Back when I was a kid, rap was more of a “Black” thing. Sure, other groups listened to and loved the genre, but it was unusual for any rapper who wasn’t of African descent to even get a shot, let alone become successful, within hip-hop. For almost a decade, the biggest name associated with the term “white rapper” was Vanilla Ice, and he was (and is, despite some late career rehabilitation from nostalgic fans) largely recognized as a joke, a shill, and a straight-up fraud.
I think it’s safe to say those days are over. White folks are flourishing in hip-hop… but, while there are more fair-skinned MC’s than ever, the attitude that dogged Ice and others throughout early days of rap still persists, even though the days of “All right stop / Collaborate and listen” as a rhyme scheme have thankfully gone out the window along with gimmicky tracks like “Ninja Rap.”
There is a downright impressive slate of albums by Anglo rappers coming down the pike; G-Eazy and Macklemore are both set to release albums sometime this year. However, neither has generated anything remotely resembling the level of anticipation we’ve seen for other rappers who’ve announced albums this year, despite Eazy and Macklemore putting out solid material in the past, and turning in some frankly excellent promo singles in “No Limit” and “Marmalade”
Meanwhile, Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine, released in September of last year, was genuinely creative and interesting, but came and went. Iggy Azalea, for all her faults, can actually rap (check out her verse on “No Mediocre” if you don’t believe me), but has seen Digital Distortion, the follow-up to her 2014 debut The New Classic, increasingly pushed back as her singles have failed to generate a buzz, despite being the same sort of catchy, innocuous pop rap as “Black Widow” and her past mega-smash “Fancy.” Post Malone weaves back and forth between covers of Nirvana and off-the-wall rap-singing, but his love for both genres shines through in everything he does.
From Kreayshawn to Lil Dicky, and everywhere in between, it often seems that whenever a person of European descent decides to dip a toe into hip-hop’s muddy waters, they face the prospect of either backlash or straight up neglect from the culture’s originators, even when they do manage to garner success that’s generally unprecedented for their darker-skinned counterparts. While any number of viral stars receive a less-than-enthused response from rap gatekeepers, it seems that a special level of frustration is reserved for — there really isn’t a polite way to put this — white rappers. But why?
Consider the online thrashing of Iggy Azalea; every accusation from cultural appropriation to outright bigotry has been leveled at the Australian pop-rapper, despite what appears to be a genuine love of the genre, exacerbated by her own inability to simply not react to criticism.