Grammy-nominated rapper/producer boyband establishes healthy boundaries, self-care and emotional awareness on "realtree."

Let's be honest - Soundcloud and Emo Rap doesn't exactly model the healthiest behavior. The genre is practically built around self-harm, substance abuse, and rampant materialism. Emo rappers are more likely to rap about numbing out with pills and cutting themselves than anything remotely resembling introspection or self-accountability. It's enough to make Emo proper seem mature and emotionally intelligent. Which is not the greatest sign.



Living fast and dying young seems almost built-in to the genre, as some of the still young genre's leading lights have already been snuffed out by substance abuse or violence. It makes 90s gangsta rap seem life-affirming by comparison. It's enough to make ya wonder if self-harm is necessary for being a good emo rapper.

It's not. The live fast/die young model of rock stardom is a total lie. There've been tons of musicians who've remained edgy, experimental, boundary-pushing, and talented for decades, well into old age. Heck, Iggy Pop is still alive. So is Keith Richards. Ditto Chuck D and KRS One.

"Realtree" by Los Angeles rapper/producer boyband performs the impressive feat of being emotionally insightful and intelligent and still bangin'. It's built around a low-key boombap beat, forming a trellis over which boyband reminiscences about an unhealthy relationship in his powdered sugar drawl. Dreamy, distant guitars outline the melodies, sounding like Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood jamming with Waka Flocka Flame.

This, in and of itself, is a good example of why you need to pay attention to boyband. He's pulling off a compelling mixture of rap and rock 'n roll, which is frightfully difficult to pull off. Previous misfires like Kid Rock and Run DMC's "Walk This Way" jam with Aerosmith were enough to make us despair if such a hybrid were ever to be truly possible.

"Realtree" may deal with dark, hard subject matter, but it doesn't sound it. It's still an upbeat, laidback banger, perfect for quarantine picnics or whatever else will pass for summer fun during the times of Coronavirus.

We Are: The Guard can't applaud boyband enough. Here's a rapper modeling healthy boundaries and self-awareness without resorting to some sort of "Kumbaya"/"We Are The World" schmalz. "Realtree" bangs, but with self-knowledge.

Pride 2020 Emerging Artists & Favorites

J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.