I want to play two songs for you back to back and have you listen to the first 20 seconds of each one. Let’s start with “Scars” by Brennan Savage.

Now listen to the same amount of “One Step Closer” by Linkin Park.

While Brennan Savage’s “Scars” is obviously pitched down and doesn’t reach the crunchy guitars that follow the intro to “One Step Closer,” it wouldn’t be a stretch to argue the latter didn’t inspire the former. As a newcomer to Savage and his “Badlands” album this similarity struck me instantly. The source that lead me to him described his music as “emo rap” and it fits him well. He’s not rapping as much as he is singing, but he’s not singing so much as he is musically rhyming. This definition fits “Soundcloud rap” equally well and for a time it seems like “Badlands” was only available there. I saw fans complaining it had disappeared offline for a time but “Scars” wasn’t why.

Savage has a good following. Many of the random emo rap artists I discover have anywhere from a dozen to a hundred views on YouTube per song. Savage had at least 100,000 for any song on “Badlands” so my desire to learn more about him was piqued. The amount of ink work on his arms and neck seemed higher than the typical emo rapper, but he certainly had the look down. Then I dug deeper than the widespread pictures of him and found he was childhood friends with Lil Peep (RIP). His popularity instantly clicked. He and Peep both moved to California to pursue their musical dreams, but while Peep succumbed to the darkness of drug abuse, Savage managed to live on and keep going.

Curiously on both the YouTube and Spotify versions of the album the title track of “Badlands” was unavailable. I found an unofficial upload which I suspect could be taken down by a copyright strike at any time, but for the moment I’ve included it below. If it disappears I’ll tell you why, and in the process I’ll also tell you why his album was offline for a while — the title track directly samples “Aerials” by System of a Down. While “Scars” could be said to reference “One Step Closer” by stylistic interpolation that’s not the case with this song. It’s a direct one-to-one jack of the music and almost certainly was an uncleared sample. It wouldn’t have vanished off the official playlists if Savage had paid for it.

Despite this glaring issue “Badlands” is okay with or without its signature song. I’m offering very faint praise when I say the following, but when it comes to this rap style, it’s often as far as I can go. Savage’s singing doesn’t annoy me. The vaporous clouds of sound give him an atmosphere where you can hear his voice clearly. He doesn’t seem quite as obsessed with self-medicating as some of his peers. His overall presentation isn’t annoying enough to make me turn it off or listen to something else instead. I did warn you this was faint praise, but look, the TL/DR version of it is that he doesn’t suck. He’s not reinventing the genre here but it’s not hard to understand why people enjoy his music.

Brennan Savage :: Badlands
6.5Overall Score