Afrika Bambaataa said, “How you act, walk, look and talk is all part of hip-hop culture. And the music is colorless.” But did Dick Van Dyke fit in too?
Chiddy Bang, a group of four Drexel University sophomores, thinks so. They broke into the blogosphere through as-mainstream-as-it-gets prettymuchamazing.com, dropping tracks that sampled from the indie pantheon (Yelle, MGMT, Radiohead).
In the Shuffle-era and with ADD-friendly production, Chiddy surprisingly adopts a narrative — the “Swelly Express” mixtape tells the story of Chiddy Bang members and their interactions with “Major Label, Inc.”
Producer Xaphoon (White) seems to have shed rap’s racial anxiety. Would Dr. Dre ever consider sampling “The Perfect Nanny” from Mary Poppins as Xaphoon does on “Never?”
Indeed, Xaphoon moves easily from classic bangers like “Pro’s Freestyle 1.0” to samples of Passion Pit and Sufjan Stevens. He is the real star of this tape.
And Proto (Black), though working with such an indie-influenced producer, navigates across the idioms of gangsta-rap and electro music with confidence. For him, there is no cultural discontinuity in a line like, “I’m inbox like Gmail, I get head, I need tail,” or, “I’m well-endowed like Harvard and Yale.” He delivers hard but spits in an enunciation palatable to both audiences.
Is Chiddy Bang signaling the future of electro cross-racial referencing? Since The New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones’ pen is no doubt divinely inspired, Rap, it seems, is Dead. Is this sound set to replace it?
The “new freshmen class” of rappers seems to think so. Kid Cudi is posturing himself as an anxious college stoner (he even toured with Asher Roth). Drake released a track of him on top of (Swedish!) Lykke Li’s “Little Bit.” Lil’ Wayne is cashing in too — though his upcoming rock album “Rebirth” seems more inspired by Evanescence and Hoobastank than anything on Hype Machine.
And Wale made his name on a “Mixtape About Nothing,” which takes cues from Seinfeld. Its strongest track sampled the show’s intro music, and Wale closes the final verse saying, “If you love substance, you love Wale, but most niggas love nothing, so I made this tape.”
The politics and rage of NWA are long over (see: Barack Obama). The gangsta rap posturing of the late ’90’s and early ’00’s have proven to be vacuous (see: Rick Ross as former correctional officer).
So are we really just left with “nothing?” Maybe it’s just nothing that scares white people.