It’s 96 degrees outside, I’m sweating all over my face, and I’m multitasking on the highway like a moron.
In one hand, I’m attempting to eat a chicken cheesesteak and in the other I’m using Waze to direct me to Rotation Records Studio in Norristown. Some woman in a black Land Rover just flipped me off because I’m driving too slow. But who cares. Today, I’m going to meet emerging Philly artist Lil Gunky Mane.
Inside the waiting room, it’s dark and sort of underground. There’s a lamp to my right and a peculiar looking drum that, when tapped, changes the color of the lamp. Weird. While waiting for Lil Gunky Mane to come out out of the booth, I probably smacked that thing 100 separate times. Finally — the studio door opened. It was him. He was wearing a pink long-sleeve shirt, ripped charcoal colored jeans, three or four gold chains, white-oval glasses, black vans, and had a conspicuous silver grill under his bottom lip.
This must be the guy, I thought.
Lil Gunky Mane grew up outside of Philadelphia. At 18, he has released three mixtape’s: The Grape Tape, YUNG FUCK, and his most recent work UgliBoi2000. He began garnering significant attention around the Philly area and on SoundCloud after his hit song “Flexin N Stuntin” was featured on the NoJumper Youtube podcast — which has a following of more than 1.5 million people. He is a multi-faceted artist that, like many new-age rappers, can sound like a mix of alternative rock, punk, and hip hop.
In today’s sundry hip hop landscape, his music is demonstrative of the importance in creating tracks that appeal to a wide variety of listeners. On one song he might be ‘spitting bars’ and on another he could be singing and rapping with a light instrumental. Many new artists are employing this tactic; by having versatility, he welcomes atypical listeners into the hip hip/rap genre. Just think about mainstream music today. In the 1990’s, it was grunge: in the early 2000’s, it was mostly pop. In 2018, rap is undoubtedly on top, as data from Nielson showed that hip hop/rap was the most consumed genre of the past year. One major way rap has completely broken into the mainstream is by artists being adaptable.
Lil Gunky Mane is all over the place…and he embraces it.
“If you were to listen to my album right now, I sound different on every single song. I think I’m way different and I’ve never been the same. Like I feel like I haven’t made two of the same songs really. My mom and dad would listen to everyone from like the fuckin’ Rolling Stones, to Kanye West, to Jeezy, to Lynyrd Skynyrd. So I was really exposed to, you know, a wide variety of music growing up, which in turn, really helps me to be able to create such versatile sounding music.”
He is a multi-genre artist who prides himself on getting people in a good mood, providing meaningful lyrics, and being ironic. Lil Gunky Mane is heavily influenced by punk rock and notes that,
“Punk literally took all the energy you could possibly get and put it into a fucking song, all of the, like, teenage angst and all that shit. And I really fuck with that.”
Lame!” is a prime example of his wavy, punk rock infused flow. The instrumental does not really resemble a typical hip hop beat. Regardless, the track goes hard and he furthermore shows his ability to spit verses on alternative beats.
When I asked Lil Gunky Mane to describe himself in three words he said, “punk, ignorant, and melodic.” When he first said ‘ignorant’, I was pretty confused. Why would someone want to be called ignorant? But then I realized that he’s just being honest. He’s a kid after all — same age as me — and he is still attempting to find his voice and distance himself from, what he perceives as, maybe a one-dimensional industry. In the new mumble rap, SoundCloud rap, whatever the hell you want to call it — generation — he intends to appeal to many different audiences and not allow himself to be labeled a rapper, singer, punk artist, or anything. He’s just himself.
“I think people think I’m trying to sound like people and replicate other artists, but I’m really not. I just listen to a beat and how ever I feel that beat needs to be written, it gets written. I’m influenced by others, but like, my shit is independent from that and I’m different from everybody in the fucking game. Just because, I’m like, in this, you know, new rap generation, I’m not the same as the next guy. Neither is anyone.”