SWAG! SWAG! SWAG! Unless you’ve been at war in Libya or cooped up in prison, no doubt you’ve been seeing the S word dribbled out all over the blogosphere. The term, joining fellow memes – chillwave, witch house and no-fi – will no doubt disappear as quick as you can say “swag the fuck out” but for now it’s being associated with a whole new brand of hip-hop, or rather, swag-hop.
Tyler, The Creator
For the past few years, hip-hop has grown stagnant, full of auto-tuned verses, Timbaland-produced hooks and uninspired bars about licking lollipops. With the only main contributor Lil Wayne in prison the genre started to see a freefall towards an almost impending death.
However, artists like Kid Cudi offered something to slow down the fall, with the foundation of his insightful, thoughtful raps paving the way for newer swag-hop artists like Childish Gambino. Grouping together a small minority of acts, swag hop represents the anti-establishment of American rap.
Gracing this week’s NME cover is Tyler, The Creator, figurehead of skateboarding, Tourette’s-afflicted hip-hop kids Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All! Not heard of them? You’re missing out. These guys are a movement, often compared to Wu-Tang Clan. The collective, hailing from California, are fronting the new swag scene with full-frontal raps on everything from absent fathers to butt rape.
Sure, the majority of stuff that comes out of frontman Tyler, The Creator’s mouth is dark, but it definitely won’t be forgotten. See, in the same way that a chainsaw toting Eminem polarised a nation with ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’, Tyler is doing the same thing with the youth of 2011, by giving them something to believe in. The group’s swagged out rhythms have united teenagers in a way not seen since The Libertines/Strokes frenzy of the early 21st century, combined with the excitement and destructiveness of The Sex Pistols infatuation in the 70s.
If you’ve seen that Jimmy Fallon performance, you’ll know that the group get loose in live shows, offering an immersive experience, and further demolishing crowd/artist barriers through frequent stage dives and costumes.
Since their first upload back in 2008, OFWGKTA have dropped an impressive total of at least 10 full lengths. With several more expected in the coming months, including the hyped-up ‘Goblin’, Odd Future are taking over. A number of artists have also jumped on for the ride.
Brilliantly warped, post Lil Wayne rapper Lil B has a recorded music collection to rival that of Tyler’s gang. Since May 2010 the Berkeley based emcee has reportedly recorded 1,500 tracks, which can be found over his 155 MySpace pages.
Starting out, at the age of 16 in rap group ‘The Pack’, Lil B has since become an internet mogul. He’s amassed almost 200,000 followers on Twitter and written a book, the aptly titled Takin’ Over. His track ‘Wonton Soup’ features the swag phrase literally every bar.
The self-proclaimed ‘based god’ is friends with Odd Future’s Tyler too, sneaking him back into Coachella for an impromptu live performance before announcing the title of his next EP, ‘I’m Gay’.
Mentioned earlier, Childish Gambino is another guy fresh out of California, who’s getting ready to join the new swag-hop elite. Sounding like a screwed up mix between Kid Cudi and Tyler, The Creator, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino has a full frontal no-conscience style to his raps. In a flow similar to Lupe Fiasco, you can literally hear the guy strive to hit the emotional spot, with every strain and gasp evident.
Like Tyler, Childish Gambino isn’t afraid of laying feelings onto tape. Recent EP ‘Freaks And Geeks’ highlights Gambino’s personal life (“Oh you like me now? Well that’s weird – last year you were chilling with Lil Wayne… Now I wanna fuck with the lights on.”)
Artists like Odd Future, Lil B, Childish Gambino, Mac Miller, Wale and many many more are taking over, promoting a whole new brand of hip-hop. One that isn’t bland, but rather a colorful palette of exuberant artists intent on creating the most exciting movement in years. #swag