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Discussion in 'The Mainboard' started by brahmanknight, May 31, 2009.
We’re like the cowboys fans when it comes to Dot ITT.. This year is our year!!
Fantastic. I wonder what features he'll snag for it now that he's getting more and more popular
Earthgang album this weekend still? If we can get the same quality of Mirrorland again I'll be a happy guy
Well still no Earthgang album and they've gone quiet. Hmmmm
But we got this
Damn sure did
I told a friend of mine after Coles last album dropped that he should let WSG put together his next album. Bring in guys like alchemist and mr conductor and Madlib and let It fly. Cole is best over the bluesy soulful sounds
This is so cool
We don’t condone biting
100% my favorite song of all time.
This song is amazing. Just flat out fantastic
Now we just need some Kendrick Lamar collabs with Griselda
Man it’s gonna be hard for any mainstream guy alive to match that chemistry. I’m not a huge Cole guy but that’s fucking money. He does exactly what he should have
This is old but I hadn't seen it before. Pretty spot on IMO
The White-Rapper Taxonomy
From Vanilla Ice to Eminem, from rastas to indie heroes, from nerds to Auto-Tuned crooners to poets, white rappers have been many things. So we classified more than 100 different ones to see what we can learn.
Earlier this year, Lord Jamar told Eminem that white rappers were just guests in the house of hip-hop. Over the past four decades, though, they’ve taken up a lot of real estate. In the ’80s, the Beastie Boys brought punk energy to the genre and pumped out frat anthems that still get played today. The bookends of the ’90s featured two of the most infamous white MCs in history, albeit ones with very different legacies: Vanilla Ice, who became a pariah as quickly as he became a superstar, and Eminem, who would become the best-selling rapper ever while also being heralded for his lyrical dexterity. The 21st century has seen all shapes and sizes of white wordsmith: Southern kings like Paul Wall, indie legends like El-P, and a new wave of stars like Mac Miller, Post Malone, and Lil Dicky.
But just because white rappers have been in the house for a long time doesn’t mean their presence hasn’t occasionally been uncomfortable. In a piece on The Ringer on Tuesday, Jeff Weiss speaks at length to Vanilla Ice about his rise and downfall and the cries of cultural appropriation he faced. Twenty-five years later, Malone and Iggy Azalea have been the subject of similar criticisms. Those accusations haven’t torpedoed either’s career—at least not Malone’s—but they underscore the reality: Rap is Black music, and if a white artist is fortunate enough to participate, they have to be respectful. That’s something Eminem understood.
But respectfully or not, white MCs have been infiltrating hip-hop for so long and with so much volume that they need their own house at this point There are so many different kinds now that the term “white rapper” is almost outmoded. We need to create new classifications—subcategories so we know what type of Caucasian with bars we’re dealing with. What follows is an attempt to do just that. The Ringer has taken more than 100 white MCs and broken them into a few dozen groups that seek to capture their flavors, display their varying credibility, and perhaps determine whether or not they are Fred Durst. There are commonalities between many, while others stand out on their own as originals.
A few words about methodology: First, in compiling this taxonomy, we identified close to 200 rappers. For the sake of brevity, not all are listed, so apologies to the likes of Despot, R.A. the Rugged Man, Evidence, Hot Karl, Eternia, Tony D, and many others. Your contributions are not overlooked. Second, rappers of mixed ethnicity were excluded—that means no Drake, Wiki, Slowthai, or, sadly, Stitchez.
With that out of the way, we present to you the White Rapper Taxonomy. Tread lightly: You may stumble across some memories you’ve long suppressed.
The Pale Kids Rapping Fast
Examples: Mac Lethal, Watsky
Fast-rapping has a long and storied history in hip-hop. In the ’90s and 2000s, no one was more closely associated with it than Twista, who in 1992 fit 598 syllables into 55 seconds and landed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony became legends for their rapid-fire flows, and Busta Rhymes flexed whenever given the chance, most famously on his 2001 hit, “Break Ya Neck.” But Twista, Bone, and Busta were more than just gimmicks: All have released classic albums and been chart mainstays throughout their careers. You need more than a quick tongue to be successful in hip-hop.
That is, unless you’re white. In 2011, a 24-year-old white kid named George Watsky borrowed the “Break Ya Neck” instrumental, sat down on camera with his black-and-white cat, and recorded the video that would become “Pale Kid Raps Fast.” “Oh, hi, I’m that guy, built so fly in a silk bow tie,” he begins before slipping into a series of non sequiturs about Gabourey Sidibe, Kit-Kat bars, and most disturbingly, Quagmire from Family Guy. At one point, he raps 60 words in three seconds (or so this article says, I’m not counting). This kid could indeed rap fast, and people ate it up. The video amassed 25 million views before Watsky delisted it; Ellen and CBS News came calling, and he eventually gave a TED Talk. (Last I checked, Krayzie Bone has yet to be afforded similar opportunities.) Watsky would also inspire a legion of struggle rappers to try to match his feat: most notably, Mac Lethal, a Missouri indie rapper who never met a lyrical stunt he wouldn’t try. Mac’s video was titled, naturally, “Pale Kid Raps Faster.”
In 2020, both pale kids are still at it: Watsky freestyled in May for 33 consecutive hours (!!) to raise money for musicians affected by the pandemic, while Mac has recorded odes to the Kansas City Chiefs and a song dissing “woke corporations.” And while neither has produced a chart hit or even a critically adored album, both still have sizable followings. I guess a sharp tongue can pay off by itself, so long as you’re willing to embrace it as a gimmick.
The Celebrities With Nothing Better to Do
Examples: Simon Rex, John Cena, Joaquin Phoenix, David Faustino, Brian Austin Green, Rodney Dangerfield, Steve-O from Jackass, Joe Pesci, Macho Man Randy Savage
There’s something about being super famous that often makes a person feel invincible: “If I became famous for being great at this one thing,” they must say to themselves, “then surely I am great at this other thing.” Given the relatively low barrier of entry to hip-hop—because it doesn’t require the ability to sing or learn instruments, people trick themselves into thinking it’s easy—rap often becomes a celebrity’s other thing. For decades, white actors, wrestlers, and comedians have been stepping up the mic and mostly falling flat. The trend began with Rodney Dangerfield’s “Rappin’ Rodney” and allowed the likes of Steve-O and 90210’s Brian Austin Green to make asses of themselves (with bewildering assists from Kool G Rap and the Pharcyde, respectively). The most confusing entrant in this category was Joaquin Phoenix, who in 2010 starred in I’m Still Here, which traced his attempt to transition from acting to rapping. The whole thing was later revealed to be a joke, though I’m still unsure whether Diddy was in on it. But even if Phoenix was faking it, the image of him bombing on stage at LIV remains priceless.
The Sons of Celebrities With Nothing Better to Do
Examples: Chet Haze, Scott Caan, Gabe Day
Chetena big-ups the whole island massive, but does the whole island massive big-up Chetena?
All inline illustrations by Adam Villacin
The Country Boys
Examples: Bubba Sparxxx, Kid Rock, Yelawolf, Haystak, Struggle Jennings, Jellyroll
Modern country rap traces its roots to future senator Kid Rock’s “Cowboy,” but before 1998, it not only existed, but also was not especially white. “Rappin’ Duke” was more than just a reference on “Juicy,” Sir Mix-a-Lot had the “Square Dance Rap,” and Crucial Conflict flipped a Funkadelic sample into a country-tinged weed anthem. When Rock bawitdaba’d his way onto MTV, however, it opened up a new lane for Southern white boys who wanted to spit rhymes instead of chewing tobacco. The best of them was easily Bubba Sparxxx, who worked with Timbaland, recorded a pretty great sophomore album, and rode the crunk wave to chart success. But let’s also poor one out for Yelawolf, the would-be Eminem of Alabama who loves his box Chevys.
The Frat Rappers
Examples: Asher Roth, Sammy Adams, Hoodie Allen, Mike Stud, Chris Webby
There’s an alternate universe in which Asher Roth puts out a few self-recorded mixtapes, doesn’t get any attention, and goes on to have a nice, normal career outside of rap. Instead, in 2007, the Morrisville, Pennsylvania, MC sent a MySpace friend request to a young, ascending Scooter Braun, who quickly flew Roth to Atlanta and signed him to a management deal. Two years later, Roth would release the Weezer-sampling “I Love College,” an ode to cold pizza, beer pong, and just kickin’ it, bro. The song would hit no. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spark an outcry for, as Ian Cohen put it at the time, using “hip-hop as a vehicle to express leisure class privilege,” but Roth was hazed so a new group of white rappers could fly, or at least open a few beer bottles with a lighter. In the immediate aftermath of “College,” the likes of Hoodie Allen, Sammy Adams, and Mike Stud emerged. While none have reached the commercial heights of Roth’s debut single, they exposed a truth that anyone who’s ever set foot in a dorm room already knew: There’s no rapper more confident than a white one with an indie sample after a few bong rips.
The Unfortunately Named
Examples: Young Black Teenagers, White Dawg, Milkbone
In 1991, Bomb Squad producer Hank Shocklee unveiled his new group Young Black Teenagers. Funny thing, though: None of them were black. Perhaps even worse, their self-titled debut album included a song called “Daddy Kalled Me Niga Cause I Likeded to Rhyme.” Two years later, YBT dropped a pretty decent ode to 40 ounces called “Tap the Bottle.” Their DJ, Skribble, had a run as MTV’s resident turntablist in the late ’90s, but hip-hop pretty soon decided it would rather hear from actual young Black teenagers instead of a bunch of white kids fronting as some.
The Goons From the Northeast
Examples: Ill Bill, Slaine, Necro, Esoteric, Vinnie Paz, Apathy
I say “goon” in the most affectionate way possible. These guys are like M.O.P. for kids who wear flat-brim Celtics fitteds. May they never quit yelling.
The Ones Better Off Making Beats
Examples: DJ Muggs, the Alchemist, Kno, Exile, Scram Jones, Scott Storch
Today, the Alchemist is one of the most respected producers in hip-hop history, having been behind the boards for classics by Mobb Deep and Jadakiss, while also helping to usher in a new era of sample-laced boom-bap through his work with Prodigy and collaborations with the likes of Freddie Gibbs, Roc Marciano, and Westside Gunn. But before all that, he was in an early-’90s group called the Whooliganz with the aforementioned Scott Caan, son of James Caan. (They had a cosign from Cypress Hill, whose own producer, the Italian American DJ Muggs, had a few brief turns rhyming.) Al eventually found his home on the sampler, and while he’ll occasionally pick up the mic—“Hold You Down” still goes—he’s a legend for his beats, not his pen.
As for Storch, he’s mostly been content to play the role of piano man, but in the late ’00s he found himself embroiled in a beef with one-time mentor Timbaland. (At issue: the production credits on Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River.”) The forever-aviator’d beatsmith stepped out from behind the keys with the diss song “Built Like That,” which truthfully could’ve been much worse (and definitely could’ve been much better). If you’re wondering whether the public-access-level video still exists, you’re in luck:
The People’s Champ
Example: Paul Wall
Paul Wall has said that he’s not a “white rapper,” but rather a rapper who happens to be white. (He’s also said he doesn’t believe in dinosaurs, so take that for what it’s worth.) But the statement raises some interesting points: Is there a difference, however slight? Do some rappers make being white part of their identity? And how did the Houston MC slip through his career while evading the backlash that met other caucasian spitters? The answer to the last question likely stems from the way he came up: Paul got his start as a street team member for Southern labels like Cash Money and No Limit and worked as a DJ before being discovered on a local radio station alongside Chamillionaire. He then worked his way through the Swishahouse machine, and after building a huge regional fan base, his 2005 major-label debut The People’s Champ went platinum. (His mouth, however, went diamond.) The 39-year-old Paul is still active today, and while he’ll likely never achieve the heights of “Sittin’ Sidewayz,” he remains a legend—one who happens to be white.
No figure in hip-hop has had a career quite like El Producto’s. The New York MC began his career in the mid-’90s as one-third of the iconoclastic group Company Flow. In 1997, they released their debut full-length Funcrusher Plus on Rawkus Records, helping kick off the underground hip-hop movement that inspired a legion of kids to cop a pair of turntables, a backpack, and some king-size Sharpies. Within a few years, however, Rawkus would collapse and Co Flow would amicably split. El-P moved on to his next phase: head honcho of Definitive Jux Records, where he produced indie classics for himself and Cannibal Ox and put out still-beloved records from RJD2, Cage, Mr. Lif, Aesop Rock, and a long list of others. But then the market bottomed out, Def Jux folded, and El found himself adrift. And then fate struck: El-P teamed with Atlanta MC Killer Mike. After he produced Mike’s R.A.P. Music in 2012, the pair formed Run the Jewels, released four excellent albums, and became second-line-on-the-Coachella-poster-level big. El-P seems to have found his home, but if for some reason Run the Jewels ever stops, he should be just fine.
Make Nasty Shit and Keep Moving: The Way of El-P
The Horrorcore Horrorshows
Examples: Insane Clown Posse, Twiztid, Blaze Ya Dead Homie
Insane Clown Posse has sold millions of records and are, by any metric, among the best-selling independent hip-hop groups of all time. But back when CD stores were a thing, I remember being confused about why Insane Clown Posse were filed in the rap section. How could dudes who looked like this and sounded like this be situated next to Inspectah Deck? I know I wasn’t alone. But based on the lineups they run out at their annual Gathering of the Juggalos festival, they may have more respect for hip-hop than hip-hop has ever had for them.
Examples: MC Paul Barman, MC Chris, MC Frontalot, MC Hawking, MC Lars, MC Router, a lot of other people using “MC” in their name as something of an in-joke
Nerdcore: a subgenre more concerned with Star Wars than Style Wars, more Harry Potter than Harry Allen, and more RPGs than B.I.G. (Quick shouts to Paul Barman, who has worked with Prince Paul, Masta Ace, and MF Doom. He’s rejected the “nerd rap” classification, but if you’re going to flip iconic Biggie lines and rhyme them with “honor roll,” you’re going to end up here.)
Examples: Remedy, Blood of Abraham, Shawn Wigs, Lil Wyte, OB OBrien
At several points in hip-hop history, it’s been fashionable to have a white boy or two in your crew. Eazy-E had Blood of Abraham, who made their Jewish beliefs the core of their identity; EPMD had the Knucklehedz; Wu-Tang Clan had Remedy, while Ghostface Killah’s side crew Theodore Unit had Shawn Wigs (who may have been around just for his poker skills). The most successful of these was Three 6 Mafia associate Lil Wyte, whose 2003 album Doubt Me Now produced the minor hits “My Smokin’ Song” and “Oxy Cotton.” Though my favorite factoid about Wyte is that he allegedly passed up the opportunity to write “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”—the Hustle & Flow song Three 6 Mafia would win an Oscar for—because he couldn’t relate to the infidelity aspect.
The Rap-Rock Doofuses
Examples: Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit), Jonathan Davis (Korn), Twenty-One Pilots, Kottonmouth Kings, Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach), Shifty Shellshock (Crazy Town), Nick Hexum (311)
Rap has always had a cozy relationship with rock. Songs like Babe Ruth’s “The Mexican” and Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern” were foundational anthems for B-boys and B-girls, and even before Run DMC teamed up with Aerosmith, the rap pioneers had declared themselves the kings of the other genre. Throughout the years, plenty of nonwhite artists have blended the two to mixed results; sometimes you end up with the Judgement Night soundtrack, other times you get Rebirth.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, white people were obsessed with marrying rap and rock. Seemingly every other band on MTV had a DJ, and a new testosterone-fueled hybrid emerged. None were louder or dumber or more famous than Limp Bizkit, whose Fred Durst was beamed onto television sets daily to yell about breaking stuff and where we could shove cookies. (Our original national red-hat scourge also shared his pain: “Should I be feelin’ bad? No! Should I be feelin’ good? No! / It’s kinda sad, I’m the laughin’ stock of the neighborhood.” Damn, Fred.) The Limp ones made few attempts at straightforward rap—“N 2 Gether Now” featuring Method Man and DJ Premier is still a low-key banger, while the 2001 Neptunes remix of “Nookie” has never been—but with lyrics like “Where we gonna run? / Maybe we can meet up on the sun,” these guys should’ve picked the other genre and stuck to it. (Or dropped music altogether to go into directing eHarmony ads and straight-to-video John Travolta movies, which, oh right, that’s exactly what happened.)
The Forgotten Indie Rap Heroes
Examples: Cage, The High & Mighty, Ugly Duckling, Yak Ballz, Edan, Grouch & Eligh, Madchild of Swollen Members, Copywrite, Anticon
Truthfully, this group could probably swell to a few dozen deep. The late ’90s and early 2000s were a golden age for underground hip-hop, as thousands of white kids were drawn to sounds of Rawkus’s Soundbombing 2 and Fondle ’Em Records’ 12-inches like a moth to the flame. Some of those artists became semistars ... to the type of person who enjoys freestyle cyphers and extolling the virtues of the four elements with the passion of a NXIVM convert. If you’re familiar with just one artist on this list, however, it’s most likely Cage, who sampled the theme to A Clockwork Orange and feuded with Eminem before the latter set his sights on the likes of Britney Spears and ICP. He also caught the attention of Shia LaBeouf, who would direct one of Cage’s music videos, cast him in a short film alongside Kid Cudi, and attempt to play the rapper in a biopic. “Cage is my Jake LaMotta,” LaBeouf said in 2007. Unfortunately for both—and for people that owned Movies for the Blind on wax—the film never got off the mat.
The Well-Intentioned Cornballs
Examples: Macklemore; Logic; Russ; NF; the dude from Flobots, if they’re still a thing
All of these artists seem to mean well, and there’s certainly a time and place to praise their earnest positivity. But this exercise is not the time, nor the place. I’m obligated to mention Macklemore’s humble-bragging post-Grammys text to Kendrick, and I should also point you toward this explainer on who TF best-selling Christian rapper NF is, but mainly, I just want to thank Logic for knowing he was better off livestreaming on Twitch and writing novels than he was dropping more music.
The Young and Ignorant
Example: Slim Jesus
I could write a million words and still not find a description as perfect as this comment on Slim Jesus’s “Drill Time” video: “When you order Eminem on Wish.”
The British Caucasion Invasion
Examples: The Streets, Lady Sovereign, Plan B, Professor Green
It’s remarkable that the American music press tried to make Mike Skinner such a thing. It’s even more remarkable that he cracked the U.S. Billboard charts with an album containing a song called “Such a Twat.”
The Slimeball Kings and Queens
Examples: Riff Raff, Mickey Avalon, Kitty Pryde, Lil Debbie, Princess Superstar, Bhad Bhabie
An incomplete list of Riff Raff’s tattoos, ranked:
10. The stars of his legs.
9. “Brandy.” (I think.)
8. His two Kokayne Dawkinz tattoos.
7. The NBA logo.
6. “7 Time All*Star.”
5. “What’s Higher Than a King? Tha Freestyle Ace.”
4. “Wreckin the Scene the Texas Tornado.”
3. “MTV Riff Raff.”
2. “We Are Not the Same.” (Thank god he circled no.)
1. Bart Simpson, the freestyle scientist.
The Postmodern New York Revivalists
Examples: Action Bronson, Your Old Droog, Crimeapple
Today, Westside Gunn and Griselda may be the standard bearers for minimalist N.Y. rap, but a decade ago, the sound was just finding its footing. Building off of the sound that Alchemist laid out on Prodigy’s Return of the Mac and Roc Marciano refined on Marcberg, Action Bronson carved out a niche in the early ’10s with a series of influential projects. The crown jewel was Blue Chips, his 2012 collaboration with Party Supplies that reveled in the rip-and-run approach to sampling and vivid storytelling that has come to define modern underground hip-hop. Since then, Bam Bam Baklava has evolved into something of a renaissance man, starring in multiple Viceland shows and taking up side hobbies like painting. The big man is also down 100-plus pounds, so here’s hoping that however hip-hop evolves, he’s around for it.
The Ones Who Rapped Before They Were Actually Famous
Examples: Marky Mark, Tom Green, Carmen Electra
You almost certainly remember Mark Wahlberg’s turn as a Calvin Klein underwear model/hip-house star (and also the list of racist hate crimes from his youth). You may not remember Carmen Electra’s Prince-produced 1993 album, which included songs like “Step to the Mic.”
And if you’re under a certain age, you probably don’t remember Tom Green at all (if so, allow me to introduce you to the inspiration for Eminem’s “my bum is on your lips” aside). Before Green became an MTV sensation in the late ’90s (you had to be there, trust me), he had a minor hit in Canada as part of the group Organized Rhyme that helped catapult his comedy career. He was also briefly married to Drew Barrymore and is reportedly close friends with Brandy’s brother/Kanye’s nemesis Ray J. What a strange life he’s led. He can thank rapping for at least part of it.
The Would-be Kurt Cobain (and Some Other SoundCloud Rappers)
Example: Lil Peep, Lil Skies, Lil Xan, Yung Lean, Ghostemane, Suicideboys
Much ink has been spilled (including by yours truly on this very website) about what was lost when Lil Peep died in November 2017, but nearly three years later, it bears repeating: He was destined for true stardom. The L.A.–by-way-of–Long Island rapper blended emo and trap in an effortless manner, and when combined with his runway good looks and natural charisma, it’s easy to envision a world in which he dominated the charts and sold a million T-shirts out of Hot Topic. His breakthrough project Hellboy finally hit streaming services last month. Go listen to it.
The Ones Whose Lyrics Are Tattooed on Your Ex (at Least Mine)
Examples: Slug, Aesop Rock, Eyedea, Sage Francis
Before Lil Peep or Kid Cudi were ever called “emo rappers,” the term was often applied to a handful of white, heady, underground rappers who made music that appealed to your local baristas. The most prominent of them was Slug, the MC half of the legendary Minneapolis group Atmosphere and cofounder of indie powerhouse label Rhymesayers. Across 20 years, 10 Atmosphere albums, and a handful of other releases, the rapper born Sean Daley has painted vivid depictions of heartbreak, addiction, strife, fatherhood, and, frequently, utter joy. I’m not sure whether I’d call his music “emo rap,” but the man has boundless talent for capturing a wide range of emotions.
The Many Would-be Feminems
Examples: Kreayshawn, Iggy Azalea, Northern State, Justina Valentine, Sarai
The first “rapper” to ever appear on MTV was Debbie Harry, a beautiful, blonde post-disco queen who brought along New York luminaries Fab 5 Freddy and Jean-Michel Basquiat for the “Rapture” video. But despite this, hip-hop has gone its entire lifespan without producing a true white woman superstar. Before 2010, there were false starts like Valentine and Sarai—both of whom actively courted comparisons to Eminem, but ultimately didn’t break out—and there were novelties like Northern State, a dorm-room concern that somehow landed a beat from Pete Rock. The early part of the last decade featured two who seemed poised for stardom: Iggy Azalea and Kreayshawn. However, the former, an Aussie who had a breakout hit in “Fancy” and a cosign from T.I., has seen her star fade as she faced allegations of cultural appropriation that many of her white male counterparts have not. Meanwhile, Kreayshawn rode a wobbly bass line to viral fame with “Gucci Gucci,” but this summer, she revealed her time signed to a major label left her hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. It’s arguable that both deserved better, but so does rap music.
The Ones You Remember Only if You Lived in Williamsburg in 2008
Examples: Amanda Bank, Uffie, Peaches
I still log in to my Hype Machine account a few times a year just to feel something.
The I-Don’t-Want-to-Rap Rappers
Examples: Machine Gun Kelly, Post Malone
Post Malone is one of the biggest rappers in the world, yet he doesn’t rap, per se, on any of his biggest hits. And after nearly 14 years of releasing music, Machine Gun Kelly finally landed atop the Billboard 200 this week with his new LP, Tickets to My Downfall. Despite being released on legendary hip-hop and R&B label Bad Boy, Tickets is a mall-pop album. Guys like Post are rightfully criticized for their seeming lack of respect for hip-hop: Whether he considers himself a rapper or not, he’s used all the trappings of the genre to reach the level he has, yet he’s dismissed it as emotionally shallow and having little value beyond party music. While there are a handful of other artists on this list I wish would abandon rapping, I fear it may only make them more popular. Let’s avoid that.
The Comedians With Bars Getting Saucy
Examples: Andy Milonakis, the Lonely Island, Bo Burnham, “Weird Al” Yankovic, ItsTheReal
Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island collective are the most successful comedy rappers since Weird Al took Coolio to Amish country and turned “All About the Benjamins” into an IT worker’s anthem. Beginning with 2005’s “Lazy Sunday,” the future Palm Springs star used hip-hop as a means to stand out from a crowded SNL cast and set himself up for a fruitful post-show career. But I’m going to use this space to discuss something that’s bothered me for over a decade. In 2009, the Lonely Island recorded a song called “We Like Sportz,” which included the line “I drink whiskey ’cause I like the taste.” Pretty innocuous, right? Except in 2006, Storm Davis recorded a song called “Crazy MF” that included the line “I drink whiskey ’cause I like the taste.” Normally, I’d chalk this up to simple coincidence, but humor me here. The Lonely Island dudes are clearly massive rap and sports nerds; Storm’s music appeals to massive rap and sports nerds. Storm shares a name with a former Oakland A’s pitcher and has rapped extensively about Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire; Lonely Island would later record an album-length tribute to the Bash Bros. Also, the phrase “I drink whiskey ’cause I like the taste” doesn’t seem to appear anywhere else on the internet besides in reference to the two songs. But here’s the kicker: Dude in the video says it in the exact same cadence as Storm. Now, I’m not saying they lifted the line, but at the very least, Storm Davis was a few years ahead of them on some of their ideas. Andy, please call Storm. He could be a great asset for Popstar 2.
The White Rastas
Example: Snow, Matisyahu
Speaking of Andy Samberg, “Ras Trent” has a few notable forebears: the Hasidic homeboy Matisyahu, who became an icon among the type of college kids who bought Buena Vista Social Club CDs, and, most famously Snow, a Toronto reggae artist who released an early anti-snitching song called “Informer.” It’s impossible to discuss the latter without discussing Jim Carrey.
In Living Color–era Carrey may have secretly been the best cultural critic of the early 1990s. In Jeff Weiss’s lengthy feature on Vanilla Ice, he breaks down Carrey’s ethering of the rapper in 1991 through the parody song “White White Baby,” which partially contributed to the Ice Man’s downfall. The next year, Carrey was back at it with “Imposter,” a takedown of Snow’s “Informer.” Everything from its title, to the fake record label One Hit Wonder Bread Records, to Carrey’s tongue-twisting is pitch perfect. But buried beneath the gags are scathing lyrics that get at problems that still persist nearly 30 years later: “Time Warner kicked Ice-T off of the label for dissing the cops / They said it just ain’t right / But when a caucasian man records a cop-hating song, they don’t have a problem / Must be an oversight.” Snow may not have reached the same heights as Vanilla Ice, but his exit from the limelight was just as cold.
The Jack of All Trade, Master of None
The cover of Everlast’s 1990 solo debut, Forever Everlasting, positions the rapper as a fighter: Sporting his soon-to-be-trademark permascowl and a hair part that’s just slightly askew, the rapper dons a boxer’s gloves and robe, ready to explode off the stool and take on any challenger. It turned out to be an apt introduction to his brand of grizzled hip-hop and rock. Two years later, as the frontman to House of Pain, Everlast notched his first hit, “Jump Around,” a blaring, aggressive party anthem that’s started college-bar mosh pits and soundtracked alcohol poisoning ever since. Six years later, he’d go solo again with Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, earning his biggest chart success and a few Grammy nominations. The album’s contemplative lead single, “What It’s Like,” is about as far from “Jump Around” as it gets, but still packs the jaded edge that defined his early music. In the years after he first sang the blues, he released a slew of albums, feuded with Eminem, and briefly joined the white-rap supergroup La Coka Nostra. He was never the best rapper, nor the best singer, nor the best guitar player. But he earned a lot of respect for doing all three along the way, and that’s thanks to his ability to fight.
The Modern Stars
Examples: Mac Miller, G-Eazy, Jack Harlow, Lil Dicky
It feels like there are more popular white rappers than at any point in the past. G-Eazy and his PG-13 greaser schtick have racked up billions of plays on Spotify; advertising pitchman turned self-deprecating punch-line machine Lil Dicky has a critically-lauded TV show; scraggly-haired MC and budding film critic Jack Harlow had one of the biggest hits of the summer; and Post Malone is the empty-calorie star that America deserves. But no other modern white rap star showed the depth and range of Mac Miller, who died in 2018 at age 26. If we had done this exercise a decade ago, he may have landed in the “frat rapper” section, but Mac’s art evolved through the years, from the lyrical showcase of 2015’s GO:OD AM to his ode to then-girlfriend Ariana Grande The Divine Feminine to his post-breakup exploration of depression, Swimming. His 2020 posthumous release Circles shows an artist that was still growing. Like most young artists who have died, Mac is more popular in death. But the work he left behind gives his peers something to aspire to.
Mac Miller Was Unfinished
Examples: Beastie Boys, 3rd Bass, B.M.O.C.
The Beasties would drop genre-defining albums and eventually become pacifist elder statesmen more concerned with Tibetan freedom than record sales, but in the beginning, the trio—along with early backers Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons—saw the group as nothing but punks. In the mid-’80s, they went on tour with bands like Fishbone, Murphy’s Law, and Public Image Ltd, and their most popular songs cranked the guitars up to 11 and leaned into their strong bro vibes. (To wit: As part of an early rebrand from hardcore to hip-hop, the boys jettisoned drummer and founding member Kate Schellenbach, whose vision for the group was quite different.) Licensed to Ill may not be their best work, and it’s certainly not the album that best defines the group, but it was the one that attracted a lot of kids that looked like Ad-Rock, MCA, and Mike D to rap music.
Def Jam also had another pioneering white rap group on its label in the 1980s: 3rd Bass. MC Serch and Pete Nice—along with their DJ Daddy Rich, who is Black—were among the first caucasians to make credible rap music. By the time Vanilla Ice blew up, they attempted to double down on that credibility, dropping the anti-sellout anthem “Pop Goes the Weasel.” The group would dissolve shortly afterward: Pete Nice would become a baseball historian and later admit to committing fraud in a convoluted case related to baseball memorabilia; Serch would go on to find success as a record exec (he shepherded Nas’s Illmatic) and then as a TV host on, of course, The (White) Rapper Show.
As for B.M.O.C., the Harvard students would release only a few tepidly received songs, but one member, Jon Shecter, would later cofound The Source, hip-hop’s monthly bible in the pre-internet era. He likely did more to get white kids into rap than anyone on this list not named Marshall.
The Punch Line
Example: Vanilla Ice
Look, Jeff’s feature on Ice won’t change the rapper’s ultimate legacy, but it may make you reconsider parts of it. For starters, he was a Southern star at a time when popular MCs came only from New York or L.A. (and even that was rare). He also was a student of hip-hop who loved Rakim and Kool G Rap, and he got his start as a dancer who had to win over all-Black clubs. The backlash against Ice was in many respects deserved, and it set white rappers back nearly a decade (it’s up to you to decide whether that’s good or bad). His name became synonymous with selling out and manufactured success, and his hubris and flashy suits and that damn haircut did him no favors. But it’s important to remember he was just a 22-year-old goofball when To the Extreme was released, not some kind of monster. If Vanilla Ice debuted today, chances are we wouldn’t even blink. And that’s word to your mother.
The Rise and Fall of Vanilla Ice, As Told by Vanilla Ice
In a September 2019 appearance on Talib Kweli’s People’s Party podcast, Los Angeles rapper Murs (who is Black) discussed the trajectory of the career of white rappers. Early on, it’s a struggle, at least relative to other aspects of being white in America; they’re often not taken seriously and likely have to outwork their nonwhite peers to prove themselves. But once they break through, there are no limits to what they can achieve. “Their rocket ship has trouble getting off the ground,” he said, “but once it gets to the stratosphere, it’s gone.”
No white rapper’s spaceship has ever taken off like Eminem’s. After some early turbulence, Marshall Mathers would go on to become the best-selling rapper of all time, pushing more than 220 units worldwide. He’s topped the Billboard 200 with 10 different albums, most recently with January’s Music to Be Murdered By. Early in his career, he replaced Marilyn Manson as the scariest white guy for suburban America, and he inspired a million kids to want to grow up and be just like him.
But why Eminem as opposed to the 100-plus other white rappers referenced in this piece? Well, the shock value certainly helped, and the cosign from Dr. Dre was crucial for establishing his credibility. But more than anything, Eminem was just supremely talented at rapping. He combined Kool G Rap’s and Nas’s abilities to flip multisyllabic rhymes with the punch-line wit of Big L or early Canibus and made it wholly his own. Eventually, even his greatest talents would become something to parody and the quality of his music faded, but hip-hop has seen few MCs with his natural abilities, and none of them are white.
The reality is, however, that if Eminem never existed, or if his demo never made its way to Dre’s desk, or if he was content putting out knock-off AZ-style raps, it would’ve been someone else. “My Name Is” came nine years after “Ice Ice Baby,” and by that time, America was ready for its next great rapping hope. It just so happens that he was standing on the launching pad at the right time, ready to take flight.
can't stop listening to Surround Sound + Johnny Ps Caddy
Maybe Earthgang album will drop this weekend. Saba and 2 chainz should be fun and of course a new Griselda single
I just want to give a sincere….
….to the TMB hip-hop thread peeps for curating new and old artist in this thread. As an old head I just didn’t have the time or patience to track new artist down. But one of the greatest joys is when you hear a new track hit you deep in your chest….
I’ve been on a Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher run for a few months catching up and it’s been very nostalgic and entertaining.
Saba's new album is good stuff
We have a pretty good mix of hip-hop heads in here. No shaming or arrogant opinions. I just really enjoy discovering new music and artists
It's a lovely album. The production on it is incredible. Might be my favorite project so far this year
I know we give Alc a lotta love itt but damn darringer can absolutely come with it
I've probably listened to Johnny P's Caddy 50 times already
Oh shit! Mereba is on this new Saba! Love her.
It’s so good. Really trying to level my enjoyment of it but that beat and those bars are fucking beautiful
New snippets from Vince and Pusha
Why is Jiminy Glick there?
I thought my grandma had risen from the grave and snuck into a Pusha T session
I’m fascinated. Is he in character? He’s flashing the white/blue Nike Monarchs. I was waiting for him to start poppin and lockin in the studio. Like Kyrie Irvin in old man makeup.
So fkn ready for Pusha szn
This guy never runs out of new coke references. Amazing
Tana Talk 4 March 11th produced entirely by Alc, Daringer and Beat Butcha
You ordered Diet Coke, that’s a joke right?
loved the first one
I think he was just pointing out its second birthday. Be cool if he weren’t tho
Damn this ruined my night
wellllll I’m an idiot
Sorry guys but he’s got a new album coming and he’s honestly yet to put out shit music so we can all just be happy with that
The internet saying that Dot is dropping a single tonight
man did you guys hear about Isaiah Rashad
Quite the week for rap and hip hop.