like Ho99o9 and Death Grips popping onto the music scene, punk and hip-hop have already collided with the mix of the fast tempo and aggressive nature of punk music, and its drum and heavy beat styles of hip-hop. On the surface, the two genres of punk and hip-hop may not seem like they would have anything in common. However, if we dive below the surface of what makes these two genres what they are, their ethos, we discover that countless similarities flow between these two genres. From their DIY nature, to their subject matter, to their sound, hip-hop is punk.