A rap revolution is quietly brewing. It is being led by a breed of creatives unlike any other we’ve come to experience in the long, illustrious and diverse existence of rap music. They are Gen Y and Millennial artists who comment on the state of affairs but don’t preach; spread love and arouse the higher consciousness than teach.
Their music is identifiable by central features of compassion, idealism, altruism and humor. However they are far from being saintly. They can be rule-breakers, highly sensitive, and emotionally disturbed when away from their safe zone of creativity, space and freedom. They thrive when they’re left to do what they do best; the life of the party today, introverted loners tomorrow. A live wire on stage, their fashion on point on the red carpet, and extremely complex in general.
They are the Indigo rappers – or the Indigo children as they call themselves – who’re steadily engulfing music lovers with distinctive sounds, impactful lyrics and memorable messages.
Curious, empathetic and strong-willed, they are blessed with the innate ability to create and innovate prolifically. Indigo rappers are not students of the genre, they design their own subjects, create interest around them, and never stop learning. Their natural intellectual and intuitive powers aid their eccentric, multi-disciplinary approach to rap. Their strong sense of self and clear purpose makes them go-getters from an early age. Gifted, problematic and highly individualistic, the Indigo children are imperfect and unputdownable.
A new micro-genre, A sweet separateness
The hip-hop ecosystem is diverse; it can be gangster in the tradition of Tupac, Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan and Snoop Dog; be subsumed by political consciousness by way of Talib Kweli, J Cole, Dead Prez and Mos Def; or blur the lines between rap and pop like Macklemore or manage R&B-rap masterfully like Kendrick Lamar. Rap listeners have accepted this dichotomy and variance, and a lot of that may have to do with the demographics : hip-hop has the youngest audience demographic on the planet today.
With the Indigo children, rap audiences have found another style, personality and message. They have taken to it quickly, embracing and endorsing Indigo rappers and the values they represent. A quick look at the YouTube views of up-and-coming Indigo artists is enough to opine that their music is resonating with hip-hop listeners. And it’s just the beginning of this micro-genre solidly being upheld by young creatives from different walks of life.
Unbound, unfettered and unpredictable
In an interview with HotNewHipHop.com, Wiz Khalifa argued that all rappers are doing the same thing these days, calling it a ‘sameness’ driven by the inclination to incorporate hot and trending subjects. No music genre is immune from the bandwagon effect, and if the ‘sameness’ is satisfying to audiences, nobody’s really complaining. Here’s where the Indigo rappers are distinctive : they have extended the boundaries of hip-hop instead of cloning popular styles.
Actor Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino – who recently released his new single What Kind of Love – is content being a rap outsider with his cynical verses and infusions of humor. His second album Because the Internet was hailed as the tenth best album of 2013 by Complex magazine. His commentary on today’s internet-addled culture was deemed part intriguing, part irksome by critics. In 3005, Childish Gambino serves up complex lyrics covering everything from fame to love, and a general disdain of the world.
20 year old Indigo rapper Raury has racked up millions of views and a strong fan following on YouTube. He features in American Eagle Outfitters’ fall 2016 campaign, alongside such youth movers and shakers as Troye Sivan, Yara Shahidi, Hailee Steinfeld and Michael Lockley. Raury is the prototype of the quintessential Indigo child : he is a self-taught guitarist who started out on YouTube, formed a band at age 15, and rose to fame by hosting guerrilla gigs and capturing the attention of industry insiders.
Raury’s songs are culturally rooted and flirt with themes of youth empowerment. In God’s Whisper, he talks about finding God everywhere and believes that all of youth are saviors. His song Fly encourages listeners to be appreciative of life, while Devil’s Whisper is scornful of the strip-club lifestyle, organized religion, and the country’s education system. Still, his ‘indigoness’ is evident in his eye for fashion and the shades of personal brand marketing in his videos.
Another Indigo rapper making waves is 18 year old Jaden Smith, who first rapped alongside Justin Bieber in Never Say Never, and has since attempted to upend the world of hip-hop with his charismatic, theatrical, poignant and trippy tracks, collaborating with his equally talented sister (and fellow Indigo child) Willow on some. His debut mixtape The Cool Cafe came out in 2012, and with The Cool Tape Vol. 2, Smith’s experimental, soulful, and uber-stylish essence comes to the fore. In his own words, the world would be missing ‘a huge, terrible thing’ if we failed to express ourselves.
As long as Indigo artists can continue exploring the recesses of their creative and subconscious minds, the hip-hop ecosystem is only poised to flourish and grow.