About BMC 277: Media and Diversity
This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
White People’s Place in the Hip Hop World
One of the most recent phenomenon’s of our time is the influx of hip hop and rap music in popular culture. A rather obscure form of music and expression as of twenty five years ago is arguably the most popular form of music today. Hip Hop with its fast pace, clever lyrics and overwhelming intensity has taken over the music world not just with people in the inner city but people from all backgrounds. It is not common in this day and age to hear the sounds of Jay-Z or 2Pac blasting out of a car in a suburban or rural neighborhood. There has only been one incredibly successful white rapper Eminem. So that got me thinking what impact do white people have in predominantly African-American culture?
When you are talking about hip hop the number one thing you must start with is the artist. Many white people have tried to make it big on the rap scene many more have failed then have been successful. The only really big name in the rap scene is Eminem with his multi platinum records that he put out in the late 90’s early 00’s. Eminem was really big in the game and always will be but he has been somewhat forgotten for the past four or five years. Other white rappers that have been somewhat relevant are Paul Wall, Lil Whyte, Bubba Sparx and of course Vanilla Ice with his earth shattering hit Ice Ice Baby. Rap artists that are not black have to be absolutely exceptional at their craft because they are not the norm and white people are not the main target audience for rap music. Therefore unless a white rapper is supremely talented like Eminem the chances of a white rapper getting signed to a record deal are not very likely.
Except for a few great white rappers who have made it such as Eminem or the Beastie Boys most people think when white people rap it is funny or some kind of joke. Shows such as Andy Milonakis have mocked the genre of Hip Hop often using ridiculous lyrics that are never used in hip hop. When white people are rapping they are usually not taken seriously it is usually seen as a joke or a novelty. As I searched YouTube for videos of white people rapping all I could find is people either mocking the genre or just rapping for fun. I could not find any videos where there was a serious song. I think there is a perception in our society that this music is not for anyone else therefore not many white people makes an effort to make it in the rap industry as a white person. Many people believe white people do not have the talent, rhythm, street credibility or the look needed in order to be a successful rapper.
The most important thing to any musician including rappers is how many albums they sell. In the rap world who consumes the most rap music? According to Bikari Kitwana’s book Why White Kids Love Hip Hop 70% of all rap albums sold are bought by white people this is an amazing number. This statistic shows that white people may not be the face of hip hop but are the people funding the industry. Hip Hop is an awesome example of how a predominantly black genre of music has transcended to every walk of life. I love hip hop myself it is actually my favorite genre of music I have been listening to hip hop since as long as I can remember.
The main reason we don’t see many white people in the world of hip hop is because the people who own the record labels who are mainly white don’t think the people want to see white rappers. Most of the people who run these record companies are white and decide who they feel have the image and talent worthy to have a record deal. Many of these labels are looking for the thugged out black youth. Many white rappers have tried to make it but never have had the image that the record companies are looking except for a white rapper like Eminem that grew up on the streets and has tremendous talent. White people in general don’t usually fit the image that the rap community is looking for.
Eminem the most well known and successful white rapper has undeniable talent was discovered by rap mogul Dr. Dre in the late 90’s. Eminem has topped the charts from the point he broke onto the main stream until the early to mid 2000’s. Eminem is really the first rapper that really spoke about problems that white people have mainly suburban kids. White people had been listening to rap long before Eminem came around but he was the first rapper that most white people could identify with because of the color of his skin. His influence really spiked the interest of many whites in rap music. The thinking was well if there is a guy who looks just like me rapping why I can’t I listen or try rapping myself. Although there has not been a megastar rapper since Eminem his impact on hip hop especially in the white community is still felt.
Many whites that listen to rap are perceived of trying to act black or bluntly put being a “wigger”. White people that listen to rap are sometimes seen as people who are pretending to be something they are not. When a white person is seen blaring rap out of their car in baggy clothes and a crooked hat a great deal of people find this image ridiculous or not correct. The thought is that you should know your role as a white person and blaring rap music is not part of that role. Many white people think well how can I relate to this kind of music this is not my world I have never been shot at or dealt drugs. I believe that most whites listen to rap music because of the fact that many of them cannot relate to these experiences and want insight into another somewhat fascinating and dangerous world. Listening to rap is there only ticket into that world.
Whites are not the face of the rap industry but you could make the argument that they do fuel the industry. According to Bikari Kitwana’s book Why White Kids Love Hip Hop 70% of the people that buy rap albums white people have a huge influence on hip hop culture that goes unnoticed. In addition to all the record sales white people account for in hip hop most of the owners of the record labels that rappers are signed are ran by white people. Therefore whites are in control of the image that most rappers convey. Whites are more prominent then most people think in an industry that on the surface is dominated by African Americans.
Kitwana, Bikari. Why White Kids Love Hip Hop. New York, NY:
Basic Civitas Books, 2005. 114-120. Print