Saw Gorillaz a couple days ago, and it’s been bugging me since: why do white guys have to use pseudonyms and front bands to perform hip hop if they’re from anything but a lower-class black neighbourhood? Gorillaz: rich 40 year old white Brit wanted to make hip hop records. Major Lazer: an American and a Brit want to make Jamaican music. And really, this is symptomatic of something that’s gripped our entire society: we’re no longer allowed to be curious about other cultures, want to participate in them or seek out new experiences. And by we, I mean white people.
Honestly, guys, the word post-racist is in the title. Do you really think I’m gonna pull any punches on this one? I’m just gonna speak as frankly as I possibly can for 1000 words, and if you feelin’ me, cool, not feelin’ me, fokoff. I should say now and forever that the last thing I am is a racist. I couldn’t care less what colour your skin is or what culture you come from as long as you recognize everyone’s equal rights to an existence free of bullshit and people trying to kill them for any reason. We all agreed on that point? Good. Cos this is about to get AWKWARD
Racism is the most stupid and pointless cultural instinct we all seem to have driven into our brains at some point in childhood. However, it’s not racism that’s necessarily the problem. From my (very limited) viewpoint, the problems seem to stem from an unwillingness to accept anyone outside of our community. It’s just that because we’ve spent so much time as a species dividing our communities by race–well, that’s stuck for a while. For instance, there are plenty of white MCs who grew up poor and rapping in freestyle battles. You’ll find that they’re accepted into the community as that’s where they grew up. Sure, it’s a novelty that they’re white–not that anyone will mention that.
This whole train of thought came about when I found out that Dan finds a verse in Fishpaste by Die Antwoord particularly awkward. It begins: I am a [hey there!] colored cos I am a [whoa now] colored if I wanna be a colored–my inner colored just wanna be discovered. I don’t think that’s awkward at all. Is that weird for you? See, what’s going on is, a South African man of Dutch descent who has spent his entire life living in the slums has said that he could be a [TOTALLY-POLITICALLY-CORRECT-TERM-FOR-BLACK-PEOPLE-IN-SOUTH-AFRICA-I-SWEAR] if he wants to be cos really, that skin colour is in all of us. And he’s right. We all have an inner black person, an inner white person, a secret Asian man–anything. Cos race is really nothing but community as determined by mighty whitey. (I hate white people.)
Where am I going with this? Man, that’s a good question. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s really weird how normal it is that old or rich white guys need pseudonyms to play black music. (Not pulling any punches, remember? How many good white dancehall artists are there?) This shouldn’t be something I see the logic behind. It’s not like black people invented fake bands to front their music when they invented hardcore punk (thanks, Bad Brains!). Yet, whenever a rich white guy wants to make reggae or hip hop, he’s gotta be behind a digital band. Maybe it’s so we don’t look like the colonialist bastards we’ve been since time immemorial, treating the rest of the world’s culture as our personal playground.
So how come brown people get to do that? And I mean brown in the George Carlin sense. Bollywood get 808s and autotuners to go with their three hour dancefest mourning dramas orchestrated with traditional instruments. Jamaicans get to harvest the best of every genre on Earth, mellow it out to a simmering perfection and serve it up as a brilliantly original bed of stuff. I suppose next up is poor white people getting to do that. We’ve had a few harbingers of this phenomenon–Eminem fused rock and hip hop in a way that crossed over brilliantly to all audiences, Die Antwoord have fused all of South African underground culture into their trademark horrorcore sound. None of these artists are from privileged backgrounds. Eminem lived in a series of slums, Die Antwoord are from a ghetto in the WWII sense of the word.
Logically enough, the first white guys to be able to play black music unironically are–oh wait I forgot Elvis and the Beastie Boys. But it’ll be argued with me until the end of time that the Beasties are post-punk (they are hip hop) and that Elvis was a racist ass (even Chuck D forgave him, but not John Wayne, IIRC) and that both of them only did it to get rich. I suppose this is why white people need pseudonyms or empty pockets. Because it’s impossible for a rich white guy to find something to relate to in underground culture. Sincerely, at least.
And yet, that’s what I do on a daily basis. Punk, hip hop, horrorcore, fringe music. The only stuff that appeals to me is stuff with real emotion and passion behind it. Oh, but there I go again being a stupid white guy again, curating hip hop. I’ll never get it, will I? God, I’m so white by existing. I can never understand what makes different cultures different. I’ll never understand what it’s like to be from a different culture.
Well, you know, that’s true, but hey–can’t we try to understand each other? Grab your acoustic guitar, start singing kumbayah cos this is my big-ass hippie moment. Can’t we use our music to represent our cultures on an international stage and learn more about each other by seeing what appeals to whom and accepting everyone for everyone, man? Basically, racism is a large topic to try to tackle in 1000 words. It’s a large topic to handle in 10 000. It’s as large as the planet Earth. So how can I possibly have a thesis or prove a point in this much time?
What I’m saying is, I hate Stuff White People Like.