Sam is a 16-year-old from Montgomery, NJ. She enjoys playing tennis, writing and Community Service. Her favorite subject in school is History.
When you think of the rap world and rap culture today, you probably think of similar things, be it a Southern ex-convict with sagging pants, and addicting vulgar lyrics. Maybe it’s a preppy Mid-Westerner with the ego the size of the Empire State Building. If you could guess who I’m hinting at, you’d know that these rappers, like the majority of most rappers today, are African-American. Likewise, when you think of a white rapper, you tend to think of at best, Eminem, and at worst, Asher Roth. However, “new white” rappers like Mac Miller and Chris Webby are rising stars in rap, complete with a unique look and sound. But what’s so appealing about them?
With the typical rapper, we tend to hear the same old story: born in urban poverty, surrounded by crime, no real opportunities for success, you get the drift. This is quite the opposite for the new white rapper. Unlike most rappers, new white rappers tend to come from either middle-class urban neighborhoods or from suburbia. For example, Chris Webby represents not a project in Boston, but rather, from the burbs of Connecticut. Furthermore, a typical mainstream rapper doesn’t have the opportunity to pursue higher education. Some new white rappers, like Mac Miller, only complete high school, yet some attend college.
Perhaps both of these traits contribute to the new white rapper’s appeal because they are more relatable to many of rap’s white consumers, who may or may not be able to entirely empathize with a rapper that came from a tougher background. Because of this, I don’t find it surprising that many of the rap fans here in preppy, upper-middle-class New Jersey, while they love mainstream stuff, tend to like new white rappers better.
Off-Kilter Sense of Style
In Mac Miller’s video “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza,” there’s something distinct. As he walks the streets of Pittsburgh, I notice that there are no baggy jeans, oversized jerseys and heavy bling in sight. Instead, Mac spits his rhymes wearing simply a white tee, basic straight-leg jeans, a fitted cap and a black backpack…seems a bit odd for a rapper, huh?
It sounds superficial, but a part of a rapper that we tend to focus on is their personal style. Some dress preppy, others dress flashy. As for new white rappers, they tend to take an archetypal rap fashion style or attribute, and turn it on its head. Gang tattoos become tattoos of beloved cartoon characters (Chris Webby takes pride in his Simba (yes, The Lion King), Optimus Prime, Ninja Turtles, and Mario Bros ink). Trends in hip-hop are blended together with other archetypes, such as Mac Miller’s offbeat pairing of a sleek suit (wealthy prep), a simple black snapback (hip-hop), and thick-framed glasses (geek) in another music video. It seems that the less typical the style, the more appealing a rapper appears to his audience.
Slick Unique Sound
It seemed that as hip-hop entered a new decade, it seemed on its way to being, as many call it, “dead,” or becoming watered down and commercialized. With the rise of these new white rappers came a fresh sound. The era of thumping cacophonous beats, outlandish dances, and excessive Auto-tune was dead. Instead came in creative hooks, subtle bass-lines, and singing without any electronic help.
Sure, I’ll admit that lyrically, it seems that not much changes. If you listen to one of a white rapper’s tracks, it‘s near impossible to not find a reference to weed, partying, or being fly, as you or I would expect with most mainstream rap. Still, there’s a distinct difference in music choice. Rather than pick an obnoxious mix of sound effects, white rappers tend to match the mood of their hooks to the lyrics. One of my personal favorites is Mac Miller’s “Wear My Hat,” a love song to a girl who takes his favorite snapback. To match the flirty lyrics, Mac smoothly pairs a twanging bass and some slight chimes. Safe to say my girlfriends went crazy over this song.
Other rappers, rather than change their hooks or lyrics, change their voice or accent. Chris Webby notably does this by rapping in a raspy, nasal, and, for lack of better words, nerdy cadence. You could compare Webby’s vocal changes to those of Nicki Minaj: such radical, rapid changes are a sign of rap talent, but they also act as attention grabbers. The fact that Webby has millions of hits on YouTube is definite proof of his voice’s impact.
As many of you relax at the beach or soak up the sun, don’t be surprised if a loud, Auto-tuned jam about wearing shiny bling doesn’t burn up the airwaves this summer. The new white rapper is rising up the charts and won’t be going away anytime soon.