White Rappers

The Yelawolf review reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to make a comment on for a while anyway, white rappers. Obviously being a white guy who raps my perspective is necessarily sympathetic, but at the same time I feel it puts me in a unique position to be critical of others of my complexion who seem like they want to ignore their whiteness as a factor in how they’ll be received.  My impression has always been that Yelawolf falls into this category.

There is nothing about being white that prevents anyone from being proficient or even extremely gifted musically and applying this talent to rapping. You can have a 20,000 word vocab, an ingenious ability for metaphor, a powerful voice, and a hypnotic flow, but these technical building blocks won’t make you a good rapper and at best they are only foundational in overcoming your whiteness in a musical space that is predisposed to not taking you seriously. Being talented alone might get you in the club, but it won’t get you into the VIP room.

The problem with white rappers like Yelawolf is that they expect to be taken seriously out of the gate and that just isn’t going to happen no matter how talented you are. No fan of hip-hop is going to look at your white face and off the bat give a sympathetic ear to your hard-knock life story, even if you did grow up in a trailer park or have a still on the back porch of your back woods, shot-gun shack. American audiences, especially black audiences, aren’t going to feel your pain because everyone knows instinctively just how much your complexion buys in this country. 

The only white rappers who ever make it big always start out clowning. The Beastie Boys fighting for their right to party, 3rd Bass making the Gas Face, Macklemore at the Thrift Shop smelling like R. Kelly’s sheets, all of them had to acknowledge the absurdity of their situation and clown themselves before they could be heard on any serious point they wanted to make. Even Eminem had to be Slim Shaddy before anyone would listen to him as Marshall Mathers. 

So when Yelawolf drops a hook like “think he’s playin? You better listen what he’s sayin punk/Don’t make me go pop the trunk… on you” my gut response is “You’re still a clown.” If you’re a white rapper you have to expect this and deal with it. Your whiteness is clown make-up in hip-hop, and if you’re going to step to the mic in clown make-up, you better come with some jokes and make ‘em laugh or your audience is just going to be shaking their heads with embarrassment.

  1. alltheblacksheep reblogged this from whatiremembered
  2. thevigilancecommittee said: also the whole fake, “ghetto/violent” persona by rappers of any race is part of why contemporary rap gets little to no respect for the “real” hip hop community or musicologist. misogynistic/violent, ignorance glorifying pop crap is not hip hop.
  3. misandristbuffalo reblogged this from whatiremembered
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