This fall, rap group Brockhampton took to the road to debut their powerful new album Ginger. The tour was a massive ordeal full of elaborate setpieces, spiritual imagery, and glitzy matching jumpsuits. The tour is sure to be the band’s largest undertaking yet. The most exciting part was Brockhampton’s assembly of tourmates. They brought Slowthai with them — the UK rapper whose grime-punk sound can be best described as just left of the mainstream. But the real head-turner was the inclusion of St. Louis duo 100 gecs.
100 gecs are the most fascinating part of a perplexing yet exciting moment that took root in 2019. Riding the wave of internet meme culture and music listeners’ desires for something new, fresh-on-the-scene talents have taken rap conventions and turned them on their heads. Specifically, these artists take what they want and replace the rest with weird and seemingly random lyrical remarks. Artists like Zack Fox, bbno$ (Baby No Money), and 10k.Caash have thrown caution to the wind and done whatever the heck they want. And they put it on wax for all of us to enjoy.
In many ways, gecs as show openers seemed too good to be true. One half of the group, Dylan Brady, has been in the industry for a while now producing tracks for artists like Vince Staples, Ravenna Golden, and Charli XCX, but 100 gecs as a musical concept seems like it is simply too ridiculous to succeed.
The greatest anomaly out of all these artists is Zack Fox. A standup comedian by trade, he creates bars that possess a laughable absurdity that words cannot do justice. A perfect exemplification of this is his hit collaboration with producer Kenny Beats: “Jesus is the One (I Got Depression)”.The hilarious song features the head rolling line “Imma dip my balls in some thousand island dressing/’cause I got depression.” He also mentions stealing money from a strip club with adhesive coated sneaker bottoms and crashing a car into a white-owned business. Paired with Kenny Beats’ clunky and distorted production style, it is indisputably the dumbest — yet potentially one of the smartest — things you’ve ever heard.
This decade has seen several new waves in rap music as the mainstream shifted from conscious rap, to trap, to emo, and finally to a new, weird grey area. These songs are silly. Neither the artists nor the listeners are expected to take songs like 10k.Caash’s “Goofy Goober” or bbno$’ “Lalala” seriously. The former’s kooky energy and screaming ad-libs hearken back to a less self-important era of hip-hop, and the latter sports an electric fusion of braggadocio and flamenco-style panache.
100 gecs stands out among all of these acts because of their musical diversity. A major part of their weirdness is a conscious decision to outright ignore the status quo that bleeds into everything about their artistry (like the fact that my lowercase typing of their name is correct, capitalization is for normies I guess). To call gecs “rap” is a misrepresentation, and to call them “genre-bending” is cliché. They combine rock solid “maximalist pop” songwriting with trap, nightcore, and occasionally death metal. Someone should come up with an adjective to describe that.
The band lets each little influence and tidbit stand out and be enjoyed on its own without being overshadowed by anything else in the music. These songs are ridiculously catchy, possessing a cool that comes from not caring at all about how others will receive them. Laura Les and Dylan Brady aren’t trying to make meme music (though their memetic potential has certainly aided their success). They’re simply trying to create their own version of good music.
This is where tracks like “money machine” shine. The song starts out with what sounds like a synth-banjo playing a bendy riff as Laura Les apathetically sings “hey little piss baby/you think you’re so fucking cool huh?/you think you’re so fucking tough?/you talk a lot of big game for someone with such a small truck.” You start to ask “what’s a piss baby?” and “why are we talking about trucks?” But the oddball beat comes in with its distorted guitar riff, and all of your doubts melt away.
As amazing as this new propensity for the weird and off-the-wall is, it’s not for everyone. I played 100 gecs for a friend while riding in the car the other day, and his reaction was less than stellar. I played him “745 sticky”, which I thought he was sure to love. “I used to think shitty soundcloud rap was the worst music I’d ever heard,” he said. I chuckled as he continued, “wow…I’ve got some shitty soundcloud music to apologize to.”