Which hip hop Gimmick was the best?

Young Black Teenagers - 1991 june16
My iPod was on shuffle the other day and a song popped up I honestly didn’t even know I still owned. It was an early 90’s song about having an afro by a group called “Th Afros”. Hearing this song again for the first time in probably 15-20 years got me thinking about all the fantastic(ly bad) gimmicks people have run with over the years. So, I thought up ten of them. I’m surely missing some good ones so feel free to add them on in the comment section. Just don’t be a smug prick about it. I was curious what you guys would consider the “best” gimmick. To be clear, when I say “best” I mean the most ridiculous. Not to be confused with the gimmick that made the best music cause, you know, that’s boring. So, here are the gimmicks, a brief synopsis of them and an example. What do you think?

Gimmick #1: Afro’s

This group was affiliated with Russell Simmons, co-signed by all sorts of respected rappers and featured DJ Hurricane (The beastie boys dj for a while) as the high pitched mc. I honestly can’t even really wrap my head around what their angle was. Blaxploitation plays in there somehow. I’d venture to bet they saw Humpty Hump and that got the wheels turning but who really knows. What I do know it that this got released as a full length album on a major label and I own it on cassette.

Gimmick #2: Horrorcore

Gangster rap reached a point where it just wasn’t extreme enough. Sure, killing people in a song will be good forever but dudes in the early 90’s needed more. They needed to be full blown lunatics. The thing about this gimmick is that it actually had some legs and resulted in some good music. To this day, Gangsta nip’s South park Psycho is still a great album, in my mind. The early incarnations of this gimmick were strangely sincere. Not that the people who made the music were actually serial killers but they sprung up organically out of mostly small local scenes. Texas, the bay area and detroit all had popular horrorcore acts that, to this day still get bumped. But when did it jump the shark? The Flatlinerz. They
were like the musical equivalent of when the grandma says “For shizzle my nizzle!” in movie preview. Once they rapped from a grave, it was a wrap.

Gimmick #3:Being “Folksy”

This was perhaps a response to the dominance of gangster rap. Or maybe an unfortunate and misguided spin off of the Native tongue movement. It’s hard to really say. But when Arrested development dropped, I was ready to be a fan. Three videos later and one album later, it was clear they had figured out a way to manufacture that good old “down-home cooking”. The problem with this was that they were so unbelievably corny that it made their folksy-ness downright annoying. Fucking MR. Wendall…Surprisingly, This Gimmick didn’t take though. But I do like to think it opened doors to hippies in hip hop which, as fans, is fine but it led to so many terrible jam bands that feature rappers it’s actually more terrifying than the Flatlinerz.

Gimmick #4:Being white

It’s been an uphill battle for white rappers since day one. Before indie rap, nothing was more crucial for a white rapper than a strong co-sign from a non-white rapper. Authenticity was more important than the music itself. The Beastie’s did it. 3rd Bass made it. But then Vanilla Ice ruined it for everyone. After that debacle, lots of burgeoning white rappers were left with their pink dicks in their hands. What was a whig to do? Well, clearly, join a group called “The young Black Teenagers” with a bunch of other white dudes and get a few albums produced by Public enemy’s own Bomb Squad. When the YBT dropped I was 14/15 and pretty much loved any hip hop that wasn’t about dancing. Even the young , impressionable me heard them and was like “wait…what?”. No amount of pay offs to the source magazine could steer this ship right. Even though “Tap the bottle” was a minor hit, the gimmick of basking in their own whiteness, while claiming blackness is simply a state of mind, was dead from the start.

Gimmick #5: Whispering

This may be the creepiest of all the gimmicks. Whispering sex rhymes. I won’t front. The Ying Yang Twins song is hilarious. “Wait’ll you see my dick” will go down in hook history as one of the finest phrases ever spun by rapper with only half their teeth intact. But this was just never gonna take. Thing is, to have a hit, you’re gonna eventually have to perform it. You know what doesn’t work when you’re performing in from of fans who are making noise? Whispering. Unless they’re performing at a silent disco, I can’t see it working. And it didn’t. These two songs came out and that was that. Though, you could argue that the super talented brooklyn rapper Ka does his own version of whisper rap, I’d say he just speaks quietly to great effect.

Gimmick #6:Bi-lingual rappers

This is one that comes up often with people from europe who read this blog. I’ve made a clear “i don’t care about listening to rap in languages I don’t understand” stance. This isn’t to say that music is bad, it’s simply not for me cause, well, I want to understand what the fuck a rapper is talking about.
In the early 90’s, there was an attempt to bring the spanish language into mainstream hip hip. Thing is, these songs did incredibly well in the markets they were aimed at. I’m sure, in L.A., Kid frost is still a legend. But to those of us who failed Spanish 2 three times, we all pretty much gave up on this the second the english ended.

Gimmick #7:Tongue twisty, iggity biggity nonsense rap

Now, this is a gimmick I LOVED. It just got out of hand. It was in an era where MC’s were really doing anything to set themselves apart from other rappers.So, in reality, it was born from a good , creative place. Rapping fast was not yet as standard as it is now and , aside from big daddy kane and Jaz, no one really did it too much. So , a few groups came out rapping nursery rhymes at lightening speed or adding superfluous “iggity’s” at the end of words. Das Efx was really a game changer. Anyone fronting like they didn’t love that shit back then has no heart or is the Beatnuts. But, all that said, it was clearly a gimmick. One of the more absurd ones, when you think about it but , still, I give them all props for trying something different.

Gimmick #8: Akinyele’s lowering the voice thing

While the tongue twister rhyme style took off, Akinyele was like “Fuck that…I got my own thing!”. And he ran with it. From his first verse on wax, on “Live at the BBQ”, Ak set the stage. his gimmick? Simply lowering his voice at the last word of a rhyme. That was it. I’d imagine he thought it would take off. Or maybe he thought it would be his very own calling card. EIther way, it never did. That said, he made a great debut album despite of it so you can’t really be THAT mad at the guy.

Gimmick #9: Shaved headed , screaming, lunatics

Much like horrorcore, this was fully a reaction to the popularity of gangster rap. This, however, was NYC’s direct answer to it. I recall seeing thugs with shaved heads popping up all over in the early 90’s. It really raised the bar of terror for all of us who didn’t want our discman’s stolen while waiting on a train platform. Once considered just for skinheads, the hood embraced the bald head look (I’m thinking Michael Jordan plays into this somehow) with great results. Onyx popped on the scene and everyone was like “whoa..those are the hardest rappers ever”. Little did we know they were all 5’3” and used to be ravers, but still…it worked. After them, copy cat groups popped up everywhere , the most overt and offensive being “The Hoodratz”. But no one ever captured the glory of a bald screaming maniac quite like Onyx. On the bright side, these dudes can still tour eastern europe whenever they want and make tons of money. Tough guy gimmicks tend to have way more legs than, say, arrested development rapping in burning man pants.

Gimmick #10: Children rappers

Pushing kids into music has always been a thing. Sometimes, it’s created greats. Where would Michael Jackson have been if he hadn’t been brutally forced to become a pop star by his tyrannical father? In rap, there was always that desire to find the prodigy. The Lebron James of rap that could hang with the big boys. So, they’d find some high pitch voiced child who could keep a flow going, white some rhyme for him and throw him on a beat. This resulted in a lot of rappers who “had potential”. The problem was that, anytime you marketed the kids age, it was a wrap. He would forever be that kid. Kinda like most child actors. Meanwhile, kid rappers had existed under the radar for years. Ll Cool J was 15 when he started. Mobb Deep were kids. L-swift was a respected underground rapper by the time he was 16. All these guys succeeded (Well, not L-swift but he was dope) cause they rapped well DESPITE their age. These other dudes? They were all guys who probably could have become respected rappers later on but got caught up in that child rapper bullshit. Oh well…

So, which Gimmick was “the best”?

This week in white rapping

Listen, I know I’ve been harping on this a bunch the last few weeks or so but things have flown off the rails.
Holy shit…A wise man (and a bunch of following not so wise men) once said that “rap is outta control” and I’m about to just say fuck it and agree. On the heels of the white girl mob , tom hanks rapping son, canadian rap battles, and thugged out germans who can only pronounce the word “shvagga” , this might be the pinnacle for all that is wrong with white people making rap music. I’m not going to even say anything more…just watch these clips…

Within one week, I’ve seen all these videos and I’m fucking speechless.
“Livin’ the life” May be the funniest video ever made in the history of moving pictures. Wow. I’m not even mad at these songs.I’m more sad at them, but, at the same time, the fact they even exist is something special.

As a palette cleanser, Here’s a clip of Danny Brown rapping very well

His new album “XXX” drops on august 15th so do yourself a favor and peep that shit.

Dear White rappers

Let me just preface this cause I know how sensitive people can get about subjects like this. Judging how people have reacted to far less taboo topics that I’ve written about , I felt this might be necessary. Obviously, this is a joke and over the top. Sure, I do feel what I’m saying has some validity, but I’m also fully aware that this topic isn’t black and white (punny pun pun!!!). So, take this all with a grain of salt. And don’t get your panties in a bunch. Nothing worse than an salty white rapper.

Dear white rappers,
What’s up dudes?
How you been? I’m good. Same old same old. Anyway, seeing that I used to be one of you (I bet you didn’t know that, but it’s true) and I know a great deal of you personally, I figured it might be a good time to write you this letter. Now, by no means is this aimed at ALL White rappers. In fact, this isn’t even directed at most of you (Certainly none that I know in real life). As a failed rapper myself, I’m the last person that should be calling out anyone about rapping. But, on the same note, as a failed rapper, I feel it’s my duty to perhaps let my fellow terrible rappers know what’s really good. This is for a few particular brands of white rappers that seem to refuse to fade to black (no pun intended) , even in the face of the music industry ceasing to exist.
It’s been a while since being white in hip hop really has been an issue. The days of “that white boy raps?!?!?!” are long gone. Nowadays, it seems like every crew has a white dude in it, whether it be some low-fi basement rap group to people who roll with Gucci Mane. But back in the 90’s (outside of the beastie boys, 3rd bass , Co-flow and House of Pain) it was a rough time for you guys. Then, the indie rap explosion happened in the late 90’s and by 2004 , you guys were golden (not just in skin tone). I’d like to think many of the acts that helped make being white not a laughable offense in hip hop during those years actually did so with talent and a real love for the music. I was a blip in that scene but I can definitely say , regardless of race, the people I was around during that era were coming from a very genuine place. Just kids wanting to make good music. Seems idealistic and corny but , if there ever was a time for that, it was then.
But here’s where things went awry. Because the internet became the driving force of music and recording and putting your music out there became something anyone with basic equipment could do, the flood gates were opened. Now, this goes way beyond just white rappers and the effect this had on music spanned far and wide , certainly beyond any one race or one genre of music. But this explosion created the sub-genre of “Backpackers”. While this wasn’t a strictly white thing at all, the term “backpacker” certainly lent itself to the visual of a dorky white kid, with baggy jeans, a baseball hat and backpack. However, the reign of the Backpacker didn’t last forever and that eventually broke off into even more sub-genre’s. Which leads us to the present day debacle that is “white rappers”.
Some notable offsprings of the backpacker movement are:

1)The Thuggy Whig
Nothing leaves a worse taste in my mouth than some tough talking white dude rapping about shit he has no clue about while surrounding himself with as many black people as he can find (street cred!). Granted, I’m in no way saying there aren’t tough white dudes who happen to rap well (Necro and Action Bronson are a couple I like). Anyone who’s ever met a crew of Albanians can attest to the fact that whigz can be just as crazy and rugged as anyone. Hell, I know wealthy sons of jewish doctors who will fuck up anyone for no reason. Some people are just born thugged out. But the majority of the thuggy whig mc’s are simply cornballs caught in a deep and soul crushing identity crisis. The worst offshoot of these guys are the petite whig’s cause, at least , the really fat ones are mildly intimidating. You pipsqueek thugs really need a wedgie. Bear in mind , this sentiment is coming from someone who is neither tough nor hard. I’m pretty much a pussy. But, hey, at least I know it. Why do you think I make beats? (Btw, making beats is the white rap nerds refuge)
1A) Soft Thuggy Whigs
These are the guys who are content just rapping in a “street” accent without all the violence but heavy on the swagger, even though they’re usually from some shitty city or the suburbs of a shitty city. While they make no claims to be tough guys, they do draw their whole persona from those who do. It’s pretty embarrassing. While this type is pretty harmless ,I always like to imagine these guys at their thanksgiving family dinner asking their moms to pass the parsnips. I defy anyone to be thugged out asking someone to pass parsnips.

2)Emo Whig
This is a variation of the Thuggy whig. While still equipped with all the wiggardry of their thuggy counterparts, this is a more introspective being. The problem with this type is they carry the worst traits of both whigs and emo rap dudes. They speak in embarrassing forced ebonics yet still find a way to be “spiritual” and “deep”. These guys would fight, but they’d rather just talk it out and relate it to planets , quasars and things of a “Lyrical/Mental” nature. These types will often also eventually drift into other sub genre’s of rap depending on what kind of asian girl they happen to be dating at the moment.

3)”Hip hop is my life” guy
Arguably the least tolerable of the white rap explosion is the die hard white hip hop guy. In his eyes, everyone is a sell out , break dancing is still relevant , people who don’t use vinyl should be put to death and the 4 elements are the driving force behind everything in life. You simply cannot have a real conversation with these guys. I met a 43 year old version of one of these dudes recently and he literally asked me 7 times if the place we were both in was “Hip hop”. It was a bar. I had no clue what the fuck he was babbling about but , rest assured, if he knew I performed on a laptop he’d probably strangle me for owning Serato.
And forget about the music they create. For one, they’re all way to old to still be rapping (and not have made any buzz yet). Secondly, the last thing the world needs is more rap songs about rap and how fucked up it is. Yeah, we get it bro…I was around in the late 80’s/early 90’s too..shit was awesome. how bout you fix it by not adding to the shit storm?

4)Nerd rapper
This name gets thrown around a lot but I want to clarify. If you can rock a crowd (a real crowd, not a group of your drunk friends), you’re not a nerd rapper. I think that’s the most basic separation between what is and isn’t nerd rap. Nerd rappers are true and living nerds who rap. They didn’t skate in high school. They didn’t play sports. They were very likely into theater or poetry. somehow, rap got in the mix and they took to it.
Honestly, I can’t stand most of these types but they’re the least of our worries. Fact of the matter is that most nerd rappers are not in it for the long haul and will be making electro banjo music and singing within a few years. It’s such a flash in the pan variation that I’m wasting my time even mentioning. See? as I just typed this, nerd rap is already obsolete.

So, all those bring us to the present time. A time where this exists:

Now, this guy isn’t famous. I honestly know nothing about this guy. I bet he’s a nice dude and means well. Unfortunately, he’s a shining example of wrong. I don’t even know what group he fits in (i’d say a crossbreed of #1 and #2). Whenever I come across rappers like this, the first thing that pops into my head is “How does this happen?”. To get from “never rapping” to “I made a non-camcorder video for my rap song” takes many, many steps. So, keep in mind, in order for this guy to get to the “I made a video” part, he must have done most, if not all of these steps:

1)Learned about the existence of hip hop.
2)Became enamored and wanted to be a part of this culture
3)Started writing raps for fun.
4)Learned to kick them (this , by the way, takes a LONG time for your average whig and the success rate is staggeringly low)
5)decided to take this hobby to the next level and actually record himself.
6)Recorded himself (very likely involving outside producers, engineers, all sorts of equipment. Meaning, he spent money on this process)
7)Made multiple songs.
8) Put his music out for the world to hear (Via any of the thriving sites available to unsigned artists)
9) Did shows? (it’s very possible he didn’t do any shows but performing live is a very important part to most budding mc’s)
10) Decided to make a video
11) Made a video (That’s a lot more $ unless he goes to film school or something)
12)Uploaded the video to Youtube.

Okay. All those steps. The process could take anywhere from 1 to 10 years. You never know. But the fact remains, this dude made a video for a song he created. And there’s the problem, white rappers.
How did anyone let this happen? How did it get this far? The same has been asked of hitler’s rise to power (Hyperbole, yo). I can’t imagine anyone truly likes this dudes music. I mean, I’m sure much of the blame can be put upon the american way and how we’re taught to follow our dreams ,regardless of actual talent or realistic chances of said dream coming true. But, aside from that, It all leads me to believe he did it cause he could. And there’s nothing wrong with that. My point, to all you white rappers who fit the bill, just stop. Save yourself the money and the time and just remove yourself from the equation. People need to except that it’s ok to just be a fan of things without having to throw your creative hat in the ring. This isn’t aimed at people casually recording music for their own enjoyment. This is to the guys who are actively trying to “make it” (Good luck , bro! The music industry is dead like WOAH!). Just remove yourself from the equation. Again, this issue isn’t strictly a “white rapper” problem. It’s a “worldwide everyone making music” problem. The reason I’m speaking to all my whigs out there is more selfish. Basically, you guys are making the rest of us look bad. There are tons of good white rappers out there right now. But the amount of shitty ones overshadows the good ones to the point where its damning to all of us. Keep in mind, shitty rap music is not just a white rapper problem. I don’t feel like I’m in any position to be doling out this kind of advice to just anyone making shitty music. But, white rappers, I am you. I understand. Also , know that there is nothing wrong with being wrong with being a white rapper. It’s just when you start rapping yourself into a corner and becoming one of those sub-genre’s, you really cease to be of any use to anyone (musically. You’re mom still love you no matter what). There are a million people doing the exact same thing and, chances are, a good 900, 000 are better than you (and even those people are still wasting away within their played out sub-genre).

So , do me/us a favor and just leave it alone. Trust me , it for the betterment of the art form. For yourself! For everyone!
Then again, you could just play like me and fake it till you make it. eh…forget it. Do you.

Thank you
With regards
Blockhead The III Esquire