The Rise of the Ironic White Rapper

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 to propel their music.

To call them rappers at all would be to miss the point; they are more entertainers, or rather, stand-up comedians who know how to freestyle and tell jokes to a beat. The most prominent example would be the boys of Lonely Island ( Akiva “Kiv” SchafferJorma “Jorm” Taccone, and David Andrew “Andy” Samberg), who used Saturday Night Live as a launching pad for their over-the-top songs concerning oft forgotten topics. Their first hit (on Youtube at least) was Lazy Sunday in which the members of the group watch the Chronicles of Narnia and then eat cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery – the polar opposite of the typical rap fare. Their breakout moment came just before Christmas 2006 with the release of Dick in a Box, which went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. The hits kept on coming with Jizz in My Pants, I’m on a Boat, I Just had Sex and the sequel to Dick, Motherlover (featuring Patricia Clarkson and Susan Sarandon). The group’s second album, Turtleneck & Chain, was at one point the best-selling rap album in the country in 2011.

North of the border, Canadian comedian Jon Lajoie has been producing similar tunes for years, most notably with his hit Everyday Normal Guy, which is in many ways the antithesis of the ego-inflated chauvinism found in mainstream rap music. The first verse of the song goes:

I am just a regular everyday normal guy…
Nothing special about me Mother Fucka
I am just a regular everyday normal guy…
When I go to the clubs I wait in line Mother Fucka

I am just a regular everyday normal guy…
I got 600 dollars in the bank Mother Fucka
I am just a regular everyday normal guy…
And my sexual performances are average.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Lajoie’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 lyrics.

Mac Lethal even went viral while rapping about making pancakes. 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 Lonely Island and Lajoie is that they are 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?

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