Doja Cats’ “Bottom Bitch — ” Resignifying the sadcore sound

Emerged in the 1990’s as a musical representation of the melancholic emo culture and lifestyle, emocore had a revamp moment around 2017, in the most 2017 way it could: mixed with elements of trap music, one of the world’s most popular genres at the time (and still is.)

Combining trap’s snares and hi hats with the guitars of emocore (which, for its turn, was largely influenced by punk rock and grunge rock,) the new genre, called emo rap or sadcore, was born mostly in the ecosystem of Soundcloud, with new, young rappers making music in their own bedrooms, with Kid Cudi as one of the movement’s biggest influences, and Lil Peep being the pioneer of the genre.

Prematurely dying at the age of 21, Lil Peep’s legacy still lives through the sound of many of his contemporaries and upcoming artists — maybe not with the same heavily rock-influenced productions, but evoking the same sadness, vocals purposefully autotuned to emulate distortion, and melodies wandering around the blurred lines that separate rapping from singing.

Names like Lil Uzi Vert, Juice WRLD (also, sadly dead at 21 years old) and Post Malone became icons of the new generation emo movement, and their music speaks to the mourning youth today the same way grunge rock spoke in the early 1990’s.

That rap/hip hop/trap music is taking the place once occupied by punk rock/grunge rock/emocore is hardly surprising (back in 2013, Kanye West has already said that “rap is the new rock’n’roll”; Post Malone even calls himself “a rock star” in one of his biggest hits, released in 2017;) however, what maybe wasn’t so expected was that trap would also incorporate rock, to the point that you could easily put a rock band like Twenty One Pilots in an emo rap playlist along with Lil Peep, and it would fit in such a natural way.

But recently, no song has sounded more Lil Peep-y than Doja Cat’s “Bottom Bitch.” Surprisingly, though, it’s hard to name a song with less “emo” vibes amongst the new emo rap generation.

Sampling Blink 182 (one of the biggest names of punk rock, but not really an emo band,) “Bottom Bitch” celebrates friendship — more specifically, female friendship.

The grief of the “guitar line+trap beat” formula that was so intensely explored by Lil Peep, in “Bottom Bitch,” is replaced by a feel-good chord progression, and Doja Cat’s supportive lyrics acknowledging her squad.

The aesthetics of the music video lie more in the vivid, colourfully rebellious side of punk rock than the sad and aggressive one, with the rapper and songwriter positioning herself as a rock band front woman, and skating with her friends (skate was another cultural symbol that earned its own subgenre amongst punk rock and emo core.)

But the “Bottom Bitch” music video is also a proud portrait of loyalty and friendship in black culture, displaying hip hop references such as graffiti (also very present in skate and punk culture, but not always acknowledged for its hip hop roots) and black aesthetics (that later became fashion icons outside of the black community as well, such as colourful wigs and makeup, and baggy clothes.)

In spite of the sadcore mantle of “Bottom Bitch’s” instrumentals, the song is as joyful as it can — and it seems like it was really the intention, as Doja Cat stated in an interview that she wanted her album to make people “feel that before they got into the music that it felt passionate, warm and welcoming.”

If emo rap and sadcore are the new faces of rap, trap and rock, “Bottom Bitch” is one of the few with a smile on it.

Attorney (BR), and writer (of songs & content). Top Writer in Music on Medium. Consultant at 3Três Consultoria e Criação (BR).

Attorney (BR), and writer (of songs & content). Top Writer in Music on Medium. Consultant at 3Três Consultoria e Criação (BR).