The issue with mumble rappers: lyrical geniuses? Not so much
Hip hop has valued itself as a musical genre emphasizing lyrical and delivery abilities. As I see it, a quality rapper can provide a meaningful text of poetry while also transposing said poetry onto a musical platform in an innovative way, consistently. As of late though, ‘mumble rap’, a subgenre of hip hop, has gained popularity, with many crossovers into mainstream pop music, such as Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” or 21 Savage’s “Bank Account”. Mumble rap’s distinct characteristic is its focus on flow, rather than lyrical content. It often values a play on sounds, sensible or not, and aims to be catchy to the listener in its perceived simplicity.
While mumble rap may have a legitimate spot in hip hop, it has definitely become a trendy approach towards hip hop. Most new rappers seem to gravitate towards it. However, I find this genre to be irritating and mostly, boring. In the case of successful mumble rappers, such as Lil Pump or 21 Savage, I find the lyrical depth to be quite lacking, and rather laughable, with shallow approaches to potentially interesting thematics. Art with themes of substances, partying, human interactions and relationships, lust, etc. can still retain an enormous sense of reflective value. That’s why I find it too simple to qualify these tracks as ‘party songs,’ or just lacking the intention of meaning.
In their defense, I would say that these mumble rappers are quite capable musicians and performers. They obviously understand a sophisticated level of vocal delivery, most having no formal training in music and thus relying on their instincts. My issue is solely with the quality of lyricism. Hip hop, in my opinion, can develop in any direction. It has been used for political motivations and for prompting human connections at parties, for example. But, the only element that links all the subgenres of hip hop is not content. It’s the words. Hip hop is a verbal genre of music. While sounds on their own can create beautiful auditory sequences, I still expect to understand the meaning to an art piece, and consequently, to a song. But, a deceivingly repetitive list of onomatopes said on beat doesn’t give me the fulfilment of connecting with an artist, in the way that hip hop is capable of.
That’s where my disappointment lies – I don’t understand hip hop that doesn’t value lyricism as much as flow. Artists generally take pride in their art and deem it as a personal extension of themselves, and particularly consider the connection that art has between people as rewarding. Yet, this carelessness in wording in these mumble rap songs provides very little for a fan to grasp meaning and truly connect with the artist and that’s a shame.