Music plays an essential part of our everyday lives and often serves as a representation of people’s tastes, values and beliefs. Musical identity illustrates the combination of these aspects among a particular group of people who engage in the same style of music and provides the basis for studying the development of music and its impact on the society. In the early 2010’s a number of adolescents independently shared their beats on the streaming service of SoundCloud and created a new subgenre of emo rap. Emo rap has a unique aesthetic of emotional lyrics with a dark and depressive character, sparking controversy and was the fastest growing genre of 2018 on Spotify. That is why, this research is set out to explore the construction of musical identity of emo rap, by taking a closer look at the artists’ lifestyle and the societal issues they are concerned with. It is expected that musical identity is closely connected to the lifestyle choices these adolescents make and how they present their ideas about the current state of the society. The sub-genre emo rap has not been academically researched before and the aim of this study is to contribute to the existing literature about musical identity with this contemporary sub-genre and to explore the youth development in the 21st century. The foundation for this study was primarily found in literature about identity development, youth development and musical genres of emo and hip-hop/rap. The research was done by a qualitative thematic content analysis of pre-recorded interviews with these artists and short reflections about them, providing a closer look to their background, beliefs and musical production. Three main themes emerged after analyzing the data: self-expression, musical production and concerns over today’s society. The core finding about this group of rappers was the fluidity of their identity, whether it is shifting their style of musical production or appearance. The main reason for this is their aversion towards mainstream values and tendency to challenge the rigid lines of the society, labelling and categorization. This is also represented by their diverse cultural influence, particularly the positive attitude towards Japanese culture, watching anime and the apparent influence of Japanese culture in their artwork aesthetics. These artists talked about their experience with depression and anxiety which eventually fueled their music, served as a self-expression and helped them battle these feelings. At the same time, there was a strong collectiveness and support amongst these young musicians, which enabled them to develop as artists and caused the sub-genre to grow. Future study should focus on the audiences of emo rap, its influence and their perception towards it. Additionally, the impact of Japanese culture on these youngsters was an interesting finding and it could be interesting to further explore the reason behind its influence on the Western culture.

Additional Metadata
Keywords media, creative industries, emo rap, musical identity, contemporary, youth development, fluid identity
Thesis Advisor A. van der Hoeven
Persistent URL
Series Media & Creative Industries
L. Emrichova. (2019, July). Musical Identity in the Contemporary World Thematic Content Analysis about the Creation of Musical Identity among Emo Rappers. Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from