Disclaimer: This is a post about a genre of music that I’m sure the majority of my readers won’t even know exists, let alone are going to care about. But this is a topic that I’ve been wanting to discuss for the longest time.
I should also warn you that there’s likely going to be quite a few graphic and sexually explicit phrases in here because of the lyrical content of the music being discussed. You might be offended by some of this, so if you’re the kind of person that thinks this sort of stuff will upset you, I strongly recommend skipping this one.
With that all being said… Here. We. Go!
I really enjoy music.
That’s probably not even remotely close to being a surprising or unique statement. I’m sure most of us are big fans of some kind of music. Be it rock, heavy metal, hip hop, dance or even the likes of classical or orchestral, we all like different genres and styles of music. Some of us like a bit of everything, while others choose to listen exclusively to certain kinds of music while staying far away from others.
But I really enjoy a particular kind of music that is almost unanimously agreed to be the “worst” genre in all of music by the general consensus. A genre that was a product of its time and has, with a few minor exceptions, more or less become nonexistent. A genre that dominates the bottom of the ratings charts on websites like RateYourMusic.
The genre of Crunkcore music.
For those who may not know, Crunkcore is a fusion genre that combines both cultural and musical elements from the Crunk, Screamo, Hip Hop, Electronic and Dance genres. Songs that could be considered to fall under Crunkcore often feature heavily distorted, screamed vocals, not unlike those associated with Screamo bands, along with rapping, Hip Hop beats, occasional guitar work and a variety of Electronic elements. Here’s an example so you have a better idea:
The lyrical content of these songs tend to focus on the topics of partying, drinking alcohol, and the oh so taboo topic of sex, and is loaded with whatever pop culture references are relevant at the time of release. Although there are plenty of songs that also stray away from this by attempting to convey positive, uplifting messages related to embracing ones own sense of individuality and uniqueness and never giving up on yourself. It’s cheesy and a little cliche, but it’s effective and uplifting and it captured the hearts of many confused and lost teenagers at the time the genre was relevant, including myself.
As I mentioned above, Crunkcore is widely considered by the general consensus to be the “worst” genre in all of music, with just about every single major release in the genre populating the very bottom of the “All-Time” ratings charts on popular online music databases, such as RateYourMusic. Professional critics have also panned the genre over the years, with incredibly harsh reviews that have gone as far as claiming that the music is as bad as the Nazi regime. I’m not even joking.
But, as I’ve already said, I really enjoy Crunkcore music. I’ve been “getting crunk” since 2008 and my love for the genre has never truly died. I’m not saying it’s the best genre in music in the world, nor is it even my favourite genre (Progressive Rock says “Hello!”). But I do think that the genre is far better than the outsiders and critics would have you believe and that the near universal hatred is completely misguided and unjustified.
I feel completely alone in my opinion here, because most people who still enjoy this genre past their teenage years seem to do so out of ironic enjoyment. Crunkcore is good meme music, and while I can definitely see why and even agree with specific songs and artists falling under the moniker of ironic enjoyment, there’s also plenty songs I just enjoy because I legitimately think they’re good songs. I want to stress that. I don’t like Crunkcore “for the memes”. I enjoy a lot of it unironically.
Now before I get into actually defending Crunkcore, I should probably make it clear that I’m not an expert on music at all. I can’t play an instrument to save my life and I don’t know the first thing about how music is written or composed (and I don’t care to know because it doesn’t interest me). I’m probably the last person who could tell you what “objectively” well written music is because I just listen to what sounds good to my ears and what I find relatable to my own experiences and personal preferences.
I’d also like to make it clear that while I am defending Crunkcore music as a whole, I’m not a fan of everything in the genre and there’s plenty of artists I consider to be unlistenable garbage (lookin’ at you DotDotCurve). Heck, even the artists I do like have albums I think are pretty bad. It’s a pretty hit or miss genre, just like every other genre in music. I’m also completely self-aware of how cringey a lot of stuff related to these bands can be, and I’m in most cases, the bands themselves are too. I honestly don’t really care because it’s funny and I have a sense of humour.
I’ve also listened to every single Crunkcore album ever made to get as clear an opinion on the genre as possible for this post. I’m not even joking. It was quite the experience, to say the least.
So now that you know what Crunkcore actually is and where exactly I stand here, I’d like to start by posing a question:
What is the purpose of music?
Those who criticise Crunkcore music as an art form, seem to all have a similar answer to this question. “Music must have a meaning!” “Music must be deep!” “If music isn’t about nihilistic topics like life being meaningless then it sucks!”
I’m obviously taking jabs at the critics here, but a lot of the criticism of Crunkcore seems to stem from this idea that music must have a deeper purpose beyond simply providing a good time. In their eyes, Crunkcore is just empty, hollow and effortless because it doesn’t have a deeper meaning to any of its music. “All they do is scream and rap about having sex, partying and drinking!” tends to be the main criticism.
I mean, that’s not even true to begin with because there’s plenty of Crunkcore songs that aim to have a meaningful and insightful message, or try to tell a conceptual story, which I’ll provide an example of later on. But let’s humour this anyway and say that this is the case. What’s actually wrong with not having a message to your music?
I can understand if someone prefers music to have something else to it beyond merely being an enjoyable listen. My favourite band of all-time is Coheed and Cambria, a band who write concept albums where the music is focused on telling an intricate, epic and emotional science fiction story across each of them (barring one non-conceptual album which still dives into the personal life of the lead singer and his struggles and successes as an artist). So I understand the appeal of this kind of music a hell of a lot more than you’d expect.
Yet, I also don’t see the problem with music just trying to be fun. The majority of Crunkcore bands just try to make fun and entertaining party music that is there for the sole purpose of having a good time and enjoying yourself. They just want you to dance with them, bounce to the beat and scream your head off at their live shows, much like you’d do with any other band, only on a much more crazy and energetic scale. Yes, music is an art form but that doesn’t necessarily mean that music isn’t allowed to simply be fun and be enjoyable to listen to.
One of my favourite Crunkcore songs is “Da House Party” by BrokeNCYDE. It’s an upbeat, energetic tune about… Well… A house party. That’s it. There’s no deeper meaning. There’s no insightful message. It’s just a fun, upbeat party song that aims to get you bopping your head and bouncing to the beat. Sure, it may not be the kind of music you particularly enjoy, but to criticise it simply for being what it is is ludicrous. It feels like most critics of the genre are content with merely criticising the music for “not being deep” as opposed to breaking down the actual problems that they have with the music itself, which is incredibly shortsighted. Not all music needs to have a point beyond providing entertainment.
Incoming probably NSFW video.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because as I mentioned above, there’s also plenty of songs that actually do have more of a point to them than just being party music. All of their controversial stage antics and alleged inappropriate behaviour aside, the infamous Crunkcore duo Blood on the Dance Floor actually have a ton of songs that aim to deliver a meaningful message or conceptual story to the listener. Their one-hit wonder “Bewitched”, tells the story of a protagonist who’s under the spell of a witch and is madly in love with her. It’s far from the most original idea for a song narrative, but the song delivers the story in a powerful way by having each of the vocalists represent a different side of the protagonists personality. One vocalist represents the part that is madly in love with the witch, while the other represents his true self that is struggling to break free from her spell and become himself again. They even have a female vocalist thrown in as a guest to represent the witch herself. Like I said, it’s far from the most original idea, but you can’t deny the sheer amount of effort taken to present such a narrative that, like or not, does exist within the song.
Incoming cringey as fuck and NSFW music video (even I’m not going to defend those terrible costumes).
And do I even need to mention Family Force 5 who purposefully avoid these kinds of topics in their music because they’re Christians?
So no. They don’t all “just scream and rap about sex, partying and drinking in every song.”
While we’re on that subject, I guess I’ll just dive straight into the next most common criticism of Crunkcore: the often graphic and occasionally borderline “misogynistic” lyrics.
Yeah, there’s plenty of songs with some incredibly graphic lyrics that are bound to be offensive to a lot of people. Examples include the following:
“You got served, you deserve your teeth broke on the curb, all the sluts drive me nuts, that’s why all they get is guts!”
“The violence playing my song, the orchestra of flesh and bone, turn it up it turns me on, it makes me feel like I belong.”
Yet, none of this is any more, possibly even less, offensive than the lyrics you’d find in a lot of mainstream Hip Hop that the majority of people who are prominent members of the critical music community wouldn’t dare to even remotely complain about. Eminem, who’s music I also like, has millions of fans, yet has songs where he calls his mother all kinds of unsavoury things and wishes death upon her, among a host of other deeply offensive and graphic things. What about Death Metal bands like Cannibal Corpse, who’s mere song titles are among the most graphic and offensive things to come out of music? Songs like “Shredded Humans” and “Hammer Smashed Face” are far more unsettling, graphic and misogynistic than anything to come from Crunkcore, yet the critics and listeners don’t bat a freaking eye.
Again, the lyrics definitely aren’t for everyone, and I completely understand if you don’t like them or find them “terrible”. That’s fine, everyone has their preferences. But again, to criticise them for simply being “offensive” is also criticising all music outside of the genre that does the exact same thing. It’s double standards. You can’t pick and choose here. You just can’t say that you’re offended by “Sluts Get Guts” while also saying that “Fucked With a Knife” is totally acceptable when they’re about, more or less, the exact same thing!
Then we get to the music itself, which is often criticised as sounding uninspired and lacking in energy. While this sort of criticism is rather subjective, I do think it’s worth bringing up and tackling as well.
I’m going to use the band BrokeNCYDE as an example here, because they’re the one that is often singled out as being a “low effort” band that lacks passion or enthusiasm when it comes to their music.
Believe it or not, I’ve actually seen BrokeNCYDE live in concert and I can tell you first hand that their live shows are anything but uninspired. They’re full of energy, jumping around the stage, pacing back and forth as they rap and scream, and they always make sure that the crowd is going wild and having a good time. The atmosphere at a BrokeNCYDE show is intense and full of positive, crazy energy, despite the fact that the shows themselves are often performed in very small venues with around 1000 audience members. Yet, that very small crowd always manages to create just as energetic an atmosphere than the one at the Slayer concert I went to that same year that had an audience with over ten times the amount of people all jumping around, running into each other and screaming the songs at the top of their lungs.
And that’s just the live shows, the songs themselves are brimming with energy and enthusiasm.
The aforementioned “Da House Party” is a super upbeat party anthem that’s an absolute blast to play at a crowded party. “Get Crunk” is an intense, screaming filled, good time that is anything but lacking in enthusiasm. “Tipsy” is an incredibly fast paced dance tune that’s perfect to jump up and down to.
Again, the music may not be your thing, but to say it’s lacking in energy is, again, unfair. You may not like what BrokeNCYDE are doing, or the approach they’re taking with their music, and that’s fine. But you can’t deny that they’re full of enthusiasm or claim that they don’t care about what they’re doing, because they are and they most certainly do.
The next criticism I’d like to address is the idea that the majority of Crunkcore artists are lacking in creativity and have no potential to develop as musicians. Let’s tackle this one at a time, starting with creativity.
I can’t say I agree with the idea of Crunkcore bands lacking in creativity. There are an insane amount of creative artists out there in the music world with innovative and wild ideas, but how many of them can be credited for creating an entire genre of music? Again, I’m going to use BrokeNCYDE as an example, because they’re the one that tends to get singled out as being their own unique brand of terrible. Even if you hate BrokeNCYDE and their music, you can’t deny that they had enough creative talent to invent their own genre of music. A genre that had never been done before and that would go on to inspire a whole wave of artists that took the internet by storm. BrokeNCYDE were likely the first band in history to ever attempt combining aggressive screaming and rap vocals with harsh electronic crunk beats. And while this combination was originally frowned upon at the time, it’s now become widely accepted in the form of Death Grips, a band who does the exact same bloody thing (only I’ll boldly say it’s terrible, sue me). Like it or not, for better or worse, BrokeNCYDE were ahead of their time and were, in many ways, doing what Death Grips are doing now before Death Grips even existed, all the while inspiring a plethora of artists at the same time.
And the many artists they inspired all took their own creative approach to things as well. I guess I’ll just break the main artists down:
- Breathe Carolina ditched the rap vocals in favour of the clean vocals you’d find from emo music while also keeping the screaming vocals and throwing in guitars alongside the harsh electronic beats.
- Millionaires ditched the screaming vocals entirely and focused solely on singing and rapping, while also being an all female group that maintained the risque, no-filter kind of attitude you’d expect from Crunkcore.
- Blood on the Dance Floor did the whole shebang, with rap vocals, screaming vocals and clean vocals, while also aiming to focus their musical themes more towards positive topics such as unity and anti-bullying, although many of the typical Crunkcore topics were still present in much of their earlier work.
- Family Force 5 went for a more rock oriented approach, creating what’s often referred to as “Crunk Rock” and cut out all sexually explicit content entirely due to the band members being devout Christians.
- Attila took Metalcore and decided to fuse it together with Crunkcore to create a strange, “party sounding” Metalcore that works surprisingly well.
- Even Hollywood Undead took a unique approach by taking Crunkcore to the streets and adding a ton of Horrorcore and Nu-Metal influences to both their music and their aesthetic. And yes, Hollywood Undead are Crunkcore.
You might not like any of these sounds, but to say they’re lacking in creativity or that they’re not/weren’t trying to break new ground is unfair.
As for the bands not developing or evolving their sound, that’s also a load of nonsense, although it also signifies that Crunkcore itself is dying out and may actually be, unfortunately, a product of its time. I guess I’ll just run through all of the main artists and where they are now:
- Breathe Carolina moved more towards a sound that’s closer to that of more standard EDM and upped the production values significantly, while also cutting out the guitar work and screaming. While I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of this direction, to say they haven’t evolved is… Wrong.
- Hollywood Undead have remained true to much of their Crunkcore roots, but since firing their lead vocalist after their debut album they’ve had a significant change in their sound too. They have a lot more Nu-Metal and Rap Rock elements to their sound nowadays, which is a welcome bonus in my book.
- Blood on the Dance Floor experimented with their sound significantly from album to album, and have quite an unfortunate story attached to it all as well. After a few albums, they started to eliminate the screaming from their music entirely and started adding in a lot of wobbly Dubstep elements and pitch shifting vocals. And after that little experiment they did a whole album focusing on witchcraft and the occult with a much darker, almost Gothic sound, before going back to more of the Dubstep stuff. They even did a full acoustic album which turned out surprisingly well. But then after a huge controversy that I won’t get into here, one of the vocalists departed from the band permanently and the majority of the bands fans stopped supporting them due to it. In a desperate attempt to win back the fans, a female vocalist was added to replace the guy who left and they even went back to their original sound from their early days. Sadly, the guy who left made up 90% of the bands talent, and even I’m not a fan any more. The experiment was fun while it lasted however.
- BrokeNCYDE seem to be the only band that have really chosen to stay committed to the genre throughout their whole career, but even they’ve had a variety of changes over the years. Their third album eliminated screaming entirely outside of a couple of songs and focused a lot more on rapping and singing creating a far more lighter sound. Their fourth album, titled “All Grown Up” had them return to their more familiar sound, but with a heavy focus on presenting more emotional songs highlighting how “broken” the band members are as individuals who have struggled over the years. True to the albums name, this more emotional focus provides a much more mature and “grown up” listening experience, which was a huge positive. And their most recent album, takes a lot of inspiration from Trap Rap music, and combines it with their original Crunkcore sound to create a very unique and fresh record that’s unlike anything else currently out.
None of this is to say that these changes or attempts at evolution are good. That’s entirely up to you and your preferences. But to say they haven’t evolved, despite everything I’ve listed above, would be unfair.
I guess before getting to my final key criticism, I should also address the whole issue people have with how the bands dress and such because I feel that this is actually a large part of the reason why people hate Crunkcore as a whole.
Crunkcore is generally associated with the Scene Kid subculture of the late 2000s, and a lot of music elitists for some reason decided that was a valid criticism of the bands music.
Yeah, they look a bit daft, especially now that the Scene Kid subculture is basically dead forever, but that has nothing to do with the music. At all.
Anyway, I suppose I’ll wrap this up with the final criticism I’ve seen from quite a lot of people, and it’s something I feel I need to address:
The general behaviour and moral character of these groups.
It’s a very common belief that the majority of Crunkcore groups are huge assholes and have no respect for their audience or their fellow musicians. People seem to have this idea that they’re self-important and stuck up narcissists who think they’re better than everyone else.
In truth, as far as I know, this is only really true for one of them. I’m not naming names for various reasons. Look into it.
But as a result of this one band, it seems that everyone else has been lumped in as equally terrible people. When in reality, they’re all pretty great from what I’ve seen and heard. Breathe Carolina are nice guys and have actually become very well respected in the EDM scene both as an artist and a producer for other bands. Hollywood Undead are pretty funny and cool dudes even after some controversy with their former lead singer Deuce (who went on to go work with BrokeNCYDE). Millionaires were on a Reality TV show once, and seemed like pretty down to earth, chill girls. Even BrokeNCYDE, despite all the hate they receive from countless neckbeards online, are a lovely bunch of guys who are very open minded and have openly said on just about every occasion that they just make music for fun and for their fans and have no interest in making money or becoming famous. They don’t even mind the near universal negative reception of their music, and simply respond with “We get why people don’t like it, but we like doing our thing and the fans like it too. That’s all that matters to us. We’ll still welcome you to our shows, even if you hate us.” I’ve even met BrokeNCYDE in person and got their autographs, so I can pretty much vouch for them being cool dudes.
And, you know, after all of this ranting and raving, I’m not even sure how to end this post. I’ve said just about all I can without stepping into full scale review territory.
This isn’t an attempt to change peoples minds about Crunkcore, nor is it me trying to prove the critics wrong. I’m simply offering another perspective on the genre, one that I feel is terribly underrepresented on the internet. I’m not expecting anyone to agree with my perspective and I’m also aware that this isn’t necessarily providing the best arguments.
If you’ve never heard of Crunkcore and are interested and think it may seem like your thing, I’ll go ahead and recommend some albums to get you started:
- I’m Not a Fan But the Kids Like It – BrokeNCYDE (The original Crunkcore album)
- Will Never Die – BrokeNCYDE (More of the above, but a lot less difficult to get into)
- Hello Fascination – Breathe Carolina (Much easier to get into and a very good starting point)
- All the Rage! – Blood on the Dance Floor (The most easily digestible of their albums and contains their most “mainstream” songs)
- Business Up Front/Party in the Back – Family Force 5 (Probably the best starting point for anyone as its generally agreed to be the “best” among outsiders to the genre)
- Swan Songs – Hollywood Undead (If you’re a fan of Nu-Metal or Rap Rock, you’ll love this. Still their best album to this date)
If you enjoyed this post and would like to see me dive further into the world of Crunkcore, let me know. I’m considering eventually doing a full scale post on BrokeNCYDE and their entire discography if there’s enough interest. Maybe. We’ll see.
But pushing that to the side for now… That’s all from me. I’ll be back to Anime in the next post.
Until then, stay crunk.