Having started out as a smiley YouTuber, Marius Listhrop’s decision to rebrand to screaming emo rapper Scarlxrd in 2017 was quite the career change.
The 24-year-old Wolverhampton lad has claimed his previous work as a YouTube star was “soul-destroying”, and that music now provides an outlet for his raw emotions. But second studio album ‘Infinity’ suggests there isn’t much more to Scarlxrd than the most basic kind of teenage angst.
On ‘Yxu Make Me Sick’, Scarlxrd screams about wanting to puke with all the nuance of a child having a tantrum at their parents because they’re bored. ‘STFU’ touches similar buttons, providing a soundtrack for middle-class teenagers who like to punch a hole through their wall. Everything from the Americanised growl to the stop-and-start flow feels like a cynical impression of XXXTentacion’s raw (and far superior) track ‘Floor 555′“, with Listhrop’s British accent only really evident if you strain to hear it.
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The aesthetic of ‘Infinity could best be described as trap metal, with Scarlxrd’s vocal delivery reminiscent of the shouty, empty brags of artists such as Tekashi 6ix9ine and Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst. Yet Scarlxrd leaves us with no idea who he really is, the frenetic energy of his music in desperate need of more complex, introspective lyricism if he’s ever to have any enduring edge.
Scarlxrd is at his angriest on ‘Head Gxne’, where he pledges: “Fuck n*gga, you don’t want war!” When you’re aware of his career background, it’s hard to work out whether he’s addressing genuine enemies or, like, Zoella. The record is at its best when the production becomes more unpredictable. ‘Nx Advice’ sounds like the music from the sci-fi racing video game Wipeout, demented synths bringing out the very best in Scarlxrd, framing his tirades with genuinely arresting sounds. But inspired moments like this are rare and, more often than not, Scarlxrd sounds like he’s exploiting the aesthetic of emo rap rather than embodying it genuinely.
Emo rappers such as Lil Peep and Juice WRLD work so well because just when there sad boy vibe is threatening to stray into self-parody, they are able to poke fun at themselves or show an innovative sonic playfulness that elevates their music beyond just being a Fall Out Boy or Future redux. Unfortunately, Scarlxrd doesn’t have the same level of self-awareness, and this means that ‘Infinity’ fails to leave a lasting impression.
If Scarlxrd is to truly shake off the idea that this is all just a smart new way of getting trending on YouTube, he’s going to have to work a lot harder as a songwriter.