Pop-punk peaked in the early 2000s. Anthems of angst are no longer played on the radio, and blink-182 and Good Charlotte no longer feature on the soundtrack to every teen movie.
Pop-punk is still around, but aside from the occasional chart topper from All Time Low or Paramore, classic pop-punk has died out in the mainstream.
On the surface, Lil Aaron doesn’t seem like a pop-punk star. With his bright green hair, silver grill and Soundcloud beginnings, it would be easy to categorise him as just another mumble rapper. It doesn’t take long to realise that’s not the case.
His 2016 hit ‘DRUGS’ reeks of pop-punk influence. Obscene yet light-hearted lyrics about sex and partying, shouted over a catchy electric guitar riff, it screams mid-2000s in the best way possible.
Lil Aaron has never been shy about his connection to pop-punk. In an interview with Vice, he said “I’ve always loved alternative music and pop-punk music.” His 2017 song ‘Warped Tour’ samples ‘Misery Business’ by Paramore while he raps about how he “got everything he worked for”.
This isn’t the only time he’s paid homage to classic pop-punk bands. His ode to emo culture, 2017’s ‘Hot Topic’, samples Panic! At the Disco’s ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’, and ‘Top 8’, his love letter to MySpace, samples ‘Sugar We’re Goin’ Down’.
The lyrics to his song ‘Studded Gucci Belt’ don’t scream pop-punk, but the music video pays homage to his inspirations from both rap and punk. He can be seen dancing in front of a green screen that plays clips from My Chemical Romance videos and Travis Scott interviews, showing just how varied his influences really are.
Travis Barker, drummer of blink-182, has given Lil Aaron his approval – in 2018 the two released the track ‘QUIT’ together, seamlessly blending the two styles together to create a song that’s both modern and nostalgia-inducing.
“I’ve been emo my whole fucking life,” he said in an interview with Alt-Press – and it shows. He has taken a genre he admires and made it relevant and palatable for the current generation.
It would be easy to discount him as another generic Soundcloud rapper, but if you’re remotely nostalgic for the pop-punk era, Lil Aaron might just be what you’re looking for.