Putting his unquestionable talent aside, it’s not a huge surprise that Eminem’s Slim Shady LP was so well-received when Interscope helped him to first put take his underground music into the mainstream back in 1999. Paving the way for the constant flow of new, up-and-coming white rappers who idolized him back then, Eminem came to market with a blunt, true-to-self, lower socio-economic class character that was refreshing and different from the previous attempts of white rappers past. Looking the accidental mockery in the face, who can forget The White Rapper Show, for example? Whether you hated it or loved it, it was a trainwreck that you couldn’t resist watching, if only to laugh at the contestants’ hilarious missteps.
On Monday, it was announced that white rapper Rich Hil, son of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, was signed to Warner Brothers Records. This news not only continues to feed the growing trend of white rapper signings, but also the perpetuates the sub-genre craze that is now commonly referred to as “Frat Rap.” Focusing less on conveying social commentary or more personal issues, Frat Rap flaunts a party lifestyle, celebrating the cliche reckless behavior associated with college fraternities, like getting hammered, bagging girls, and partaking in experimental gateway drugs. Executing lyricism and celebrating the Bronx-born culture aren’t really a priority.
Asher Roth’s 2009 Asleep In The Bread Isle album title went out of its way to both unveil and congratulate this savage youth behavior, and since pop music thrives on fun, his single “I Love College” was quickly beloved by undergrads, hurling him into the world of mainstream listeners. And even though hip-hop purists were mortified at first, Asher’s talent inevitably won them over, and the song wound up spawning unofficial remixes by a number of popular rappers, including Ludacris and Jim Jones, who acted as spokesmen by granting co-sign-like approval of the white boy’s slick, silly style.
But be clear: Just because a rapper is white doesn’t mean they automatically get lumped into Frat Rap (quite a departure from their slapstick white counterparts; cerebral artists like Brother Ali, Atmosphere, and newcomers Action Bronson, Yelawolf, Thee Tom Hardy and Machine Gun Kelly exemplify a more “polite preservationist”, verbose style of hip-hop. By the same token, non-white rappers are definitely not exempt from the genre; just look at Chiddy Bang and Odd Future-connected Casey Veggies.
And let’s not forget the ladies, either. Ke$ha’s savage lyrics and more-spoken-than-sang delivery could quite easily also fall in this category! Although we don’t necessarily see her pledging one, Sorority Rap might be the most fitting description, but I digress… maybe it’s all just pop?
It is, and it’s because pop is safe. Unlike the grittier themes of more street or socially conscious emcees, Katy Perry, LMFAO, Britney, Pitbull, Pink and countless other artists’ songs cater to the feel-good vibe that record labels love to help promote. Bragging about taking shots, dancing, and letting loose is clearly something that the American appetite isn’t showing signs of tiring of, so why not enlist a new wave of Frat Rappers to convey the same message and turn “fun” into funds?
Besides Rich Hil and Asher Roth, newcomer and Single Ladies guest-star Mac Miller is now signed to indie label Rostrum Records. Could Tom Hanks’ son Chet Haze follow in their footsteps and secure a deal as well? And Sam Adams, another Frat Rapper who is rumored to be aligned with Lady Gaga’s management and already has an indie deal, could likely be gearing up to ink with a major.Whether the Frat Raptrend will survive the test of time remains to be seen, but in the here and now, we better buckle our seatbelts and get comfortable.