Lil Xan's Vivacious, Exuberant Emo Rap

“Lil Xan” originated from the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. However, having seen the cause of Lil Peep’s death being an overdose of Xanax and fentanyl, Lil Xan decided to quit Xanax after two years of addiction and speak out against drug use.
The rap landscape can feel somber in the wake of the past year, when artists like Lil Peep and Fredo Santana died of overdoses. Many of the genre’s biggest names of the last year, like Lil Peep, Lil Tracy, Lil Uzi Vert, and Trippie Redd, specialized in emo rap and have made their fame from singing about their struggles with mental health and drug abuse. Amid the challenges of the past year, Lil Xan's concert at the Middle East on Mar. 2 was an inspiring showcase of exuberance and resilience.

Lil Xan debuted his music career through digital outlets like SoundCloud and YouTube. He first garnered attention for his single, “Betrayed,” which reached number 64 on the “Billboard” Hot 100 chart last year. His career is still young, and his first tour proves that he’s capable of a music presence that is more than just an internet sensation.

$teven Cannon opened the show attempting to “hype up” the crowd, splashing the audience with water and flirting with various audience members. Though he approached the show with gusto, save for the select group of fans devoted enough to know his name, most of the audience was unresponsive.

Lil Xan’s show, on the other hand, was shockingly energetic. From the moment he spontaneously burst onstage to “Been Bout it,” to the end of the show, Xan was charismatically bouncing around the stage and practically shouting his lyrics. The crowd and Xan played off of each other well, with the former moshing to nearly every song and the latter rewarding them with Skittles. Xan’s “Tick Tock,” an unreleased single, helped bring life to Middle East. The title piece of the tour, “Xanarchy,” proved iconic, interspersed with Xan’s ad libs.

Lil Xan transitioned to a more mellow tone towards the end of the show, playing a cover of the late Lil Peep’s “BeamerBoy.” Xan’s skill and emotion constituted a positive memorialization of Lil Peep, who passed away after overdosing on Xanax last November. Even though context surrounding his performance of “beamer boy” was depressing, Lil Xan turned it into a motivational experience, jumping around on stage and gesturing to the audience to rap along with him. Since Lil Peep’s death, Lil Xan and many other artists have been vocally campaigning against Xanax addiction.

This message and these lyrics concluded Lil Xan’s concert as he rapped his most popular hit of the album, “Betrayed.” Squeals of excitement from the audience followed the familiar first rings of the song. With enunciated syllables and broad body movements, Lil Xan gave the audience a moving and passionate rendition of the song: “Xans don’t make you / Xans gon’ take you / Xans gon’ fake you / Xans gon’ betray you,” resounding deeply after the tribute to Lil Peep.

In the context of Peep’s death and “Betrayed” as the finale, Lil Xan’s show advocated for overcoming adversity, in this case of drug abuse, but the concert felt larger than that. The contrast of Xan’s bright energy and glee live with the sad, murky sound on his recordings gave his songs new context. They felt empowering instead of depressing. The central message of Lil Xan’s show in the face of all this was that the audience could overcome any of their struggles. In a time of terrifying uncertainty, this was extremely powerful.

Lil Xan’s concert was a reminder that emo rap isn’t always sad. In his hour on stage, Lil Xan seemed confident and exuberant. His audience responded to that well, moshing and clearly having a great time overall. If Lil Xan could bring a crowd together like that, then there’s no telling what he’ll be able to do in the future.


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