From Rock to Rap: The Art of Moshing

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By Amanda Compian
Rap Music Journalist

Two separate mosh pits coordinating to become a giant one
The mosh pits preparing to rage to “Wild for the Night.” Photo by Amanda Compian.

If one thing’s for sure, there’s no such thing as a spontaneous generation. Every era contains inspiration from the ones before it and music is no exception. Music as a whole has similarities we often don’t think of and I feel it is important to note that some rap culture has roots from heavy metal and punk music; especially since rap has recently dethroned rock as the biggest music genre according to Nielsen Music’s 2017 year-end report. Artists like A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott and Lil Uzi Vert are among the most prominent rappers who acknowledge themselves as “rockstars” and widely encourage a long-time tradition that originated from rock music at their shows: moshing.

Google dictionary describes moshing as, “dancing to rock music in a violent manner involving jumping up and down and deliberately colliding with other dancers.” Moshing normally takes place on the floor level or in the pit (near the front of the stage), hence the phrase “mosh pit” derives. Another vernacular term early metal-heads use to describe mosh culture is slam dancing. This type of dancing is used as an outlet to express rage and just be free in the moment.

In an interview with radio host Big Boy, Rocky explains how the Injured Generation is a direct metaphor to the physical injuries related to moshing. Mosh pits can often result in the loss of clothing or personal items and injuries like a bloody nose, broken arm or trampled feet. I had the privilege of attending A$AP Rocky’s The Injured Generation tour in Houston, Texas in support of Rocky’s long-awaited third studio album Testing. The Injured Generation was an interactive experience in which a mosh tutorial was provided and the audience was given a mosh test (ha, get it… testing) to his and Skrillex’s Billboard Hot 100 hit “Wild for the Night.” As seen in the photo below the crowd formed two big mosh pits and went absolutely crazy when the beat dropped. Rocky even let a fan come up on stage who decided to risk it all and stage dived!

Psychedelic punk rock has also largely inspired today’s generation of rappers. A$AP Rocky, in particular, has notably had psych influence in his songs. He told Big Boy that his track “L$D” from AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP was the hit that led a large demographic of 50 to 60 year-olds to his shows. “It’s all about that Woodstock spirit. You know I’m a free spirit and it’s all about the hippie love and I just like really want to spread that,” said Rocky. He also compared his fan base to a “cult following,” another element that originated in rock culture.

In the interview, Rocky stated that he named his album Testing because he tested the waters and experimented with new sounds during the creative process. Uzi, Travis and Tyler, the Creator are also examples of artists who have branched into the psych and punk rock realms and have adopted that style of the genre to their sound.

Their unprecedented methodology has paved the way for future rap artists alike and will allow them to give their music free range and flexibility. While rock and rap are two dissimilar genres on the surface, I believe more and more rap artists will continue to incite the mosh-rap trend and ultimately bring the movement to the forefront of music.

Featured image by Amanda Compian.


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