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These Kids Don’t Know About Nirvana — Rock’s Influence on Hip-Hop

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When you look at the rappers of the new age, including the likes of Lil Uzi Vert (especially), Playboi Carti, XXXtentacion, Travis Scott and a few more, you can see there are noticeable differences in their rap style versus some older types of rap. The word noticeable should not be taken lightly. Everything from their music style, their clothing and even their concerts would give previous-era rappers (or old-heads as they’re called) a culture shock.

What is most interesting about this new wave of rappers is how much success they’ve gained by using the influence of rock music and also how aspects of rock culture have made their way into the new wave’s hands. Youth who listen to and want to potentially be like this new wave of rappers have started to dress and act like their role models. These youth now think those rappers created the style, when they really adapted ideas from punk rock culture of the mid to late 1990s and use it to their advantage.

What’s also interesting is that the listeners are unaware of rock culture’s influence. I’m not saying this is the rapper’s fault entirely, but some steps should be put in place so their fans can be educated on rock’s influence on today’s hip-hop culture. With this new generation of rap artists, everything they do becomes bigger than it really is due to the media sensationalizing what they wear and how they behave in general.

I swear to God, I get tired of walking down the hallways of my high school to people wearing band shirts of bands they know nothing about. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for wearing band shirts, but at least educate yourself about who you’re wearing. This has gotten so out of hand that whenever I see someone with a shirt with a familiar band on it, I question them. I remember when a guy I went to class with had a jacket with a Ramones (a popular punk rock band which started in the 1970s. You’ve probably heard their song “Blitzkrieg Bop,” otherwise known as “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!”) logo on the back. Since I listened to the band, I walked up to him and asked if he did, too. He responded no, and I was slightly taken aback. I asked him why he was wearing the jacket if he didn’t know and didn’t listen to the band. He looked at me and responded, “ ‘Cause it’s fye.” This was almost too much for me to handle, and his answer left me confused. What’s the point of repping something that you’re not with or want to be a part of? Do you see Michael Jordan wearing Adidas clothing?

A new age hip-hop artist and fashion guru, Playboi Carti commented on a topic similar to this for a fashion article for Vogue: “When I see cool [vintage] shirts, I make sure I listen to the band before I put them on because they can have a dope logo, but the music is something else.” Carti makes an excellent point here. There’s always going to be a cool story behind every cool logo, but the music is the reason the logo is there. So, instead of being bland and not wanting to branch out, take the chance. You might find something you like while doing it.

I also want to point out the fact that the way these new rappers act on stage is the exact same as rockers in the 20th century. Stage dives from rappers such as Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, and XXXtentacion have been blowing up on social media…

…but this “movement” did not just recently start. Bands such as The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Nirvana, Guns n Roses and many others had all been stage diving since these rappers were in diapers.

Spoiler alert!!! Lil Uzi Vert did not create the crowd-surf or the high stage dive.

Mosh-pitting has been rejuvenated in the rap world, a practice first introduced at rock concerts. Moshing’s true definition is “to dance to rock music in a violent manner involving jumping up and down and deliberately colliding with other dancers.”

Moshing has making comeback rapidly at hip-hop concerts, usually starting after a powerful bass drop. Now, there is no doubt this gets the crowd pumped and adds a new level of “lit-ness” to the concert, but it does come from the style of the different types of rock music. Without a full acknowledgement, it feels like rappers are taking the style more than they’re paying homage to its rock roots.

Now, don’t get it twisted: There’s nothing wrong with participating in acts like moshing or wearing clothes similar to what rock icons wore. These movements are very fun to participate in and to be a part of, and the rock star style is definitely slept-on. What is important is knowing where these acts came from originally.

Heritage is an important part of people’s culture, and the same could be said about rock culture. Fans should be provided with proper understanding of the origins of rock music as well as the influence and powerful impact that it has on the the rap industry right now. This impact has been shown previously and even now throughout different works of art. In 2010, Lil Wayne dropped his hip-hop/rock album, “Rebirth” in which the very first track, “American Star” (ft. Shanell), started off with heavy guitar playing.  In Playboi Carti’s song “Woke Up Like This,” new age rapper Lil Uzi Vert is heard ad-libbing, where he calls himself a rock star.


Rockers weren’t known for having the most masculine appearance, as seen from the styles of rock icons such as Axl Rose, Freddie Mercury and even Kurt Cobain. Uzi and other rappers and artists who have been getting heat for what they wear, such as Young Thug and Jaden Smith, inadvertently take styles that sort of mimic the fashion sense of the rock star of the 1900s.

Music is no doubt getting more diverse, and because of this, there’s going to be an influx of different styles and flows being spread. There is no problem with this at all. As a diverse music listener, I welcome the idea of people trying to branch out into different musical genres. However, I can not stress enough the importance of addressing each genre’s history and its effect on music history as a whole.

If this is addressed, the transition between finding a different genre that you’d be into would be easier. With the advantages of music streaming, listening has become progressively easier to do. Genre ranges are literally unlimited because of this, so before you put on that Nirvana, Blink-182 or Metallica shirt, make sure you actually give them a listen first. 🙂

Mack, 14, is a rising 10th grader at North Atlanta High who is an avid fan of ’90s rock bands.

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comments (2)

  1. GS-27

    Mack – I like your analysis. The only thing Id change is when you say theyre influenced by rock from the mid-late 1990s, I would change that to early-mid 90s. That was the era of those grunge bands like Nirvana. Late 90s was more like Nu Metal and Post Grunge, like Limp Bizkit and Matchbox 20, which dont seem like significant

  2. Michael

    Y’all was clowning me and other punk rockers for wearing skinny jeans and studded jackets before, but now y’all wanna bite our style.. that’s comedy.