01/12/13 at 6:45 am
Most people think that hip hop and rap are the exclusive preserve of black, largely American males. Since the 1990s, that stereotype has been challenged by a growing popularity of white population of both genders. Nor is it limited to North America. There are some big names from Europe making waves on both sides of the Atlantic – male and female and from across the social divide. Here is a list of some of the world’s most prominent white rappers.
1. Vanilla Ice
Arguably the first white rapper to bring the genre to the Caucasian masses, he became an overnight success with his hit “Ice, Ice Baby”, a track that has been mimicked despite itself sampling the backing track from the Queen hit Under Pressure. It was the first hip hop track ever to become the number 1 on the American Billboard Charts and the UK Charts. His bad boy background was a persona though. Since then he has gone on to an acting career and to host a variety of music shows.
The most famous white rapper of them all, even people who had never been into hip hop before were buying his albums. A fiercely loyal fan base and worldwide notoriety has led to numerous lampoons of his music, including UK Radio DJ Chris Moyles who parodied “Stan” with a fan writing a letter to Santa Claus (called Stanta). At the height of his fame, he released the semibiographical movie 8 Mile. He is famous for using multiple personalities in his music in order to change his tone and style.
He might not be as big as the previous two but within the rap genre, he has a massive following having released six albums. His visceral style of music and lyrics are not to everybody’s tastes but the tone reflects his harsh upbringing to American parents in Germany. When his father was dishonourably discharged from the Military Police for selling heroine, his problems only got worse. He would be arrested for drug possession later on in life and has had periods inside psychiatric units.
4. Kellee Maize
Considered by most to be the most famous white female rapper, a search of “white female rappers” on Google brings her page up in the number one spot. She started rapping from an early age, just nine when she formed her first music group. She would find herself working for her local newspaper and soon started to promote up and coming musicians from her area. When she left the paper, she launched a PR firm promoting local events. She is an active campaigner for women’s rights, the environment and is a practitioner of several New Age beliefs.
5. Aesop Rock
Another giant of the 1990s, he is considered one of the pioneers of alternative and independent rap and is now considered one of the top 20 most influential figures in underground hip hop. Unlike most of his kind, he did not have a tough upbringing. He attended Boston University and studied Fine Arts. It was there that he met his future producer but he was already a budding musician. He was finally signed to the Mush label in 1998. With a new album and a tour in 2013, he isn’t going anywhere yet.
6. Iggy Azalea
This Australian born young woman mixes dance with hip hop and has courted controversy because of the shocking nature of some of her lyrics and videos. She has only been around commercially since 2012 and has her first album scheduled for release in 2014. She is currently in the USA promoting herself and hoping that she can find success in that time. With her father’s background in art, she claims that strong visuals have an influence on her work.
7. Brother Ali
To say that someone is whiter than white usually means something else but for Brother Ali, it is a physical truism. Born an albino and partially blind as typical of the condition, he states that his condition made him feel ostracised as a kid and therefore that gave him much greater empathy with the black community of his native Wisconsin than with his white ancestry. He sings largely about being black in rural America but he emphasises that hip hop is all about enjoyment.
Arguably, France is at the forefront of European rap after British acts disappeared from the lead in the 1980s, and they equally arguably have the largest number of white rappers outside of the USA. Orelsan is currently one of the biggest names in French rap. Like most of his contemporaries he has courted controversy, particularly over some misogynistic and violent lyrics. The storm turned political when both the Socialist and Communist parties supported a campaign to stop him appearing at a gig.
Famous as the front man for the band House of Pain who were most famous for the 1990s iconic hit “Jump Around”, Everlast went on to have a solo career after the band split up in 1996. He released several albums, most notably Whitey Ford Sings the Blues in 1998. He went on to have a successful collaboration with Country Rock group Santana in 1999 and hit the headlines after a public feud with Eminem when the two contributed tracks to the OST of the film End of Days. He converted to Islam in 1996
Though his band Goldie Looking Chain are primarily a comedy band, spoofing everything from the genre itself, chav culture and consumer society – some of their fans realise the old British saying “many a true word spoken in jest” holds true. That is… the band uses satire to deal with some very real issues. Maggot is the most famous of their number due to his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother. However, they were famous around university campuses before this. Their biggest hit album released in 2004 was titled Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do.
The above represent some of the giants of the world of hip hop / rap music and not all of them are American. This demonstrates that rap music, far from being the belief that it is by black people and for black people, is highly adaptable and can apply to any place at any time. They are from a range of nationalities and backgrounds and have different ideas about what the genre means to them.