FEATURE: Emo Trippin’

It’s a celebration, bitches. January 20, 2009. Thousands of excited 18-to-35-year-olds (a.k.a. youths) pack the ballroom at the Hilton Washington in Washington, D.C., for the Youth Inaugural Ball—a gala commemorating Barack Obama’s historic swearing-in as the 44th president of the United States. As the throngs giddily await the president and first lady Michelle Obama’s imminent entrance, fellow Chicagoan Kanye West bounds onstage to set the party off. Sporting a shag and tuxedo clad, he launches into a medley of rousing tunes from his repertoire: “Touch the Sky” (Whoooo!), “American Boy” (U-S-A! U-S-A!), “Stronger” (YES! WE! CAN!), “Good Life” (YES! WE! DID!).

But as the latter’s climactic call to throw hands high recedes, West’s band brings the music down to a hush. The mood gets strangely somber and melancholic. Kanye clutches the mic like a life preserver and begins to croon, his vocals frail and shaky sans Auto-Tune’s tech support: “How could you be so heartless?”

Forget the fact that the thousands in the room and millions watching on TV are ready to rally around hope, eager to embrace a new era of optimism. Kanye’s “Heartless,” woe-is-me-first moment has put history on hold. You see, it just so happens that this self-pitying breakup rap is the No. 1 most-downloaded song in the country. Which apparently means it’s fair fare for inaugural bashes. Thus, on this day, change has come not only to America but to hip-hop. Emo rap—emotive hip-hop of pain and introspection, the antithesis of swagger—is now seemingly as mainstream as Main Street, suitable for serenading a new president, lucrative enough to generate bags full of dead ones. You’ve come a long way, (cry)baby.

Or has it? Maybe it’s the crotchety hip-hop cynic in me. Or maybe it’s witnessing the startling image of a grown man with an Afro-mullet screeching, “You just gon’ keep hatin’ me/We just gon’ be enemies,” at the least appropriate time and place imaginable, while a bunch of kids in prom gear pump their fists and wave their iPhones in compliance. But I’m having a difficult time reconciling myself to the notion that rap is suddenly cool with the art of catching feelings. After all, how likely is it that any rapper would willingly align himself with anything called emo—which, in case you didn’t notice, sounds dangerously like homo (a decided hip-hop no-no).

Granted, rappers could probably stand to tone down the bottle-popping and exhibit some internal unrest given the problems of the world today—from war to economic meltdown. True, the emotional open wound that is Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak is a certified smash at a time when nearly everything else being peddled in hip-hop (particularly the usually reliable thug posturing) is tanking quicker than shares of Circuit City. Sure, there are a couple of new talents (Kid Cudi, Charles Hamilton) noted for their emotive tendencies. And, yes, enough rappers have come out as devotees of Coldplay’s Chris Martin (not emo by the rock definition, but plenty musically precious) to send Gwyneth into a fit of nervous chain-smoking. But does any of this actually signal a new trend in rap toward vulnerability? The issues and arguments deserve some scrutinizing. -Chairman Mao

For more of the Emo Trippin’ article make sure to pick up XXL’s April issue on newsstands now.

  • Devon

    I am so sick of this dude why Kan gay west why sombody explain is this a faze or what is this nigga comin out the closet give some kind of clue

    • http://www.myspace.com/maxprofit Max Profit

      It’s all money. It’s clear people are a little tired of all this Maybach music. So some cats is tryin to go the other way for a fast buck.
      But if it’s not real then you end up lookin like a HOMO. I like most of the new shit that comes out (Cam’s joint “I hate my job”)
      (Drake’s joint “Successful”).

      But it is a fine line between being open and being corny!!!!

  • godMCme

    hate hate hate and more hate is a wanna be g unot killa . fuck that wackass bitch

    • Hate Hate and more Hate

      ^^^ another example of a homotional ass nigga . . .talk about irony! And eat breakfast first, before jumping on my dick early in the morning.

    • Screwmatic

      Where is G-Unot Killa, anyway? I ain’t seen him here for a while now.

  • antogen

    KID CUDI WAS THE ORIGINATOR!!!!

    KANYE STOLE HIS SWAG

    • Cinsere

      co-sign

  • www

    I can’t wait to Kanye falls off!

  • http://www.robbin.com fsvsfv

    I can’t wait to Kanye falls off!

  • NAWLEDGE

    “Emo” is garbage as fuck and I really hope that Hiphop doesnt follow that path. Seriously…

  • yoprince

    chairman mao?? what kinda name is that?

    any type of rap is cool as long as its good music.. and not a bad impersonation of someone else.

    with that said, i was hating on charles hamilton, b/c he appears to be a cornball, and he says wack shit in interviews and blogs, but i just heard that brooklyn girls track and it’s tough.. so i’ll give him a chance now.

  • Chris S

    first off, 808s is a CLASSIC album; as in one of the greatest albums ever.

    secondly, i just think its a person’s style of rapping. Atmosphere and Brother Ali are considered emo rap and i think they are both really good

    • Vladimir

      Hey Ye, while you’re on here, can you explain the lesbi that you’ve been chillin with? whats the story dude?

    • veaukab

      808s is NOT a Classic. Do your homework. That shit wouldn’t/couldn’t crack the top 200 rap albums of all time. It’s not even the best album of last year…It’s not even really hip hop – it’s some bent genre pop shit. Take some time to figure out what the real art form is about.

      • Chris S

        its not a rap album. its “Pop Art”. and give it 10 years, it’ll be a classic

    • 619

      I think Kanye fucked with Erykah Badu also.

  • Jon Dog

    Hey, I’m all for change in Hip Hop, lord knows we need that shit!!! We need a change frome faggy cry babies like Kanye. This dude belongs in the pop/rock section of the record store. If hip hop follows this little bitch, then we can all thank Kanye West for officialy killing the music we all love. FUCK YOU KANYE!! What happened to you anyway??? Hip Hop heads usto like you dude. In the words of the Late n Great Bernie Mac “WAKE UP MR. WEST”

  • http://xxl ryan

    give a cocky dude sum fame n u get kanye west. wats wrong with being humble n writing hip hop songs. actin lik a woman everytime u get piss is not right. n dis dude look homeless in that picture. he got millions but he cant look like it.

    • http://xxlmag.com the brown

      Yo! fuck you ryan “he got millions but he can’t look like it.”? Being “humble” IS not looking like you got a million if you do-dumbass. Also, This shouldn’t be so shocking, Ye’s always been this way; bitchin’ and cocky and shit. This is just his evolution. Besides, Hip-hop was founded on being emotional; mad, fed-up, but not actin like a dumb fuck or a thug. Education and literacy, unlike half of you type-o ass mo fo’s.

      • http://xxlmag.com The General’

        I don’t know why these dumb f**ks’ HATE on Ye’ so much. ((Ya’ll wanna’ call this man GAY????))<—-I ain’t seen him kiss no man in the MOUTH. {see Wayne’n'Baby}
        NOTE: What does this sound like 2 u?
        Weezy F****n’ Baby,………………
        EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • maze mayhim aka ya mama’s bf

    Joe Budden is da kaing of emo rap. Any hip hop head knows this. Want proof? Listen to Mood Muzik 2 & 3. Both of them came out prior to 808s & Heartbreaks. I ain’t gon lie: if I woulda been @ that function when Kanye broke out into “Heartless”, I woulda called him about 50 funboy faggots & made a demand to cut dat emo s#!t out until security woulda been force to “escort” me out da building. Now to get back to finding my future she-devil on myspace.

  • Avenger XL

    First off just like the whole Hipster buzz the idea of EMo rap is just another bullshit subgenre name cooked up by magazines to give them something to talk about. There have always been rappers who discussed heartbreak and personal issues that does not make them emo that makes you human, unlike the mainstream robots who are programmed to simply eat,fuck,fight,consume and get money. Hip-hop has so much power but the very media that covers it limits it to one dimensional ideas. Kanye isn’t even the first artist to do a break up album, How about Atomospheres album Lucy Ford. Kanye is just the closest thing the mainstream comes to substance of any kind in hip-hop right now so any time he borrows something from the existing underground and makes it the new cool thing these D-bag mags jump on it like the next big thing or he created a new genre. So Kanye and many of the so called hipsters a rocking the fashions of emo music the ultra tight pants and the clashing gear ala Punk rock but hiphop does that every so often it is what keeps it fresh and interesting. Just support what you like and let these fads pass.

    • yoprince

      ^^thats real

      • El Tico Loco

        Well this wouldn’t be the first time Kanye took something from underground heads and tried to pass it off as his own trend. Remember when he said he made Polo gear hot? Lo Life’s were all over that and called him out on it, after that he had to switch to Louis V haven’t seen him in Polo since. Bow ties? Big boi. Shags? Tum Tum (lol). Tight pants? apple bottom commercials (hope not) Pharrell. Lets not mention swagger jackin RZA with the sped up samples he’s just a dickridin faggot and loves the attention.

  • B- Dub

    Let’s be real here people. it’s called a phase; not like white folks said rap would be a phase, but like ur kid having an invisible friend phase. This too shall pass. Introspection is in all music, if u hatin on that, then indirectly (and ignorantly) u hatin’ on urself. Oh and U imbisil’s up there Ha!! Kanye Isn’t fallin off anytime soon. Stop Hatin’

  • http://XXlmag.com Mikeezy

    That “Homeless” Right there is a Music Legend, Kanyes original he creates his own look and swag.

  • http://www.myspace.com/chronikill ROX ONE

    “How about Atomospheres album Lucy Ford”

    at least someone mentioned that ‘emo’ rap isn’t some sort of new trend…

    this is an incomplete, incoherent article written by someone who doesn’t know what they are writing about and does a poor job of articulating their poorly researched ideas.

  • http://lockedvolt.com jvoltz

    GYM CLASS HEROES STARTED THAT SHIT… EMO RAPPER WAS GIVEN THE TITLE IN 2004 TO TRAVIS MCCOY.. LISTEN TO THE PAPERCUT CHRONICLES

  • murK

    emotional rap>>fake gangster rap

    it doesn’t matter…stop bitching.if you don’t like it don’t listen to it. you can choose what you wanna hear.

  • wisconsin

    People PLEASE dont get it confused…. real midwest rap is not represented by KANGAY West. what the hell is emo rap? Kanye is a little bitch and has been dumped by one too many girls because he gets attached like a 5th grader! He runs off emotions, something real dudes dont do! Kid Kumi eats ‘dick day and night’

    I beat emo kids asses for FUN!

  • Realpolitique

    Vulnerability shouldn’t be stigmatized in rap, it should be embraced. Look at “Illmatic,” or “College Dropout.” Both of which show the self-consciousness, the self-doubt, and other vulnerabilities, and both are classics. Anytime an MC is man enough to admit he isn’t ghetto superman makes for great music.

    However, I do see the argument about of a whole album of lamentations being tedious, although it happens all the time in rock music.

  • Part 2wo

    myspace.com/horatiopleas

  • Part 2wo

    myspace.com/horatiopleas
    ADD ME AS A FRIEND

  • Devon

    Yall niggas know Y Kan Gay Lookn like that bcause he scared Im gettn ready to bust a nut on his Shag / mullet Bitch ass nigga

  • mannyd

    808′s is not hip-hop. That joint is emo all right, but not hip-hop. Damn I miss the old Kanye. Hes a lost soul. Does anybody remember “Through the wire?” What the fuck is with the Afro-mullet my nig? That shit is should be illegal. WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED KANYE !!???

    • KLETEWOOD

      Co-fucking sign & Co-sign to his Afro-Mullet (should be illegal) comment.

  • Edwin weddle

    Say want yall want but Kanye has the right to be a lil “emo” or whatever the hell it is, he lost his mom, tragicaly. Plus he made this album in 3 weeks! This is the best music i heard all year and last year besides carter 3. nOW I Dont know WHAT TH FUCK HE BE WEARING THESE DAYS, BUT THE BROTHER IS THE BEST OF OUR TIME. kANYE IS HIP HOP , BUT HE IS MORE THAN A RAPPER.

  • DUKE

    AS I SAID BEFORE THIS NI99A GOT A FUCKING GHERI CURL MULLET AND THAT SHIT IS WACK!! IT’S NI99A’S LIKE HIM THAT’S FUCKING UP HIP HOP. KANYE YOU NEED TO GET OFF THEM FUCKING DRUGS CUZ DAMN A MULLET NI99A? A MULLET? WACKNESS ALL THE WAY!!

  • $ykotic

    Dude getting his “Off The Wall” on!!!!!

    Look just like Mike in that “Rock With You” video!

  • DJalaska

    If emo rock has the one eye covering hair swoop…does this mean emo rap has the afro-shag? I can’t wait until rappers start cutting their wrist and wearing eyeliner.

  • jvthamonsta

    i don’t understand why “emo” rap has to associated with being soft. All you niggas have cried, have sombody pass away, broke up with your main squeeze, lose your job, or just have something horrible happen to you. What’s being a bitch to me is not admitting that we all go through emotional shit. So what if Kid Cudi, or Kanye are on some different shit. right now there shit is more real than Officer Ross’s, or a million other rappers talking about shit that doesn’t really happen to them or anybody they know.

  • Prince Caesar

    I agree totally with Avenger. Dude, said everything for me. I can dig it.

  • blakesymphony

    i can understand not gettin into his music, but can u blame him for trying? like seriously, he is actually being an ARTIST and not a dumb nigga wit a mic…name one better artist in urban music?

    dont worry I’ll wait.

  • nellz

    this article is retarded
    joe budden is the biggest emo rapper

  • Rae Tha Great

    Whether people like it or not or is ready for “EMO RAP” oh well I followed suit and joined the band wagon music come from the heart thats why it has these emetions in them and why people can relate to them. A door opened I don’t know who opened it but artist such as KiD CuDi, Asher Roth, Big Sean, Drake, The Cool Kids, Charles Hamilton, Wale, Mickey Factz I could go on and also me (RAE and my dude L.O.V.) have been brought into this new genre hip-hop didn’t die it evidentally evovled and changed. Argue with me more on raethagreat.blogspot.com PEACE

  • rilla

    err… his last two albums were total dogshit – he HAS fell off.

  • ATI

    Kanye isn’t emo rap, his new shit is R&B

    Joe Buddens on the other hand…

    • Styalz

      Lol @ those saying Joey is the emo-rapper and the guy who said GCHs as well (lets not forget GCH is a band, not a rap group and if that also is the case, what about Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park who raps?). Granted Kanye lost his mother gives him the right, as well anyone who lost someone the right to feel bad but if you’re really gonna say it’s okay for Kanye to go his way, niggas who had shit on Ja Rule for singin on tracks (as well as Mase, don’t forget that too) and then how another niggas started doin the same shit get respect? That smells like somethin foul if you ask me. Also, Joey isn’t exactly mainstream, but seeing as Kanye is, that’s why it makes a bigger impact so you can’t start comparing the two. Maybe if both were mainstream then shit, go right the fuck ahead. All I’m sayin is if Kanye wants to do this, he also should be puttin out songs just like from his previous albums. Ain’t much we can say anyway as we see how hiphop is waaaaaay different from how it was back then. Just gonna do what other people say, if I don’t like it, I won’t listen.

  • amar

    hahahaha nicely written blog!

  • Clever

    Seem like all he wants is attention, no damn way , I’mma parade around with a Super Shag or Mullet, and Tite Jeans, and all them colors, ( which alot are female colors, das real Homo), to get some attention, what grown Man does that? then proclaims I’m just being me! don’t hate you for being you!? Seem like since his mother past, he’s been coming out da closet. Stop trying to act like your not Gay, if you Gay nica, you Gay. Who cares? Only thing your fans hate is when you lie about it. Ye! for da record you do suck, big time, and you are Gay. Not because you don’t do Gangsta music, or do The same ol’ Thug music thing, we hear alot these days. Its your whole appearance, your whole attitude, shit anybody can hear it in your voice. But hey thats your business. Just don’t get caught in a lie, leave it at No comment. Oops! that might look to suspect. Hmmmmmm…..just say fuck ya’ll and have a nice day. yeah dat ah work, I guess. I guess homo’s gotta voice too. damn shame.

  • osharp

    yo mr. mao would you call tupac an emo rapper? how bout dmx? even ll, he expressed some real emotions on all those love ballads. lemme cut to the chase you or whom ever have made up another category that is doing nothing to elevate hip-hop. lets all spend more time promoting what we like about hip-hop rather than all we don’t like right now and lets see where that gets us. as much as i don’t like a bad rap song all the hate comes behind it is not any better.

  • dwi

    kanye loves the cock!

  • zayzkidd

    Kanye, chill with all that shit lil daddy, I know shit’s been different for you, but you gotta understand that you might be losing everything that you worked so hard to get. CHILL WITH THAT HOE SHIT!!!

  • twoholla

    Emo Rap isn’t a new thing just because someone that is ultra popular like Kanye that is doing something that approximates what could be labeled by a critic as “emo rap”…if more people focused on the ‘underground’ & following the beat of their own drummer…then more hip hop heads, who claim to ‘underground’ & in the know… would generally know that groups like ATMOSPHERE, EARLY ANTICON STUFF, & EARLY SAGE FRANCIS RECORDS GOT THAT “EMO RAP” CRITIC LABEL SOME YEARS AGO IN THE LATE 90′S/2000

  • Macdatruest

    Kanye aint worried about yall niggas. None of yall prolly even bought the album-I would hope not if he gay and you hate him and hope he fall off-but yet he still went platinum. So it really boil down to free choice, and to me acting like every body gotta like this same rapper is being a bitch-grow up it’s music!

    The thing about Kanye is he is an artist. A true artist creates their own vision, and then hopes the public accepts it. Rappers nowadays tryna come up with “formulas” to appeal to an audience, they have no personal creative vision of their own. That’s why you see songs with Jim Jones and Birdman. Niggas hated Andre 3000 when he did “Hey Ya” but he didn’t give a fuck, he ran wit it. And everybody who liked it jammed it and whoever didn’t obviously didn’t.

    That shit trying to “categorize” anything outside the box is some corporate slave shit. Magazines say “crack rap” is a hip hop category, niggas believe it.Like “crunk” music. Everybody know what these fake ass magazine called “crunk” started in Memphis as Buckin’. Lil’ Jon come out, call himself the king of crunk, Cause being Crunk just mean hype. Then magazines say hey this is called “crunk” music. Which enables them to also say “crunk is dead” kanye is “emo rap” now so I’m guessing an article questioning the “newly dubbed” category is already in the works.Hey- Let’s question all rap that’s not about negativity, violence and stereotypical club jargon!!!

  • henri333

    yall foolish.

    kanye aint the first to do this type of shit.

    if you don’t like a song then DON’T LISTEN TO IT.

    whatever the fuck you say aint gon change one gotdamn thing so stop hatin (cos THAT is a weak emotion)

  • Boogie The Don

    Its just me, I cruise thru in the S.E./ On the top, got the rack, but its no jet ski/ Just a big suitcase, cause a dead body stink/ I’m hoping you don’t notice or look past with a wink/ homey that got murdered, deserved it, he wasn’t worth it/ was to big of a risk, flashin’ on purpose/ so sit back and smoke this Hershey/ vision blurry/ Don’t worry/ I can see you in a hurry/ I’m top shit like cockpits my knots thick/ They can fuck wit what I accomplished or my accomplice/ Cause Stone so cold he gotta flock on some dock shit/ That’s marina/ These hoes screaming when I get between ‘em/ They can’t see us, jealous cause they wanna be us/ Ya need to reup/ maybe holla at we-up(103.1FM)/ Cause contrary to what you think, my nigga we up/ We us, and that’s streets up/ you can’t be us/ Got Papi on speed dial, just to feed us/ we eat-un/ swear I been rockin’ since fetus/ ask Jesus/ Then holla at as when you need us/

    Emo these.

    -Boog