Culture Clash: Beastie Boys, Eminem, Vanilla Ice and… a History of the White Rappers

White rappers

a music review
by Kendall F. Person


I went from rags to riches but
now I’m dipped in butter, ho.’
– Baby G Da General

 

In the late 1980s, when rap had securely established itself as a cultural icon in Black America, but just before it crossed over into a worldwide phenomenon, I attended a rap festival at The Coliseum in Oakland, California. It was the largest spectacle of rap music on one stage and the tickets would fly off the shelves. Run DMC headlined the bill, with a powerhouse supporting cast of LL Cool J, Whodini and the Timex Social Club. It was a spectacular showcase of music and one of the most memorable concerts I have ever attended.

While Run DMC held down the fort, with LL Cool J and Whodini delivering masterful performances, what I remember most is 18,000 African-American fans on their feet, grooving, swaying, trapped in the grasp of the backwards bassline of a song called ‘Paul Revere’, performed by a trio of young, white rappers, known as The Beastie Boys…who blew the roof off the coliseum.

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Armed with the knowledge that many forms of American music were influenced by or outright stolen from Black musicians (Elvis Presley’s most famous song ‘ Hound Dog’ was originally recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton), young Black Americans were protective of rap and became even more empowered with the emergence of African conscious lyricists like X-Clan, Arrested Development and the legendary Public Enemy. Although, there was some bitterness about The Beastie Boys being credited as rap pioneers, since License to Ill would be there only rap album (and only half of the songs on that album where rap), there is no denying that their rap songs were authentic, and only a limited debate whether their emergence drew in white Americans, instantly quadrupling rap album sales.

White rappers
Beastie Boys, 3rd Bass, Vanilla Ice, Keenan Rucker and Eminem 

Over a decade would pass before the arrival of Eminem, who not only had a sound that rivaled or surpassed the best rappers in the industry, he also had to wash away the memories of a string of pretenders. 3rd Bass would be an instant radio hit, but their videos became increasingly cartoonish, bordering on buffoonery. And although MC Hammer’s descent had begun, when 3rd Bass unnecessarily insulted him on video (taken out of context or not), they had crossed the line and would fade, unceremoniously, from the spotlight’s glow.

But it was the rapping, dancing sensation, Vanilla Ice who would cause the most damage to aspiring white rappers. Concocting a story of being raised in a gang-infested Dallas neighborhood, when he was actually a spoiled, rich kid from the Miami suburbs, would be the final straw. No other white rapper would be accepted until the emergence of Slim Shady.

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And then there are the many aspiring white rappers, who have been unable to convert their relative underground success, even into a one hit wonder on the main stage. From Michael DeLeon to Spencer Goldsmith, from Baby G Da General to The Neighborhood favorite Keenan Rucker.

a music review brought you by The Neighborhood


bonus track Without You
by Keenan Rucker aka ke3no

62 comments

  1. The one thing i’ve noticed in the rapper that i’ve liked, i’m 57 years of age and my music taste changes with the times, any about rappers most good rapper live their attitude in their music, along with good production, they all make money!

    Live on…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really interesting post on a subject that isn’t always talked about. I love Eminem and think he is one of the best lyricists in the rap game. In my opinion, as long as you respect rap and the culture, and do it justice, then it does not matter what colour you are.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for this–wouldn’t have heard of him yet if not for you, and really like “Pull Up”.

    But then, while searching for Goldsmith and “Eager”, I bumped into the piece below–really liked it, too, but it’s gotten only 700-odd listens–guess that means I have suck-y taste, huh?:

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  4. I love my white rappers!! Great read!

    Eminem is one of my favorite artists. I love his anger and fearlessness, and his wordplay shows his intelligence and raw emotion. I actually listen to “Won’t Back Down” every morning before I get started for the day. It makes me feel powerful.

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  5. I love being opened up to new music, this is no exception. I’d personally say that, even though it’s “different” to the norm of white rappers. Watsky is a lyrical genius, a real poet. A genuine guy and puts on a hell of a show. If you haven’t already, check him out. Like the article 🙂

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  6. Excellently written article – a great reminder of their music and the new artist alike 🙂 – I think some artists think its easy to make it in the music world by just becoming a rapper, but there is (obviously) skill in it, the lad has done well

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    • It is a good time to take a brief trip down memory lane, as well as discover the talent of today. I think that all artists’ dreams about ‘breaking into the business’ are quite different than reality, but dreams are what keeps them (us) going. Thank you for your contribution to this platform and welcome to the neighborhood.

      Like

  7. As an amateur-level rapper he’s impressive and easily qualifies alongside/above some of hip-hop’s current ‘popular guys’, most especially Chief Keef (the most appropriate comparison considering their similar age). He has a lot of energy but also knows the meaning of ‘restraint’; definitely has the scope to evolve into something really great. A worthy find!

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    • Glad you think so too. He hit me immediately but before I would write the post, not wanting to steer my neighbors in the wrong direction, i played for a few people from very different musical persuasions and not one gave a “thumbs down”. But with only a couple of songs and no album just yet, my hope is he can keep it up.

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  8. I like this kid…FIRSTLY: maybe this was a sanitized version, or maybe it is the original, or maybe my hearing is getting dull, but…I didn’t detect any offensive or ‘explicit’ words, which won my vote immediately SECONDLY: There was VALUE to the words; they had some constructive meaning and a positive, confident determination in the way he delivered his message Finally: He is a kid with a REAL goal, sincere talent ( esp if he could do it without using offensive language contained in the ghetto thuggy “OG” rap ‘artist’ tunes) and the drive to win at this contest. He has to double up efforts to prove his competence and bona fide worthiness to stand-out (eminem), and surpass any racial/cultural litmus tests…that ought to be very easy, as I see it…he DOESN’T sound like the others because he doesn’t have the severely limited vocabulary & lack of imagination/originality and he is unique. I like it when a white kid can rise above the rest who aren’t talented enough to have a unique style and an unexpected product packaging—go Kid go! This kid doesn’t aspire to settle for the level of mediocrity that 90% of his ‘peers’ are happy to be at. Eminem really turned that genre upside down and earned success and fame the hard way…he worked for it. This kid has potential and I am paying attention now…hope he blows the competition out of the water and puts them on notice…
    Thanks for the post’s attention to this young man…

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  9. I remember when the Beastie Boys first appeared, but never really got into them, so I didn’t know they moved away from rap in their later albums. I also remember Vanilla Ice (especially his trying to explain how his song’s rhythm was different from “Under Pressure”), but wish I didn’t.

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  10. Great post! He is a great rapper and seemed to be very ‘real’ which is something that you don’t see very often! I’m interested to see what he will achieve with his musical ability, because he could really make a difference in the hip-hop culture.

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  11. I don’t know how you can have a list of white rappers and not include what Macklemore has done. I’m not talking about Thrift Shop, that is my least favorite song by him, but rather songs like Otherside. He speaks the truth and has truly done his own thing

    Like

    • In the comment section of another post (Bow Your Head to Real Hip Hop) a reader asked me my opinion on Macklemore. Not considering him in this post is not a slight or a slam. He is a rapper, a darn good one at that, but his videos, especially Same Love, move him into a genre of short film maker or musical films, or something like that (you get the picture). So no disrespect to Ryan & Lewis. I would just consider writing about them in a very different kind of post.

      Like

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