During the mid-1970s, small bands and groups of friends who were very much anti-establishment had well and truly had enough of contemporary music expectations. They took on what was known as garage rock, through its raw and aggressive sound and sonic motifs during the 1960s to form what was originally associated as “proto-punk” music due to it being the first of its kind.
Through this, all song structures and archetypes of music that contemporary radio listeners had been used to hearing for so long had been scrapped and instead been replaced with short, snappy, to-the-point and explicit, sometimes politically charged tracks. The word track I'm going to use a lot here because to call punk tracks and what I'll get onto later as 'songs' I think would be a slight exaggeration.
Because that's the point and the thing I found and find so fascinating and exciting about punk music is that it isn't trying to be anything it's not. It plays to its strengths and in a way uses its weaknesses as a strength. You don't need to know how to play any instruments; you don't need to have any vocal chops exactly. All you need is a message and a loud abrasive way of rationalising that. Or simply not rationalising anything at all. The term 'punk rock' was initially coiled by rock critics in America who were not only perplexed by this movement, but also fascinated. It was truly remarkable that something so simple that required such little effort and essentially ability could cultivate such a following as well as being such a bizarre and polarising musical detour for the average listener or even critic.
So when the genre of rap music comes about, surely they couldn't be any more different, right? You think of the old school lead melodies of 1990s hip-hop, the repeated drum patterns that a lot of east-coast artists like Mobb Deep and the guys from Bad Boy Records used to use. Not to mention the fact you would NEVER have heard early wave punk music on the radio, whereas rap during the 1990s was almost inescapable, with radio smashes from guys like 2Pac, LL Cool J, Biggie and Puff Daddy to name a few. However, in the underground scene, there was a whole other wave of rap being made that I'm sure would never have thought would have set the zeitgeist for the modern landscape of music.
The internet is a wonderful thing when it comes to music nowadays. The people are able to dictate what is and what is not popular and the engagement in meme culture and social media that music sharing and streaming has almost go hand-in-hand now. You discover a song you enjoy on the internet. You share it. Your friends listen. Everyone listens. And by the time you know it, it becomes a huge hit. It's amazing because now everyone online is able to have their say as to what is popular. This internet breed of popularity has now become renowned as “The Soundcloud Wave” due to its explosion of popularity over the past couple of years. There's a certain thing a lot of these underground Soundcloud artists have in common though and that's their influences.
Musically, their tracks will vary from anywhere from one to two minutes max, they often get in what they have to say and then the track will usually end, just like punk music used to. The songs will often have very little lyrical content and will focus solely on how loud something is whether that be via a distorted beat or how catchy or repetitive the hook or refrain of the song is so the point gets across, a very style over substance tactic: just like punk music used to. And finally, the appearance of some of these new wave rappers. The brightly coloured dreads, the piercings, the face tattoos and the general absurdity of these guys essentially makes them outcasts and the forefront for listeners who feel the same, just like punk music used to. These kind of artists are quite common placed now due to the 'weirdness' of some of them being accepted far more now due to a mainstream audience being exposed to them as a result of what is being streamed and what is popular online now translating over to a mainstream demographic.
But could it be? Has punk music weaved its way to an entire new genre of artists and listeners who otherwise wouldn't have been able to engage with music or express their frustrations or the need to rebel?
Well, if a 17-year-old can get a U.S. Billboard number #3 song by saying 'Gucci Gang' over and over again, I think this new wave might just be here to stay.