Punk is a Phoenix

Staff Writer: Ian Clark

Rock (along with most of its sub-genres) is dead, technically speaking. What some might refer to as the most “American” genre of music, is declining in popularity more and more by the year. Even with bands like Greta Van Fleet bringing back the sound of classic rock, reminiscent of the sound of Led Zeppelin, or with Turnstile reviving the sound of hardcore; modern hip-hop/rap is dominating the charts, and it’s been like that for a while.

It’s impossible to say if rock can revive itself any time soon due to the aforementioned bands only recreating the qualities that made rock great for the generations that came prior to them, rather than creating a new sound and progressing the genre forward into a fresh space.

The Ramones

The Ramones’ (a big influence on the future of the punk scene) playing their 1976 Independence Day Concert, wearing one of the signature “punk looks”. Photo Courtesy of Mashable.com. Photographed by Gus Stewart.]

Punk in the 70s was something new. It was grimy and dark: it was a tangible collage of everything that rebellion stood for, and everything in-between. It was a scene of D.I.Y. audio anarchy, and just like the modern superstars of rap, they were the inverse of everything that their genre’s forefathers had expected for the future. Their music was threatening to authority, imposing hypothetical rebellion, anarchy, and overall chaos to the people in power.


Photo of anonymous punk teenagers used as inspiration for Art Dealer. Photo courtesy of @_artdealer_ on Instagram

Skillfully, most artists were amateur at best, but they played that to their advantage, using their raw and uncut sound to enhance the feeling of disarray and mayhem. With rap stars today, the theme continues: degrading those in authority is one of the corner stones of the most prevalent topics, in the most straight-forward, no-frills way.

However, there’s way more to it than that. New rappers are doing something that’s rare; they’re forging a new generation of rock stars. The culture surrounding it (the extravagant dyed hair and purposely tattered clothing) sometimes needs explaining, but the music speaks for itself. It’s senseless and answers any questions a new listener might have, which is usually, “Why?”: “Why do they put so little effort into their endeavors? Why is this so popular?” and “Why do I like this?”

A perfect example of the mindless scene that is “mumble rap” is a well-developed, 22-year-old artist, Playboi Carti. “I feel like right now, me and who I surround myself with and how we just compare our similarities to back then…We [Lil Uzi Vert and I] are so against listening to the rules but it’s not harming anyone anymore…but we are ourselves, we’re just modern-day rock stars.” he tells Dazed.


Playboi Carti sporting a diamond-covered anarchy emblem, a famed symbol popularized by the punk rock movement in the 70s. Photo courtesy of Dazed.com, Photographed by Tom Keelan.

This peace of mind is especially powerful because with so many conservative rap fans critiquing rappers for their style of music, the way the dress, and the way they live: traditional aficionados are out of touch with the cultural influence of other genres, while rappers like Carti are minding their business: being themselves.

The frustration roots itself in the fact that new artists aren’t picking up where their predecessors left off. Erick Clark, as someone who grew up in the developing age of rap, and is witnessing new changes, had this to say: “Older generations seem to hold a consensus that the present-day generation has ruined rap, as though there has ever been a standard…Change is inevitable, no one can hold expression to a standard.”

The generation that was born in the 90s and early 2000s are making their own musical atmosphere, getting more inspiration from the ways of 70s/80s punk and metal/hardcore artists from the 90s, rather than other rappers. Young people have a strong opinion on the topic as well.

According to Tiani Johnson, a Woodstock High School senior who happens to be a lover of both alternative and new-wave rap music says, “Rappers breaking pre-determined stereotypes is important because there’s been a shift in music in the past decade and people just listen to different [stuff]. We’re not all listening to 2Pac, even though that’s still a classic…Everyone breaking the stereotype [of traditional rap] has led to a lot of different, new, original sounds coming out of the music industry.”

Carti’s punk influence can be represented via the Instagram of his graphic designer, who goes by Art Dealer. A quick scroll through this social media page reveals the designer’s inspiration for his art direction, which is often heavily adopted by Carti and loosely by his rapper colleagues such as Young Nudy, A$AP Rocky and Chief Keef. Among the pictures are sprinkled collages of people with vibrant, spiked hair, beat and tattered clothing, and dull metal jewelry. But what seems to stand out the most is a repeating phrase: “Die Punk.”

Lil Uzi Vert seems to have the same sort of outlook on his position in the world as an artist. In an interview with FADER for his cover story, he says “I really realize, the world is bigger than [the people] that’s around you, the world is bigger than that neighborhood…Y’all keep doing the same thing, your whole lifestyle…It becomes a cycle. If it becomes a cycle, what are you learning now? Nothing.” He understands that when someone adheres themselves to a certain image, the way that traditional rappers do, those habits and lifestyles becomes expected of the people that share small similarities (i.e. genre) with them, creating unfair judgement.


Lil Uzi Vert at one of his concerts watching over his crowd. Photo courtesy of Billboard.com Photographed by Joseph Okpako.

At the end of the day, music is music: nothing more, nothing less. It’s a feeling, a look, a world of its own. If the energy of a genre is around, it can’t die. Rock isn’t dead, rap isn’t dead, and punk is almost undeniably, not dead. It’s alive and thriving, in the hands of a new generation, with the power of 808s replacing Fender guitars. The best option is to let it thrive. Freedom has no rules. As John Lydon of the Sex Pistols once said, “For people like me, there is no order.”

Sex Pistols

The notorious Sex Pistols, a major inspiration to new artists, at one of their concerts, performing for a crowd of rowdy fans. Photo courtesy of Examinerlive.co.uk. Photographed by Alex Sokol.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: