Posts tagged with "music"

On Macklemore…

In a recent article by Chul Gugich entitled The Trouble With Macklemore

Chul makes the case based on claims by author Dan Charnas (The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop) that

 ”Hip-hop has been unable to generate transcedent, white superstar MCs because white American culture is not strong enough to support them…there has to be culture worth spreading. Genres and styles are more likely to end up as fads or crazes when the culture behind it isn’t strong or complex enough.”

The topic of white rappers is one that is covered often in the hip-hop community with new white rappers received with much skepticism to many hip-hop fans. Right, now, you can’t go to any bar or any party without hearing the “what, what, what, what, what, what, what” opening of the smash hit “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I can’t lie, the song is very catchy. I can remember another song from a few years ago by a white rapper that was inescapable as well… “I Love College” anyone? Or how about Yelawolf and Gucci’s “I just wanna party” or even Machine Gun Kelly’s “Wild Boy”. With each of those songs, the blog-sphere was tweeting and typing away wondering if each of these young men would take the crown as the “Great White Hope of Rap”. A sort of paradoxical version of Tiger Woods invading the greens of the golf course that is rap. Despite these mega hits, Asher, Yelawolf, and MGK alike have failed to maintain the success that they saw with their first hits.  Besides Eminem and (Mac Miller?), I think that you would be hard pressed to list a white rapper that has had a long and meaningful career. There could be several reasons for this lack of long term success.

The first being what Mr. Charnas and Gugich argue, that it is due to the fact that hip-hop and the majority of its black fans have a deep culture that is multi-faceted and thus supports the art form. There is also the race issue. The argument that hip-hop fans just simply can’t bang with white rappers because they are white and regardless of subject matter, black hip-hop fans simply can’t relate.In a super shallow, that’s so not “post racial” way I think it has a lot to do not with the white rapper’s street cred as much as a fear of losing black street cred for many hip hop listeners. If you are one of the “I’m a d-boy/balla/pimp” types, it makes a lot of sense to me why you wouldn’t be bumping “I love college”. You might bump “I just wanna party” though because of Gucci or “wild boy” because of Waka Flocka (perhaps?). So often times, white rappers’ music falls on those of us who are proudly black but may prefer to consider ourselves a bit more “culture neutral” as I like to call it.

I offer a very different theory on why there haven’t been any white rappers who have “taken over the game” and/or why Macklemore’s recent success will be a fad and he too will go the way of most white rappers…off to the memories of yesteryear.

Obviously, we could discuss musical merit for years and still come to no conclusion but I think you will be able to agree that there are intangibles that are necessary for major success in the rap game. In my opinion, there are three major non musical components that are important in order for rappers to be successful: Location, Cosigns, and Targeted Audience. You must meet at least 2 of the 3 criteria in order to enjoy meaningful long term success but if you have all 3 than you should see a rapper have a pretty long career as long as the music is on point.

Location is critical because of the distinct regional flavors that manifest themselves in Hip-Hop. We have seen various regions completely own the game throughout the years. For a few years, Texas and New Orleans rappers were absolutely ruling the game (Mike Jones, Lil Flip, Cash Money, No Limit, UGK, etc.). Atlanta made a huge surge in the early 2000s and has remained as a staple in the game. Location of origin is a huge factor for success in rap much more than any other musical genre because once you start out with a major regional following, the spread to a national fan base comes next. It also gives rappers a ready made group of collaborators, comparisons, and if needed, the ability to stick to a niche.

There are two tiers of locations:

Tier 1 consists of cities which produce rappers that tend to blow up on the national level with rap fans but also have a tendency to cross into the mainstream of American “Pop” music :

New York City (Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, Wu Tang, A$AP Rocky, etc)

Atlanta (Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, Ludacris, T.I., 2 Chainz, B.O.B., etc)

Chicago (Kanye West, Common, The Cool Kids, Chief Keef (?), etc.)

Los Angeles (Snoop, Tupac, Dr. Dre, Kendrick/Black Hippy, Odd Future, etc)

Tier 2 on the other hand produces rappers that are very famous as well but tend to mainly be known by rap fans. Obviously, there are exceptions and there are several rappers from these cities who are megastars; but for the most part, the rappers that come from the cities still tend to be only known within the genre:

Detroit (Eminem, Royce Da 5’9”, Big Sean, Danny Brown, etc.)

Houstons/New Orleans

Miami (Rick Ross, Trick Daddy, Flo-Rida, SpaceGhostPurrp, Ace Hood, etc.)

Philadelphia (Freeway, Beanie Siegel, Black Thought, Cassidy, Chiddy Bang, Eve, Asher Roth, Santigold, etc.)

Macklemore…is from Seattle, WA. Machine Gun Kelly is from Cleveland, OH. Yelawolf is from the middle of nowhere, AL (and Im from AL so I can say that.) Asher Roth is from Philly but we’ll address his shortcomings later. As you can see, none of these rappers satisfy the first component of coming from a good location so their short term success rides on the quality of their music but the lack of a regional network does not allow them to maintain their success regardless of the quality of their music. Now, that may be a counter intuitive statement for some of you but remember we are talking about non musical components that lead to the success of rappers.

The next component is cosigns. What constitutes a cosign and why do rappers need them? Well, a cosign is either the signing of an artist to a label, becoming an affiliate to a clique, or providing an artist with frequent features/collaborations. While many rappers support each other verbally, it is the branding and/or addition of another more established artists’ assist that makes many of our young stars successful.

J. Cole- Jay-Z/Roc Nation

Big Sean and Kid Cudi-Kanye West/G.O.O.D. Music

Eminem, Snoop, Kendrick, 50 Cent, The Game- Dr. Dre

Drake and Nicki Minaj- Lil Wayne

Wale, French Montana, Meek Mill- Rick Ross

As for many of our white rapper examples that were given above, MGK who was signed to the infamously long term unsuccessful team of Bad Boy Records, he received cosigns from Diddy, Juicy J and plenty features for his first album but has not seemed to produce the type of success that was anticipated after his initial release.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, every rapper has a targeted audience for their music. These “subgenres” further refine what lane a rapper will be successful in.

Weed rap: Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, Curren$y

Gangsta (characterized by violence):Chief Keef

Coacaine/Drug Dealer: Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti, Rick Ross

Conscious: Black Hippy, Common, Talib Kweli, Joey Bada$$

Mainstream: Kanye, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross

White/Hipster: Childish Gambino, Macklemore, Hoody Allen,

Angry/Delusional:Eminem, Tyler The Creator, Earl, MF Doom

Party: Waka Flocka, Flo-Rida (?), DJ Khaled

Fashion: A$AP Rocky, Big Sean, Tyga

Many of our white rappers fall into the white/hipster audience subgenre meaning that their TARGETED audience is young white kids who listen to rap. Which is fine but rap is largely a black venture and so they bring about their own demise by only tapping into a small audience which may bring them hardcore fans but will not help them move the records needed to stay on the charts or “in the game” as a true force. Take Mac Miller for example, Mac is from Pittsburgh BUT he had the luxury of getting shine while Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” was blowing up. He also has had features and cosigns by many prominent rappers but most importantly Mac gets the white/hipster crowd AND the weed rapper crowd which is sometimes one in the same but not always.

Ultimately, location, cosigns, and targeted audience are what keep rappers popular and in the game. If a rapper fails to satisfy two of those three requirements sufficiently…well…I’ll use a Kanye line to sum this one up:

"We ain’t dissin you but you aint in a position to play something for us to listen to…"

-Devin T.

P.S. 1000th POST!