There have been a number of talented white rappers throughout the history of hip hop, though very few have had lasting mainstream success for a number of reasons that we won’t get into. It seems like there are more white rappers getting serious buzz now than ever before, which makes sense considering that there is more music getting buzz now than ever before (obviously thanks to the prevalence of computer based production and online distribution). Apparently the unofficial list of today’s rising white rappers has made it to the desk of New York Times blogger/reporter (same shit unless you’re an actual journalist) Jon Caramanica.
In a recent blog post, White rappers paying homage to the past (below), Caramanica concludes that the acceptance received by today’s leading white rappers results from their ability to adopt and repackage classic hip hop styles, sounds, and attitudes while not calling attention to their race in their lyrics. He suggests that white rappers have assumed the role of “preservationist”, which he believes white musicians have previously done with jazz and r&b.
From reading his article, it’s hard not to assume that Caramanica, who also blogs about American Idol episodes every week for the Times, aspires to be an authority on hip hop – past, present, and future – as well as on race’s role in the music. The man has obviously done his homework, as you can tell by him name dropping relatively obscure old-school white rappers, MC Search and Pete Nice, as well as what seems like every new Caucasian rap sensation. He refers to Queens’ own Action Bronson, Yelawolf, Mac Miller, Rittz, Asher Roth, Machine Gun Kelly, Cam Meekins, and, like everybody else lately, the Beastie Boys. He even tosses the Lonely Island and their new Turtle Neck and Chain album into the discussion, as well as country rap gimmick, Colt Ford. After finding out who Colt Ford was, I had to wonder if Caramanica was trying to get people to question his credibility.
You could almost be sure that this guy knew what he was talking about if he weren’t so quick to generalize (and didn’t refer to Colt Ford as a rapper). A connoisseur of hip hop music would be careful to note that what’s considered legitimate in the genre has pretty much always been and continues to be subject to debate. The fact that Caramanica even feels comfortable classifying hip hop makes me wonder what songs and albums he considers to be legit hip hop. Is he referring to the same terrible music played by commercial radio and video shows? If this is the music informing his definition of what legit rap looks and sounds like, then he has no basis for his opinion in the first place.
White rappers paying homage to the past, by Jon Caramanica:
Not 30 seconds into “Dr. Lecter,” the debut full-length album by Action Bronson, and the history lessons begin. It happens quickly, this one — a few bars rapped in the cadence of “Broken Language,” a minor 1995 hit by Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigger Tha Gambler. It’s the sort of reference dropped in as a wink, from connoisseur to connoisseur, insider to insider.
Action Bronson, who hails from Queens, has heavy echoes of Big L and Ghostface Killah in his flow, which is dense and burly and acidly nasal, a classic New York roughneck style. And the impressive “Dr. Lecter” (Fine Fabric Delegates) would have fit in neatly in 1995, right between those rappers’ debut albums. (The Ghostface comparisons only become more apt given the two rappers’ shared obsession with food.)
That Action Bronson is white doesn’t matter, strictly speaking. But his historically specific sound…
(Links to the full article republished by HoumaToday.com, where I found it.)