Sad Rap: The Strangest New Thing in Music or a Logical Next Step for Hip-Hop?


Little Pain is a 21-year-old rapper from Brooklyn. The first time I heard from him was through an email submission much like many of the email submissions from artists who want to be heard:

“Yesterday I released my track “SMH (Broke Boyz Anthem)” produced by Suicideyear and was hoping that Pigeons & Planes could post it. This song will be on my up and coming sad tape When Thugz Cry.”

Nothing about the email jumped out as extraordinary, but I did a double take.

Sad tape?

I pressed play  on “SMH.” It starts off with crying sounds. The opening line is, “Little Pain the thug, I’m the saddest out.”

What was happening here?

The entire song is as boastful as rap songs about money and game, but Little Pain is bragging about being depressed; he is proudly proclaiming himself to be the saddest thug, crying tears all over the place, hanging with a bunch of broke boys and going on a “sad boy tantrum.” I would soon learn that this tantrum was part of something much bigger. It’s called sad rap.

Hip-hop is moving in some really weird directions. Aritsts like Lil B and RiFF RAFF have opened up the floodgates for a meme-ified hip-hop that falls somewhere between serious music, a joke, and a lifestyle. It’s a product of the Internet, the expansion of a genre historically associated with the streets, and the changing expectations of a still-growing fan base.

Basically we represent the side of rap that isn’t being glorified. We’re embracing the reality of the struggle rather than trying to portray a facade or a lifestyle that we aren’t really about without going about it in a conscious way. We’re sad and proud.

I responded to Little Thug, “Can you tell me a little about what you guys are all about? I’m not familiar with sad rap.”

“Basically we represent the side of rap that isn’t being glorified,” he wrote back. “We’re embracing the reality of the struggle rather than trying to portray a facade or a lifestyle that we aren’t really about without going about it in a conscious way. We’re sad and proud.”

But there was clearly more going on here. The background of Little Pain’s Twitter profile is a picture of Warren Sapp crying. His bio reads, “Crying in the trap.” The few pictures that do exist show him pouting and sobbing and his tweets are littered with hashtags like #been #sad and #sadderday, and he tweets things like, “I’M THE SADDEST NIGGA IN THE HOOD! :(” and “I’M IN THE TRAP, SAD AS HELL. TRAP PHONE OLDER THAN PATTI LABELLE :(“

It seems like Little Pain is approaching sad rap the same way Lil B—who Pain shouts out as an inspiration—pushed based music to his fans. It’s about associating with something that isn’t necessarily immediately accessible, something that will undoubtedly leave some people confused and on the outside. We can’t all be based. If we were, it wouldn’t be any fun. Little Pain seems to understand this insider appeal, and he seems to be playing into it to encourage others to latch on and rally around their sadness in a way that’s entertaining, communal, and a little odd.

But if he is purely taking on a role, he’s not willing to break character. “I cry everyday at least once a day, sometimes more. Sometimes I shed a couple tears and sometimes I full out start bawling. It just depends on the situation. I’m not worried about people taking me as a joke at all because at the end of the day the music is as real as it gets. Some may laugh and shrug it off and some may relate and love it.”

Last time I cried was 20 minutes ago when I hit my pinky toe on the side of a dresser.

So, maybe he is serious about this. The next question I asked was when he last cried.

“Last time I cried was 20 minutes ago when I hit my pinky toe on the side of a dresser.”

Little Pain sees how people could interpret what he’s doing as humorous, but he insists that from his end, it’s completely serious. The reason that he looks up to Lil B isn’t because of the funny tweets or the absurd memes. He explains, “Lil B also has a big influence on my music due to the fact that he motivates people to be who they are and stay positive without the fear of being ridiculed for it.”

The truth is, this all kind of makes sense. It wouldn’t have made sense five years ago, but things are changing. Rappers like Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Drake have pushed the boundaries of what’s acceptable in hip-hop. It’s okay to be sensitive. It’s okay to be lonely. It’s okay to be sad. Drake still receives a fair share of ridicule for being so open about his sensitive side, but let’s face it: he’s one of the most popular and successful rappers in music today.

With the softer side of rap coming out and the meme-ish tendencies of the Internet going mainstream, 2013 is the perfect melting pot for something like sad rap to happen. It’s the logical next step for hip-hop to push the boundaries even further, and it’s inevitably going to end up in some strange places that might not be so easy to grasp at first. Pain says he came up with the idea of sad rap himself, but he works closely with a couple of producers, Suicideyear and Karman, and he’s familiar with Yung Lean and the Sad Boys from Sweden, but says “it’s kind of different because they don’t actually make music about being sad.”

Little Pain is gearing up to drop his sad tape When Thugz Cry and will release another song in a couple of weeks. What if this sad tape catches on and Little Thug launches a career and gets rich?

The reality of it is just that some people are just born sad and would actually prefer to stay sad.

“As crazy as it sounds there’s a bunch of people out there that actually embrace being sad as long as it doesn’t spiral to out of control, and that’s what my music represents. No matter how much success I gain or if my financial status changes I feel like I’ll still be able to make sad rap since money and success doesn’t necessary equate to happiness. I will always be able to make sad rap because sad is something that comes from within. The reality of it is just that some people are just born sad and would actually prefer to stay sad.”

  • cmmtsundertheinflnce
  • Relyt

    I can’t stop laughing, but at the same time the songs are actually pretty good

  • D. Rose in the paint

    I cant stop laughing at this whole thing….good looks for actually posting this

  • swingem

    would Kevin Gates fall into sad rap then?

  • Wow

    Hip Hop is fucking dying..the majority starting to sound more like parodies than actual music.

  • Mike-Si


  • SammySauna

    The whole game becoming sad…lol.
    I understand rap like cable is going to have niche markets but garbage is garbage. It’s like everyone looking to get in the door with a gimmick or being outrageous just for publicity sake. News flash….u still need some talent.

    Ok, I felt guilty for commenting without a listen. Dude is not garbage but not there yet either. There is def room in the game for more truth. I respect the cat for that. The suicide rate for young black males is off the hook and deserves more attention than it is given. To many in the ghetto are poor, under educated, lack resources and depressed. But rather than label it and use it as a gimmick. Just kick good truthful, from the heart lyrics. If u sad, mad, glad or whatever, then kick that shit. Craft it into a dope song, if the emotions are real, the public will feel it.

  • dlo

    WHAT.THE.FUCK. who enjoys to be sad? I don’t know one damn person who likes being sad.

  • PigsAndPlans

    Lykke Li once said “sadness is a blessing”

  • Ed

    awful production. Also, this style is nothing new. 2pac og emo rapper

  • j

    This is the most absurdly vacuous thing I’ve ever read.

  • Blade PainMusic
  • Blade PainMusic
  • Koala
  • Afro_Nebula

    Rap game’s Morrissey

  • Revolver Media

    19-year old Arkansas MC, Dex_Dodger’s Debut Mixtape, “The RunOut”

  • ilim

    um.. sad rap songs are not new. as a sad person who loves sad music and is black, i feel like i need to remind the readership here that black music has experienced sorrow in the past into the present and continues to do so. there’s song cry by jayz, there’s dear mama by tupac, don’t go chasing waterfalls by tlc, feel it in the air by beanie siegel, trauma by meek, all of nicki’s the pink print. aren’t yall music bloggers? shouldn’t you know that hip hop and rap specifically are multi-faceted complex genres with varied bodies of work [not just the bangers that play on the radio]? or is sadness only legitimate and non-comical when indie folk artists express themselves.. maybe you’re just referring to this proposed new ‘genre’ of rap: ‘sad rap.’ in either case.. gonna go smh somewhere else. this was a very basic article unfortunately.

  • ilim

    so much of rap is responding to dead friends and family killed by gun violence, or separated by incarceration.. injustice and violence in general..

Latest News