Exploiting our Archives: Lil Xan, Lil Peep, Face Tattoos and Feeling Old
I’m so old that I remember older relatives expressing open-mouthed bewilderment and amusement at the very first rap artists to break through into the mainstream. I vividly remember a cousin cackling at the ridiculousness of the lyrics of “Rapper’s Delight” and the idea that a grown man would call himself Big Bank Hank.
Like all kids, I vowed never to be that lame. I would never become one of those crusty, reactionary fuddy-duddies who look at contemporary youth culture with equal parts disgust and purposeful incomprehension. I would never be one of those dreary scolds who look at youth culture as something that does not need to be understood to be loudly condemned.
It was a vow that was impossible to keep. We all become those people whether we want to or not. It’s part of getting older. We fetishize and romanticize the music and pop culture of our youth and have an innate tendency to see what comes after as inherently inferior and inauthentic.
You even find this instinct in what are traditionally considered music's most sophisticated and informed fans, Juggalos.
I’m a very old forty-one so there are lots of cultural and music movements whose appeal completely escapes me. But nothing has made me feel quite as old, out of touch and old-man cranky as the emergence of Lil Peep, Lil Xan and 6ix9ine.
These are very, very different artists. Lil Peep, who died recently of a Xanax/Fentanyl overdose at 21, seemed like a hell of an interesting guy, an out bisexual whose moody, intimate music expressed his profound depression and chronicled his ultimately losing battle with the prescription pill addiction that would soon take his life. The empathetic, adventurous side of me thought Lil Peep’s music might be worth checking out. The “get off my lawn” side of my personality, on the other hand, found it ridiculous that I would even consider venturing into the world of contemporary music for the sake of a dude named Lil Peep with crazy hair and shitty facial tattoos.
I’m not proud of that fact. What side ultimately won? Well, let’s just say I’m not pumping a lot of Lil Peep in my iPod while I’m following “Weird Al” Yankovic on tour.
Peep seemed like an essentially sensitive and decent human being who was in a lot of pain. The rapper known as 6ix9ine, on the other hand, seems to be a real piece of shit. He’s got all sorts of ugliness in his past, including a sex crime conviction involving an underage girl and the requisite gang connections.
But because 6ix9ine and Lil Peep are the same age and combined crazily colorful hair with astonishingly ugly face tattoos, my dumb old man brain lumps them together in the same category as Lil Xan, a rapper I only learned about when he started beefing with comedian, actor and musician Jon Daly.
The beef escalated quickly and Daly wasted no time recording and releasing a Lil Xan diss track called “I’m Your Dad” where he hijacks the trippy, echoey sound of what I have been led to believe is Soundcloud/emo rap (full disclosure: I don't know anything about either sub-genre) to deliver hilariously incongruous paternalistic advice in the slurry, heavily modulated tones of someone recording their drugged-up nervous breakdown for posterity.
“I’m Your Dad” is as funny as it is mean, and good lord is it ever mean. For me, there’s even something weirdly cathartic about it. I know I’m not the only grown-up who looks at Lil Xan and 6ix9ine and wonders what in the hell is wrong with them, and then feels a shiver of guilt for being so judgmental, but Daly has gleaned comic gold out of that relatable if less than noble impulse.
I should not be like the dour scolds of the past and condemn musicians solely on the basis of how they look. But to be one hundred percent honest, it’s difficult to respect the artistry of people with multiple facial tattoos. So while I’m not going to judge Lil Xan for looking ridiculous to my 41 year old eyes, I’m similarly not going to judge myself too harshly for getting older and possessing a mind that grows less open every year, at least where facial tattoos are concerned. Like Daly, I’m old enough to be Lil Xan’s dad, after all, so it makes sense I would be seeing him through that prism.
I may not be Lil Xan’s dad, but I am a middle-aged dad and that means that pop music isn’t really for me anymore. That's not a complaint, just a statement of fact.
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