GVLLOW Brings Trve Goth to Hip-Hop and Beyond
While the final Warped Tour plows on concurrently with a mid-2000’s revival, such a throwback doesn’t have to be limited to the prime of Underoath. While MySpace emodom was certainly a hallmark of the time, so was a deathrock revamp spearheaded by the dark side of the hipster camp. Whether it was just pure aesthetic appropriation or a genuine love of rebellion past, maybe we’ll never know. What is clear is that in the here and now of 2018, hip-hop integrated with gothic elements seems to define the latter in terms of “vintage” Hot Topic nostalgia instead of an era very few of us are old enough to truly have known, but periodically long for nevertheless. A welcomed exception comes from SoCal’s Gvllow. While he may have the old head look down pat, he puts his money where his mouth is, breathing new life into 80’s gothic punk that invokes the best of the past while keeping it fresh.
From his start, Gvllow wasted no time showing off his ability to keep the atmosphere of the likes of Christian Death afloat. The bottom heavy, steadily beating “The Bad & the Ugly” possesses a profound beauty that bounces off track and visuals alike. Skulls, smoke, and smokes are interlaced in a tomb of blackness dominated by the jadedness of the heavy-eyed singer and a heavily-modified model. Together, it presents a different kind of death wish; one that occurs as the product of decadent nihilistic liberation in lieu of the extreme anguish housed in more emo-fused schools of gothicness. Perhaps in an effort to avoid reinventing the OG spooky kid wheel, Gvllow has played his stylistic hand in hip-hop as ventures have progressed. While the combination of the two may cause knee-jerk responses as derisive as ketchup and mac and cheese, perhaps it was only inevitable that the two struggle food groups would be brought together. Bass in deathrock is generally prominent enough to be substantively played with during production and the mumblings of Bauhaus can easily stagger right into mumble rap. And so, potential was tapped into.
Just a month after dropping the video for “The Bad & the Ugly,” Gvllow published his most viral visuals to date for banger “I Am Nothing.” While a bit more brightly lit than past works, it presents a kind of bleakness that tugs at the heartstrings of alternative kids young and young at heart. Old school horror synth is remixed with a Three 6 flow as the artist asserts himself in scene crossovers like Creepers and a heavily-studded motorcycle jacket. From the safety of mausoleum walls, Gvllow opens up about frustrations with artists lacking integrity and his faltering mental health. Perhaps due to his tall, lean appearance, many commenters are quick to compare him to the late emo rap icon Lil Peep. Really, closer comparisons can be drawn to $uicideboy$ (if anyone) in terms of his delivery; it’s more in-step with traditional rapping than the middle ground Peep had established with singing. If, as a metal or punk fan, you are not sold on an unadulterated rap track, Gvllow also possesses more underrated feats that oscillate between the two worlds. “Isolation,” for instance, is an instrumental cut between Bauhaus and The Sex Pistols interlaced with deathcore vocals until the beat drops in the last minute and matters descend into freestyle madness.
While the trendiness of deathrock revival may come and go, Gvllow consistently stays true to the roots of his influencers even as exploration with hip-hop in the larger scheme more so favors samples of Silverstein and My Chemical Romance. Even though his stylishness proves a perfect fit for genre crossovers, he only seems to employ his skills as a rapper when appropriate instead of jamming it into a square peg for the sake of the Soundcloud bandwagon. Earlier in June, Gvllow dropped “Let It Go”—a danceable ode to the pre-mall goth era sans any heavy production or beat. While it is hard to predict where the young man may go from here, it is apparent that he trusts in the guiding compass to which all of us under the umbrella of alternative lifestyles are indebted.