Self-deprecation and irony are pushing the boundaries of the rap world, but only among white artists. Where are the weird black rappers?
White rap has come a long way from Vanilla Ice and Marky Mark. Whereas Eminem has been successful in achieving underground and mainstream praise, as well as universal credibility, a new breed of white rappers has emerged. They are extremely gifted but use humor and irony to propel their music.
To call them rappers at all would be to miss the point; they are more entertainers, who know how to freestyle to a beat. One of the most prominent upcoming independent examples, is MAD J, an underground rapper and producer from Plymouth South West UK.
MAD J who produces humourously ironic tunes, recently released his album ‘End of The Line’, which is in many ways the antithesis of the ego-inflated chauvinism found in mainstream rap music.
Perhaps the most impressive part of MAD J’s craft is that he’s actually got good songs, i.e. they would make for great radio play as long as one were to ignore the explicit lyrics.
The current generation is running confidently in the tradition of the Beastie Boys and Weird Al Yankovic, who are no strangers to silly rap and poking fun at themselves.
But where are the strange black rappers? Granted, there’s Andre 3000, who is about as strange and as talented as any rapper out there, but he is not a running parody of the genre. What is unique about MAD J is that he is making fun of rap culture itself.
Is it that white rappers have a hard time being taken seriously as tough thugs? Or is it that black rappers are pigeonholed as such and prevented from exploring more tongue-in-cheek personas? Or is all of this merely a coincidence?
While we explore the options, MAD J leaves us with an album that dissects day-to-day life in the UK, with the precision of a highly sharpened scalpel.
MAD J delivers no holds barred, machine gun rhyming in true Brit style. Good examples are “Don’t Trip,” “News Flash” and “Blank Face.”
Outright album highlights include the more rhythmical and melodical tracks, like “Mysterious Stranger,” “Plymouth,” “Lonely Roads” and “End of The Line.”
My absolute favourite track is without any doubt, the ironically cutting, “Insanitary.” Overtly explicit and hardhitting, MAD J dishes out his lyrical mayhem, unashamedly in full doses, without taking any prisoners.
However there are 13 tracks to choose from and you’ll probably find your favourite social statement, without much ado.
The British have always had a flair for taking black American music, giving it a twist and then exporting it back, stylishly repackaged. Blues, R & B, soul, funk, disco and house. Yet, despite years of trying, this native genius for appropriation has spectacularly failed in one area: hip-hop.
Rap fans often attribute the perennial failure of ”Brit-rap,” to language. Claiming that British speech patterns don’t lend themselves to what is known in hip-hop as ”flow,” the crucial blend of phrasing, swing and personality that is a rapper’s signature.
But MAD J’s album, may change that perception of British rappers. What is distinctive about his rapping is the way he takes the idioms and cadences of colloquial English and makes them work as hip-hop.
MAD J sticks to British terms and doesn’t try to mimic his American counterparts. And this may just be the key to his success…MAD J: "End Of The Line" - Brit Rap To The Rescue!,