Juice WRLD and the Rise of Emo Rap

On March 8th, rap artist Juice WRLD (who gained popularity from his single Lucid Dreams) dropped his latest album, called Death Race for Love. The album cover is what caught my eye; it’s in the style of an old PlayStation 2 video game, which made me feel a major sense of nostalgia for the older days. I gave it a listen, and I was surprised to find that it started off strong, with catchy hooks and simple instrumentation. And then I realized there were 22 songs on it. Who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to make an album with 22 songs? Not to mention some of the songs are incredibly short, and the average is about 3 minutes, which is nothing to boast about. Needless to say, I got bored around the halfway mark; I couldn’t distinguish one song from another and I couldn’t even tell you the names of them. It got me thinking though; what is the appeal of an album like this? How is it supposed to be listened to? And that brings me to the recent trend of emo rap.

The pioneers of this movement were XXXTentacion and Lil Peep, who have both passed away within the last two years. They were known for simple, melodramatic music, but more importantly for their personalities and presentations. They both gained a large musical following, and their deaths were incredibly tragic. However, rappers like Juice WRLD have carried on what they started. Namely, music that combines the simplicity and lyricism of rap with the themes and ideas of emo culture. Emo culture is a topic in itself entirely, so I won’t try to engage that too much, but basically these rappers appeal to the sadder side of people.

Taking this into consideration, it’s easier to see why Death Race for Love is so long and uninteresting musically: the emphasis is on developing a gloomy, mournful, and emotion heavy atmosphere. It’s something you put on in the background when you’re feeling a little down, or on a rainy day when you’re stuck indoors. It’s consistent and without surprises, which makes it perfect for background music. To me, this is a shame; no music should just be reduced to background music. Music is art and should be appreciated as the center of attention. However, viewing the album in this way helps me better understand its appeal, and actually enjoy it. I can’t say there’s anything inherently wrong with Death Race for Love, or really any other emo rap album that has this appeal. They have a purpose and they achieve it well, even if it’s a bit self-deprecating. In the long run, I don’t think these albums will be classics, they’re just too forgettable. But I do think they’re part of a unique movement, and I’m sure it will only get more interesting in the future.

(Image Credits: Google Images)

Science Fiction For Dummies: Orphan Black

Although I’m not proud of it, I spent almost all day Saturday marathoning season three of Orphan Black, this crazy awesome show that some people have heard of but most people haven’t. But for those of you that don’t know, Orphan Black is a show about clones. Crazy, cool, awesome, kick-butt clones. And I absolutely love it.

My time with Orphan Black started this past summer, when I was studying abroad in England. Although I definitely had zero time for Netflix, and to be honest who wanted to spend time watching Netflix when you could literally explore Oxford, I still explored the offerings that UK Netflix had to offer and was pretty satisfied. And though I wanted to watch all the things, I decided that perhaps starting one show would be good. So when the pubs closed at midnight, I grabbed some food from the awesome food trucks and started a new adventure with Orphan Black.

Needless to say, I was hooked, and burned through both season one and season two pretty quickly, although I ended up stopping around episode 6 of season two because I couldn’t completely ignore my papers, even if I wanted to.

Although I tried to pick it back up once I got back stateside, I never really had time for it, and since I didn’t have it on the convenience of Netflix, I ended up kind of giving up, at least for the time being. Instead, I picked up awesome shows like Jane the Virgin and Quantico on TV right now, and I was satisfied.

But for some reason, last week I decided I wanted to watch Orphan Black, and my roommate chimed in “it’s on Amazon Prime,” which we have on our amazing smart TV in our apartment. So, of course, the order of the day was to finish it as soon as possible. Last night I finished season three and season four thankfully starts next week, and actually at a time when I can watch it live.

As I was watching it, though, I started to wonder what made me like it so much. I do like sci-fi, and I love that the lead is a woman, and it’s definitely a woman-empowerment show, without it necessarily being in your face about it, because Sarah Manning definitely has other things to worry about besides the patriarchy. I love watching the intricacies of Tatiana Maslany’s acting, how freaking amazing she is at portraying all of these completely distinct women. Like seriously, she often has to play one version of a character pretending to be another version, which is honestly mind-blowing from an acting standpoint. Give this woman an Emmy already.

But I also realized that one thing I love about it is that it’s not just sci-fi. It’s almost a whole new genre, realistic sci-fi. I remember when I learned about magical realism and how it essentially blew my mind. That’s what Orphan Black is. It’s sci-fi realism. Although the science, I’ve been told, is pretty far from being accurate, it’s really fascinating how they use the science throughout the show. It grounds the entire plot, making it not “clones from another world,” but real people dealing with this scientific thing. It sometimes gets out of hand, and you are thrown into a world where things happen not as logically as they would in real life, but for the most part, everything seems plausible. Everything crazy that happens on the show happens for a reason.

Science fiction is definitely a strong, diverse genre that often does not get enough credit, being written off by people who don’t like “that Star Trek stuff.” And I’m sure Orphan Black is not the first sci-fi narrative to use science as a way to make something unrealistic seem plausible. But it’s possibly one of the most successful, which is really, really cool, and I hope there’s more like it in the future.

The Classic Mystery Storyline

I don’t know about you, but I love mysteries. Maybe it’s my inner boxcar kid or my desire to be Sherlock Holmes/Nancy Drew, but ever since I was a little kid, reading mystery stories, watching suspenseful films, and using my wild imagination, have always been my favorite pastimes to get that chilling thrill. For me, it started off with the cheesy Scooby-Doo-esque reads you’d pick up in elementary school, with plotlines of kidnappings and killings, leading us through a web of adventures to only find out that there was no kidnapping or killing at all. Then it moved up a notch into horror territory. Off-the-wall, dramatized stories of monsters looking to wreak havoc on the innocent. Now, I’m a faithful crime-tv watcher. It has the same elements found in the mysteries of my previous years, but a toned-down nature that is both heart-wrenching and relatable.

Anyway, as I delved into some great Lifetime movies this weekend, mystery and drama-filled of course, I got to thinking about the classic mystery storyline that has been recycled year in and year out since the beginning of time. There’s always these elements that make a mystery a mystery, and even though we know what will probably happen (granted, there are some plot twists), we can’t stop watching them because they’re so enticing!

What makes up the classic mystery storyline? What are its potions that make it the perfect recipe for suspense and awe? Well, let’s try and figure this out.

Step 1: Make Life Seem as Perfect as Can Be

Do you ever notice that in mystery plots, its almost always a cookie-cutter, all-is-well ambiance to start it off? The main characters are going about their day-to-day activities in blind contentment. Skipping, jogging, cooking, laughing..basically life is great, and they’re about to get a rude awakening and everybody knows it.

Step 2: The “Dun Dun Duuuuun” Moment

It happens. The murder, kidnapping, missing-person, monster, stalker, killer, whoever and whatever it is, occurs. It makes us gasp. It makes our wheels get to turning in our heads. It is the moment whether you decide to commit to this plotline and invest your emotions or drop it and go do something happy with your life.  If it’s a good “dun dun duuuun” moment, you will commit.

Step 3: The Mess and Stress Stage

All the action a.k.a the mess goes down. The adventure of figuring out who did what, why they did it, and what’s going to happen next, becomes the main objective. And, of course, there’s tons of stress amongst the characters, which in turn, stresses the reader/viewer out (me).

Step 4: The Gasp…”I would’ve Gotten Away With It If It Weren’t For You Darn Kids…” Stage

We finally come to put all of the pieces of the mystery together and find out who did it and for what reason. By far the best stage, but if it is not done right, things could go very wrong and all of that hard work could be worthless.

Every mystery follows this pattern. Some worse and some better than others. Although, I love a good mystery with this classic storyline, I can’t help but desire a little change and a real shock factor within the genre. The repetition of this storyline sometimes makes the exciting genre…yawn-worthy. I urge those mystery-lovers and creators out there to break out of the box that has been established for so long. Surprise us, shock us, make us scream!



Film vs. movies and Literature vs. Books: End this war!!

The other day, I went home for the weekend and to catch up on sleep and on Saturday night, catch up with my older sister.  We were sitting on her couch contemplating what to do for the rest of the night when suddenly, she got this mischevious look in her eyes that made her look like a third-grader with a secret to tell.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Oh nothing,” she said, like there was definitely something.  “Just…I feel like watching a really girly, really sappy movie.  Would you be up for it?”

“You bet!” I remember saying.  I was relieved that she didn’t tell me she had cancer or something.  But afterwards I thought about the trepidation she must have felt before asking me about what to do for the night.

And it got me thinking, as an avid cinephile and bibliophile, why are some people so ashamed of watching films or reading books that are in a genre?  What’s so bad about chick-flicks and chick-lit that makes normal people scrunch their faces and avoid asking you to watch them?

Does calling a movie a ‘film’ elevate it to some sort of high status?  Does ‘Literature’ confer a sort of sacredness to texts that ‘Thriller’ does not?

As someone who loves serving up some Austen, Tolstoy, Baudrillard, or Borges from time to time, I will also admit that I have read ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ waaay too many times to count.

And I’ve laughed out loud every time.

Gets me every time.
Gets me every time.

That is something that reading Baudrillard has never made me do (except when I’ve laughed at Baudrillard to avoid crying because I have no idea what he is saying).

This man has never made me laugh.
Never gets anyone laughing, but is lauded for dissing Disney World.

I am not saying that one is better than the other.  From time to time, I NEED challenging literature in order to assure me that my liberal arts brain can still function.  But from time to time, I think even the liberal artsy should get down from their marble column and descend into the pages or film clips of the genre book or movie and not be ashamed of it.