In today’s insane and eccentric hip-hop landscape, it’s difficult to separate yourself from the crowd. Everyone nowadays seems to have tattoos on their face, colorful hairstyles, grills that make your teeth look like a shark’s, or some other distinguishing characteristic to help capture viewers’ attention. Look at 6ix9ine with his signature colorful hair. Post Malone did a tribute concert to Nirvana while wearing a dress. Lil Peep’s face had more graffiti on it than a Brooklyn subway.
Amongst all these outrageous and interesting-looking rappers, one rapper has been gaining a particularly strong following across the internet recently, and he looks more or less like a normal guy. Lil Darkie hasn’t garnered internet clout from getting shocking face tattoos, dressing in a flashy way, or having drugs or women heavily featured in his videos. In fact, many of his videos don’t even show the rapper himself.
What has brought Lil Darkie to such prominence on platforms like SoundCloud, Reddit, and Tik Tok is the way he combines jarring and aggressive lyrical images with an insightful underlying meaning. Instead of portraying himself in his videos, he presents his audience with a controversial animated character that looks like it’s from a 1950’s Disney cartoon.
Lil Darkie’s musical style is difficult to pin down. There are definitely elements of angst and aggression. There’s a clear influence from modern trap and metal music. There are never-ending verses full of triplets that show off Darkie’s technical abilities. All of it makes for a persona that’s provocative, a little bit creepy, and based on how the internet has been reacting to him, very interesting to a lot of people.
Who Is Lil Darkie?
Before he was Lil Darkie, he was Brahman. And before he was Brahman, he was Joshua Jagan Hamilton, a high school boy scout in Long Beach, California.
Hamilton does not seem to believe in race, and regularly insists that race is a societal construct and nothing more. However, as a high school student in Long Beach, he was apparently bullied incessantly because of his race. Hamilton does make many references to Indian gods in his music and in interviews, and he clearly has some Indian heritage.
In high school, Hamilton was a boy scout and an honors student. The pressure that came along with being brought up in a good household and achieving academically weighed on Hamilton as a youth, and his anxieties heightened as expectations became more and more demanding.
After high school, Hamilton began attending film school. However, after disputes with the administration, he dropped out and never enrolled again. That’s when Lil Darkie was born.
Joshua Hamilton originally began making music under the alias Brahman on SoundCloud. The name refers to the creator god in Hindu mythology, the supreme cosmic life force that flows through the universe. Brahman is typically depicted with blue skin, and so Hamilton chose a blue animated character to represent his online rap persona.
While die-hard Lil Darkie fans loved the music that Hamilton put out under the Brahman persona, Hamilton really started seeing success through his music when he released the song “HOLOCAUST” on Soundcloud in July 2019.
For obvious reasons, people immediately began to take note of “HOLOCAUST” and the provocative image that accompanied it on Soundcloud, which depicted a black cartoon character in a Nazi uniform. The song itself only mentions the Holocaust twice amid a flurry of hypnotizing, fast-paced verses, but the title alone was enough to make a lot of people feel triggered. The comments section of Lil Darkie’s SoundCloud and YouTube pages are filled with reprimands and expressions of horror over his choice of imagery, song title, and lyrical content.
The black cartoon character that appears as the artwork for “HOLOCAUST” (as well as for all of the songs that he puts out under the Lil Darkie name) has also been a source of controversy. Some have commented on the fact that this character resembles the Hawley and Hazel toothpaste mascot “Darkie”, a racist depiction of white actor Al Jolson in blackface. When asked about the resemblance, Lil Darkie claimed that it was entirely coincidental and that there was absolutely no racist intent behind it. Again, Hamilton has claimed that he doesn’t believe in race whatsoever.
Hamilton also gave the real reasoning for switching the color of his cartoon character from blue to black. He has said that after researching further into Hindu mythology, he learned that Hindu gods are typically depicted as having black skin rather than blue in Hindu texts. However, people began to give visual depictions of the gods’ blue skin over time because the black might make them too scary. Thus, after learning about this and then looking at himself in the mirror while tripping on acid and imagining all of the color leaving his skin, Hamilton decided to switch the color of his cartoon character over to black, saying that he no longer felt connected with the blue Brahman character.
In light of the controversies surrounding Lil Darkie, Spotify removed his music from their platform and Instagram temporarily blocked his account. Darkie has since been reinstated on both sites, despite continuing to put out controversial songs like “GENOCIDE” and “FUCK ALL OF YOU <3”. Darkie put out several tweets in response to his accounts being banned that expressed his disagreement with the sites’ decisions to ban him, saying, “plenty of art is offensive, that doesn’t mean it should be censored”.
Lyrical and Musical Style
For hip-hop listeners familiar with XXXTentacion or Lil Pump, Lil Darkie’s music and lyrical is definitely an extension of that same family of rap styles, most of the time. Darkie bounces between genres quite a bit, though, to the point that you never know what you’re going to get when he releases a new track. For the most part, however, he adds elements of metal into his hip-hop tracks and turns up the angst a notch or two. In the current hip-hop landscape, artists such as ZillaKami and Machine Gun Kelly have been working elements of punk and metal into their recent hip-hop releases, and Lil Darkie certainly fits into that trend.
Lil Darkie’s lyrical content is supposed to be provocative. It’s hard to understand exactly what his ideology is, in a similar way to how Tyler, The Creator and Odd Future seem to be more interested in provocation for provocation’s sake than clearly conveying a message.
While Lil Darkie’s message may be hard to pin down, his overall persona seems like a reflection of the borderless, fluid, undefinable day and age we’re all living in. He’s a multiracial, bisexual musician who raps in several different musical styles. He doesn’t seem to fit into any single category, and what he represents seems to change completely from song to song.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with the ideas presented in Lil Darkie’s music, he has undeniably become a force in the underground hip-hop scene. He’s gained massive amounts of popularity among hip-hop heads who identify with his angsty delivery and goading lyrics, and he even formed his own conglomerate of rappers called Spider Gang, which includes Wendigo, Cxrpse, BRUHMANEGOD, Christ Dillinger, Lil Cubensis, AFourteen, and others.
If you’re reading this and you’re absolutely terrified by the fact that Lil Darkie is even allowed to put his music out in the world, I hate to disappoint you, but it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere anytime soon. Darkie’s built a solid fanbase that seems to be growing every day. And while his lyrical content and edgy cartoon imagery have left people all over the world feeling uncomfortable or flat-out enraged, it seems that Darkie may be paving the way for an entirely new genre of hip-hop that resonates with kids who feel forgotten or antagonized by society.