Plain White Rapper
December 31, 2014 11:04 AM   Subscribe

White men were rapping LONG before Eminem came on the scene!
posted by Quasimike (42 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
He's gone, man! Solid gone!
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:34 AM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've always wondered why "Rock Island" isn't considered to be rap.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:36 AM on December 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


good flow -- half rapping, half auctioneering
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:54 AM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why you framed the post this way, Quasimike, and the song is good, but it seems pretty gross to insinuate that white people invented rap music. This is clearly not rap.
posted by 256 at 12:02 PM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


I see what you did there.
posted by edheil at 12:02 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


but it seems pretty gross to insinuate that white people invented rap music. This is clearly not rap.

Gross? Really? So playing with rhyme in a beater meter way is somehow related to color of skin?

Shirley, you jest!
posted by stirfry at 12:13 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, everybody remembers Vanilla Ice, but he wasn’t the original white rapper...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 12:14 PM on December 31, 2014


It's not quite rap, in that he half-sings it, albeit in a monotone. In rap, the syllables would have to be more staccato.
posted by acb at 12:22 PM on December 31, 2014


It ain't true white rap if it doesn't start with "Well, my name's rappin' _______ and I'm here to say..."
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:27 PM on December 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


Gross? Really? So playing with rhyme in a beater meter way is somehow related to color of skin?

It's more complicated than that. I'm pretty sure I heard a flatted fifth in Beethoven, once, but that doesn't make it jazz.
posted by entropone at 12:30 PM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


"I love a bandleader" was 1945

"My intention is war" is a decent example of contemporary Calypso from that time.

The fact that this guy does something that resembles modern rap to us does not imply he was doing it "first".
posted by idiopath at 12:31 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


And importantly, I think the nuts and bolts abstracted approach of our music theory does us a disservice here, if you look at the context and social usage of the music we see a direct lineage to modern rap - two men improvising and taking turns trading insults over a beat, making references that establish their credibility.
posted by idiopath at 12:34 PM on December 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure why you framed the post this way,

Spirit of light heartedness, of course. Not everyone is utterly dour. Anyway, he said before the very white Eminem came along, not before the very not-white Sugar Hill Gang.

In rap, the syllables would have to be more staccato.

There are rules to rap? How unfortunately limiting. I suppose that's Rex Harrison out then.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:36 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hey ain't got nothing on Dan Smith from BYU.
posted by dios at 12:42 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered why "Rock Island yt " isn't considered to be rap.

that beat doe
posted by mullacc at 12:47 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered why "Rock Island" isn't considered to be rap.

I've always considered "Rock Island" to be rap. More interestingly, so does Stephen Sondheim.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:05 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


All I can say, 256, is that any insinuation is only being insinuated by you yourself. I am smart enough to know that rap predates the development of the slave trade days, when the tribes would recite their history in a rhythmic manner accompanied by much beating of drums and stomping of feet (yes, I looked it up) so I suppose that even though this particular example might not be considered by some to be within the currently accepted definition of Rap, it is nonetheless rhythmic speaking to a musical beat, so I think it is okay to refer to is as such.
posted by Quasimike at 1:07 PM on December 31, 2014


Dan Smith from BYU ain't got nothing on the 1986 Chicago Bears...

Its a fuzzy video, but that was one hell of a team!
posted by Quasimike at 1:16 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


still_wears_a_hat,

Funny, I just watched Into the Woods this weekend (recommended)--my first time hearing the whole piece at once--and was struck by what Sondheim, in your link, calls his attempt at rap. While it does have some of that (although internal rhymes he's been using all along), it reminded me more of a G&S patter song. I mean, "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" and "When You're Lying Awake" are as close to white man's rap as anything else.
posted by the sobsister at 1:18 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


I dunno, this sounds like singing to me. There's a melody there, he's lazily singing all around it.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:34 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Old-school white rappers get no respect, no respect.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:40 PM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am often derided for my insistence that "Talkin' Country" was a pre-Hip-Hop form of Rap, like I was here, but if Jimmy Dean was a little too slow to be really rapping, you can't say the same for Charlie Daniels or even C.W. McCall (when he was doing something OTHER than that Convoy song). I would never suggest you try to get Charlie Daniels to 'freestyle', though, he's apparently likely to break into a bigoted rant.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:44 PM on December 31, 2014




Did Catullus rhyme in Latin? If so, home wrote the world's first gangsta rap, 2000 years before everybody else.
posted by acb at 2:33 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Atom Eyes: "It ain't true white rap if it doesn't start with "Well, my name's rappin' _______ and I'm here to say...""

So in 87, my friend and I (we're white in case it isn't obvious), tried to do a rap track so we popped in the cassette hit record and we freestyled it.

My first line (of course it was all jokingly)...

"My name is Dave
and I like to shave
but I can not
cuz I'm too young."

Ah white boy rap.
posted by symbioid at 2:39 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


my insistence that "Talkin' Country" was a pre-Hip-Hop form of Rap
I would argue that the defining element of hip hop is the beat, not the vocals. That's why The Devil Went Down To Georgia is not hip hop, despite having spoken word vocals, and an instrumental track like The Number Song by DJ Shadow is. It doesn't have rapping, but it has loops, drums, turntablism, and the hip hop aesthetic.

It's also why hip hop (and electronic music in general) began in the late 1970s. That's when the instruments that enabled this type of music, like samplers and crossfaders, were invented - or at least became affordable and mass produced.

I sometimes wonder if hip hop would be regarded as a subgenre of electronic music if it weren't for the racial component.
posted by foobaz at 5:21 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh my god people, really?

Rap is a modern form of music that developed out of various musical, cultural and narrative traditions of largely urban African Americans. It's more than just talking over a beat.

I have to ask, sincerely, what is the point of this post?
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:26 PM on December 31, 2014 [7 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: I've always wondered why "Rock Island" isn't considered to be rap.
Um, aside from the wrong meter, lack of inside rhymes, lack of metaphor and allegorical references, sparcity of assonance and consonance, lack of sampling, and several other key features of rap, nothing.

In other news, it's not "jazz" just because you didn't play the notes on the sheet music as written.

"Beowulf", on the other hand - is goddamned rap lyrics.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:32 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh my god people, really?

Like, I literally can't even! But seriously...musically speaking what separates rap from "talking over a beat"? If you have two African Americans and one is rapping and the other is talking over a beat what criteria would you use to decide which was which?
posted by MikeMc at 5:38 PM on December 31, 2014


256 I'm not sure why you framed the post this way,

IndigoJones: Spirit of light heartedness, of course. Not everyone is utterly dour.
So, people who take exception to a post framed as "White People Did Black Cultural Art Before Black People!" are 'dour'. Got it.

At least we're not uppity.
IndigoJones: There are rules to rap? How unfortunately limiting. I suppose that's Rex Harrison out then.
No, there are no rules, and whatever white folk say is rap is rap. Also, white people inventedjazz, blues, gospel music, disco, jeri curls, and afro picks.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:44 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


musically speaking what separates rap from "talking over a beat"? If you have two African Americans and one is rapping and the other is talking over a beat what criteria would you use to decide which was which?

If you want nice bright lines to define this for you, I can't help you. Genre doesn't work that way outside of the most reductive of examples. There are a lot of gray areas involved in differentiating musical forms from one another, and if that were the point of this post I'd find that interesting. Instead we're just taking the simplest possible definition and applying it to all instances without any regard to nuance or cultural history.
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:46 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Quasimike: I am smart enough to know that ...
Bad start.
Quasimike: ... rap predates the development of the slave trade days, when the tribes would recite their history in a rhythmic manner accompanied by much beating of drums and stomping of feet
That is crowd-pleasing nonsense. To believe this, I need citations that show a continuous list of recorded references from the 16th century to 1979. "You read it somewhere" means nothing.

I've also heard that Negro spirituals developed from the call-and-response of slave work songs, which in turn were based (supposedly, I haven't seen proof, but it's plausible) on African work songs. All of that is plausible, and unlike your claim, actual songs can probably be documented that distinctly follow the pattern, from the 19th century (at least) to Mahalia Jackson. Even then, I'll note: call-and-response songs are typical of work crews of every race. Egyptians on the Nile may have used them. God knows Admiral Nelson's men did.

But that doesn't mean white people invented gospel music, however. "Blow the Man Down" isn't a gospel song.
Quasimike: (yes, I looked it up)
Bad end, without a citation.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:54 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


what separates rap from "talking over a beat"?
What separates rock from singing over a guitar? The specific nature of the singing and the guitar. It could also be folk, country, or blues depending on the details.

Not all talking over a beat is rap. It has to be a specific kind of talking, and a specific kind of beat.
posted by foobaz at 5:56 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I want to say something about this . . . cultural appropriation, ironic racism, tone-deafness, etc. But I'll just sit here and drink this tea.
posted by anansi at 6:19 PM on December 31, 2014


Apparently true Scotsmen are excluded...
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:22 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sorry, was the FPP edited or something? I don't understand how we got from "there were white men rapping before Eminem" to "whites invented rap".

Then again, I fully admit that I did not actually click the link. An auspicious 2015 to all.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 10:16 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sometimes cited as early "white rap": Prisencolinensinainciusol. But that's complete nonsense.
posted by stupid but undaunted at 1:13 AM on January 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


No, everybody knows the earliest rappers come from Northumberland.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:49 AM on January 1, 2015


IAmBroom, you realize Eminem is white right? The post is a little awkward to parse but nowhere does the "frame" imply anything about who invented rap; it's saying "before this white rapper, there was this other white rap thing..."
posted by aydeejones at 7:41 AM on January 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The post is a little awkward to parse but nowhere does the "frame" imply anything about who invented rap

Rap is a genre which is generally thought of as having been invented in the 1970's in the NYC area by black artists. So, to say that a Phil Harris vehicle from the 1940's contains rap music is logically implying that the conventional historical narrative with unambiguous black beginnings is false; it leaves out at least one white rapper who predated the commonly accepted time frame by a generation. On the other hand you're right in the sense that if we're going to identify Phil Harris's music as rap, that still doesn't mean he was the inventor. There are certainly older songs we would have to give consideration to, both white and black.

But seriously...musically speaking what separates rap from "talking over a beat"?

If you find a painting of a square from the 14th century, even if it looks identical to a Malevich square, it's not a Suprematist work of art, because it wasn't intended to be a part of that movement, and wasn't consumed that way. Any correspondences are essentially coincidental. Or you wouldn't call the Great Pyramid a work of Brutalist architecture just because it shares a certain crude aesthetic similarity. We define genre by intention and historical and social context, not just through a naive checkoff of identifying qualities. Because otherwise, hmm, involves aliens? Check! Life-extension technology? Check! World-building? Check! An obvious description of a lightsaber? Check! Book of Genesis = early science fiction. I mean sure, ironically why not? "But seriously..." no.

So my feeling is that if you're talking over a beat with the intention of creating a rap song and it is identified by your listener as such, then that is rap. Maybe bad rap but still.

Parenthetically, in case anybody's wondering where they heard that gravelly baritone before...
posted by xigxag at 8:32 AM on January 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yo, Imma let y'all finish, but the whitest rap of all time -- of all time -- is Der Kommissar by Falco.
posted by wabbittwax at 4:40 PM on January 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


aydeejones: IAmBroom, you realize Eminem is white right?
Yes. Do you realize I didn't mention or reference Eminem?
posted by IAmBroom at 11:41 AM on January 2, 2015


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