We’re happy “cute rap” and lilbootycall exist

What has always turned me off when it comes to hip-hop is the “braggadocio” aspect of it all. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a huge amount of respect for the genre. But I’ll be lying if I said that growing up solely on mainstream hip-hop’s love for club bangers and treating scantily clad women as props in its videos didn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all.

But that’s not the only face of hip-hop and I learned that later in life. When Los Angeles Times announced the genre’s renaissance in the late 2000s, they were right. Mainstream hip-hop has changed since then. It toppled the long-reign of rock music as the pop culture’s pulse. It placed rappers like Kendrick Lamar’s on the map and Soundcloud rappers like Lil Uzi Vert putting mental health on blast.

Hip-hop definitely has a wider range now compared to when it started back in the late ‘70s. It’s no longer just a genre that demands to stunt and flex most of the time. The conversation has grown wider and it gave birth to a subgenre that did make me comfortable—cute rap.
  

Cute rap for these two artists is lighthearted Japanese kawaii culture, childhood references, combined with sick beats mixed with light nostalgic synths.

“i just make music off my emotions and my past. my songs ‘yugioh’ and ‘sailor moon’ are strictly based off my childhood and how i miss being young and just having no care and just sitting there watching those shows,” Texas-based rapper lilbootycall gave us an insight on what this underrated subgenre is like.

Lilbootycall is a rapper who rose to fame with his track “Sailor Moon” last year. The pastel-clad and kawaii-filled music video has 2.8 million views as of now. He’s a rapper who rose to fame online, thus the way he replied to us was purely through text speak. He was strict about his answers being unedited. Who doesn’t respect that loyalty to their ‘cred?

Noisey placed him under the genre of cute rap. This genre makes use of the most light-hearted synths mixed with verses on watching some YuGiOh episodes with your current crush of the week.

I may not relate to partying in some club ‘till the break of dawn, but when it comes to anime and dreaming of being carefree, I can relate.

The first time I encountered cute rap was not through this Texan-rapper alone. British rap group Kero Kero Bonito and kawaii-trap Aussie rapper Spacegirl Gemmy are the first musicians I associate with this genre.

“yeaa, people still call me a cry baby and a “f—got” because how im soft as shit but like childish gambino said it ‘IF IM A F—GOT SPELL IT RIGHT I GOT WAY MORE THAN 2 G’S’ HAHAHAH,”

Cute rap for these two artists can be seen in its elements: lighthearted Japanese kawaii culture, childhood references, and light nostalgic synths. These rappers moved the influence of J-rap girl groups like Halicali in the East and brought it to the West. That’s visible in KKB’s vibrant, sitcom style music video “Lipslap” and Spacegirl Gemmy’s arcade romp “Cutest in the Game.”

But all of the rappers I mentioned, were well, Asian women.

Lilbootycall, on the other hand, is the none of those two descriptors. And that became a bit of a problem for him being a male rapper in the South. Michigan Daily claimed that “The culture is beginning to lose the toxic masculinity that plagued the early years of the genre’s history.” That’s not the case for this Texan rapper just yet.

“yeaa, people still call me a cry baby and a “f—got” because how im soft as shit but like childish gambino said it ‘IF IM A F—GOT SPELL IT RIGHT I GOT WAY MORE THAN 2 G’S’ HAHAHAH,” he shared his experiences of getting hate. “and thats a touchy subject but like bruh love is love people are people, like people be out here calling people gay because they wear the color pink. like bro… A COLOR?? LOOOL.”

But he still continues to ride his own wave nonetheless. Rapping with the cutest pastel yellow backdrop doesn’t stop him from being done with misogynistic haters trying to bring him down.

“F—K MASCULINITY. that shit so wack brooo, i remember there was so many people calling me names and making fun of me bc i wore skinny jeans back then,” he recalled. “that big macho tough guy shit aint coo. people and girls like guys that will understand them and show them emotions, like a human. not some walking steroid pill that drives a big a— f 250 truck and smashes beer.”

It’s young rappers like lilbootycall who are proving the previous statement of Michigan Daily right. Maybe that’s why I gravitated toward the genre. Cute rap didn’t intimated me for being overtly masculine while huffing chest telling my vagina that this is for “real men” only. If anything, it resonated with me. The longing for those carefree childhood days and not giving a shit with being candid with your emotions is something I felt in lilbootycall’s verses. When he was sharing details on his new album, he reminded me of that even more.

Behind cute rap’s pastel-clad and anime imagery is a response to a heavy emotional turmoil.

“the [upcoming] album is completely different from all my old music. its filled with that happy uplifting music (but a lil bit of sad songs). i know so many kids that r depressed n it makes me feel ugly seeing them like that. im trying to break them out of that and feel ok for once,” he explained his intentions.

This led him to share what was his forever goal with not only cute rap but as a musician in general. “forever goal? to save people from killing themselves,” his tone shifted. “i was so suicidal back then and there was a rapper named Craig Xen that hit me up a very long time ago and told me to hang on and keep working on my craft and that it’ll work out in the end. that shit felt tight as hell knowing someone kinda famous at that moment helped me with my problems.”

Behind cute rap’s pastel-clad and anime imagery is a response to a heavy emotional turmoil.The genre is about retreating back to the good ‘ol days. It clings to certain themes of nostalgia in rhythm and in vision. But when the lyrics unfold, it’s a somber retelling of adulthood problems. “loveeee, wanting a girlfriendddd, money, diamonds, yanno, typical rap shit bc das what i have n go thru in life so es whateva, it just be what i be feeling,” he told me what he often writes about.

Typical rap shit. He’s right about that part. Although, the idea of cute rap itself, is far from that. Hip-hop has roots of deep misogyny and toxic masculinity. But young rappers like lilbootycall are unafraid to chart on untested waters of the genre to innovate it further and widen its listeners even more. Makes things more inclusive.


Is it a blimp in the genre or will it last long—who knows? What lilbootycall does prove is with a rapper like him, hip-hop’s current renaissance will remain interesting and will break everyone’s common notions of the genre even further.

Photos courtesy of lilbootycall

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Rogin Losa
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