A Ten Song Introduction To Emo Rap

Gemma Cockrell counts down her top ten emo rap songs, a subgenre which originated on SoundCloud with artists like the late Lil Peep and Juice WRLD, fusing the guitar instrumentation of pop punk and rock music with the flows of modern hip hop to form unique and revolutionary new sounds.

Star Shopping – Lil Peep

I had to start the list with the pioneer of emo rap himself, Lil Peep. It was so difficult to pick which Lil Peep song to put on this list since he has so many iconic ones, but Star Shopping stands out due to its simplicity. Its heartfelt lyrics and gentle guitar beat capture the best of the emo rap genre, with a DIY feel as he crafted it in the early stages of his career.

Heart – Lil Tracy

You simply can’t have Lil Peep without Lil Tracy. Despite not being on the best terms at the time of Peep’s untimely passing, the pair were pretty much inseparable since they first met, and made many great songs together (including White Tee, which they reportedly started and finished the first time they met). However, I wanted to highlight Heart, a more underrated solo track from Tracy, which has hauntingly beautiful lyrics and deserves more recognition.

whatever it takes – convolk, guardin, 9tails

This collaboration between three of the best emo rap artists will forever be one of my favourite songs from the genre. convolk, guardin and 9tails (who is now known as Sewerperson) come together over a sample of The Man Who Can’t Be Moved by The Script (which also happens to be one of my favourite songs of all time) for another emo rap love affair about being there for someone no matter what.

cortisol – sadeyes

With one of the most beautiful guitar parts I have ever heard in an emo rap song, and perfect harmonies to match, fourth on my list is cortisol by sadeyes. The repetition of the line “A cycle of energy / I know what’s best for me / Slay all my enemies / Hope that they rest in peace” has stuck with me ever since I first heard the song in 2018, and whilst sadeyes has many songs that could have made the list, this one is the standout for me.

5am – familypet

Again, many familypet songs could have made the list (beautiful ghost was a close second) because they are one of my favourite emo rap artists. Their songs have some of the most emotive vocals I have ever heard, and paired with some heart wrenching lyrics, familypet have found a foolproof formula that works for them. 5am reflects on a teenage romance, remembering their desperation to make it last despite being so young.

room to breathe – fats’e

A more slow-paced emo rap tune, with understated vocals that blend slightly into the instrumental, room to breathe speaks about a breakup rather than a blossoming relationship like most of the songs on this list. fats’e looks back at his past relationship, reflecting on his shame when he finally sees all of the red flags that he missed whilst he was with that person.

straight jacket – guccihighwaters

A highlight of his 2021 album joke’s on you, straight jacket is one of guccihighwaters' best songs. The track uses clever wordplay about mental health throughout the lyrics, paired with smooth and atmospheric vocals. Emo rap is known to talk about mental health, but usually it is spoken about in quite an upfront and raw manner, making guccihighwaters’ poetic metaphors unique and refreshing.

hammer – nothing,nowhere.

nothing,nowhere is an artist with many talents, ranging from pop punk bangers to acoustic ballads and more abrasive, fast-paced and hard-hitting emo rap. hammer is a track which fits with the latter of these styles, and it also happens to be the most streamed song in his entire discography. Despite personally preferring his more pop punk leaning tracks, his emo rap songs are still worth a listen as they are some of the best of the genre.

boy, mt. silver (reprise) – Savage Ga$p

boy, mt. silver (reprise) had to make the list, but for different reasons to the other songs. Rather than just being included because it is a good emo rap song, it is actually here because of how well it subverts the genre in its second half, becoming much, much more than just another emo rap tune. The latter section of the track features a huge orchestral instrumental section, something that I haven’t ever heard from an emo rap artist before.

Lucid Dreams – Juice WRLD

Last, but not least, I had to include the late Juice WRLD, another early pioneer of the genre. Despite having overplayed this track a few too many times myself, when I do happen to listen to it, I can still appreciate just how good it is. Another artist who we lost far too soon, this was the first Juice WRLD track I heard, and by far his most well-known tune. I could have picked a more underrated cut, but Lucid Dreams undeniably deserves a place on this list.

Listen to these songs on this playlist:

Gemma Cockrell


Edited by: Gemma Cockrell

Featured image courtesy of Lil Peep via Facebook.