There's no better time than the present to be a white rapper. In fact, if you're African American, Latin, Asian, f*ck, anything else but white with pasty skin, you may want to consider f*cking around in another genre of music. White people own this sh*t right now. Which is sort of bad, but good. But also bad. And good. Let me explain, because the onslaught of white rap is not exactly a new thing. Hip-hop is now old as f*ck. In the 80s and 90s it was cute to be all like "oh, the genre is only x, y and z years old" and so on and so forth. And in that time when the culture was still shaping itself, it was hard to really assess the importance of what was going on. Luckily, the culture kind of self-policed itself in a way, ejecting wack sh*t (Vanilla Ice), and cosigning the good sh*t (3rd Bass). But that was back when there was a filter on music, and looking at it now, it's easy to see that even despite this, white people and rap have had a weird relationship as it pertains to success dating back to the culture's salad days. To wit, despite Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” being revered as one of the first extremely popular rap songs, the first rap-influenced song to ever top the Billboard Hot 100 was, in fact, Blondie's "Rapture," in 1981. See, it took a hot blonde white girl rapping to put hip-hop on top. Strangely, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
We are in 2011, and who has been dominating the conversation for the past few months? Kreayshawn. To a lesser extent, V-Nasty. On the less controversial side, there's Mac Miller, Yelawolf, and Machine Gun Kelly (who strangely reminds me of Milkbone, a 90s-era rapper from New Jersey who had a few noteworthy tunes- one, consequently titled "Keep It Real," go figure- before fading to black). And there are others. Macklemore. Hoodie Allen. Chris Webby. Sam Adams. Iggy Azalea. Action Bronson. Even Riff Raff. I could probably list twenty more white rappers who are semi-popular right now to the average high school and college kid, but who most rap critics and "serious" rap people never heard of. But what difference does that make, really? It's unfortunate, but rare as it is an Odd Future-like situation where the internet hype machine and actual fans are aligned in their interests in an act. Now, more often than not, tastemakers who feed the hype machine are feeding it bullsh*t that arguably nobody really cares about, and fans are making their presence felt with metrics on social networks that really matter- Facebook and Youtube. The old system was built on a top down model, where the old guard- artists, executives, fans, "the industry," etc- would have to give you their blessing for you to really make it in the game. Despite selling millions of records, Vanilla Ice never got that far. Eminem did. It's this weird, sort of hard to define thing where artists who are perceived to be "of the culture" maintain some sort of relevancy in it. That relevancy is tough to fade. Look at Paul Wall. The guy hasn't had a hit record in years, but his popularity in hip-hop circles is still high. No matter how sh*tty his music may be, Paul Wall is seen as being "down."
The new generation, though, they don't give a f*ck about that. While radio and older more established media outlets are still feeding off rap industry hype, waiting to post the next Wale or J. Cole song, other blogs and more progressive folks are searching the internet far and wide for rap that appeals to their multi-cultural sensibilities. And that's how these white rappers wind up popping off. Not because they're being posted on mainstream rap blogs (which they eventually graduate to, like Mac Miller), but because they land on some blog sandwiched between a Skrillex remix and a Foster The People video. And who's looking at that? Some young white college kid who just wants to go out, rage and have some dope party music to do it to. Before you know it, Becky who goes to Villanova is gonna share it with Sally at Umass, who's gonna pass it to Dom who's in Alpha Phi Delta, and so on down the line. A million YouTube views later, a couple thousand Tumblr reblogs, and such and such white rapper is now being booked for red cup-infused college parties across the Northeast. Why does it work so efficiently with white rappers and not anyone else? And why now? It's really hard to narrow it down to a specific answer, but whereas in years past white rappers were looking to downplay their purported levels of "whiteness" (anyone remember the characters on the VH1 "White Rapper Show"?) now rappers like Hoodie Allen, among others, seemingly revel in it. There's a level of authenticity in their music and how they present themselves that wasn't there before. Years ago white rappers didn't want to be white. They didn't covet the white audience. They wanted the respect of the black kids. And I think to a large extent that still remains true. But it's not an overt gesture. It doesn't come across like a big "F-U!" to white people, as it once did. In fact, it's a lot more welcoming, and that's why white people- and really, all people- are embracing white rappers a lot more easily.
Retweet If You’re White And You Rap