BY DAN GARCIA
A recent article by NY Daily New, speaks about the emergence of white artists in rap and we question its motive and subject’s need for commentary. In a piece written by the NY Daily New’s Jim Farber, the article explores the rise of white rappers in popular music today, starting the article off with the cringe worthy hypothesis of “hip hop is getting whiter” and stating that “pale rappers have achieved a higher level of prominence and respect than ever before.” While I could talk all day about what is wrong with this article, I will focus only on the things that bothered me the most.
The first mistake NY Daily News made with this piece is assigning Jim Farber to tackle the issue. There is something very uncomfortable about a middle-aged white writer almost trying to claim something for white people (or ‘pale people’ as Farber stated) which is one of the few areas widely dominated by African Americans. If this publication is so focused on the topic of diversity, than I’m sure they have a black writer on staff that could have more appropriately wrote on the topic. This is not to say that only black people can write about hip-hop, Pete Rosenberg is one of the most influential commentators and personalities in rap music today, despite the ‘paleness’ of his skin. Also, while I do not know the extent of Jim Farber’s experiences in rap and hip hop, with this writing, he did not come across as having the most experience in this world.
Early on in his thesis, Farber talked about how white rappers have received a high level of respect, and then cited Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on their winning of the Grammy’s Rap Album of the Year to prove this point. What Farber failed to mention is that Grammy wins are not correlated with respect in the hip-hop culture. While many African American rap artist respect their white peers in the industry, it is not because a panel of mostly white men that know little about rap give out music’s most prestigious award every year. Only one pure rap and hip-hop album has ever won the Grammy for Album of the Year, which is enough proof that the voters for the Grammy are not the same people who determine who is respected in the hip-hop culture.
Next, Farber is flat out wrong. Rap has been “black hot” since its inception and still is today. Sure, Iggy Azalea is showing signs of a promising and long lasting career and is topping the charts right now, however she is not the biggest name in rap music today. I am positive a lot of rapper enjoy Azalea’s music but her iTunes sales are not due to true hip-hop heads, they are likely due to pop fans. Azalea certain raps, as does Macklemore, however the music they make, as viewed by many, is pop music and not rap. Azalea and Mac Miller don’t run rap right now, Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake and Kendrick Lamar do.
Even if rap was being dominated by white people right now, so what? Is Farber trying to prove something? Is that his way of saying anything you can do, we can do better? It is just trying to create an unnecessary competition. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the race of the best rappers today as long as the music delivers. Talent, nor street credit, has no color. Eminem probably has seen tougher times growing up than “Started from the Bottom’s” Drake and can certainly deliver better bars than many black rappers.
Farber wants to make these race relations into some big movement and story but it really isn’t. Rap and Hip-Hop is more accepting throughout the years than a lot of area. Today we have a mixed Jewish rapper in Drake dominating the game right now. Kanye West, although black, changed the game by not dressing and rapping like a gangster. Odd Future’s Frank Ocean came out as bi-sexual and even one of the most controversial and perverse rappers, Tyler the Creator, couldn’t be more accepting of Ocean’s lifestyle. Eminem, a ‘pale rapper’ has been dominating rap music for over a decade and is cited by many in the culture (not just Grammy voters) as one of the best rappers to ever get on the mic. Do not expect to see some movie in ten years about how Mac Miller and Iggy Azalea overcame great oppression by changing the black hip-hop culture into a ‘White Hot’ one.
Now I am not saying that white rappers today have absolutely no hurdles in entering the rap world, but the hurdles are not the same hurdles a first African American woman to enroll in a nationally ranked law school had to overcome. So lets not act like it. Let’s also realize that a lot of these white rappers, are making pop music and this has nothing to do with color (Flo-rida does it too). You can be white and a well respected top rapper, Eminem showed us this long ago, but hip-hop is not ‘White Hot’ and even if it was, so what?