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‘ego trip’s (White) Rapper Show’: Episode 07.

I have my whole family watching this show. My parents who are in their 40s, my 15-year-old sister, and my twenty-something friends all gather in my parents’ living room each Monday at 10 pm. On weekends, my girlfriend who doesn’t have cable at school, comes here and we all watch it again. I’m probably becoming one of those annoying people who mentions their dead friend anytime they get the chance, but since my friends’ suicide two weeks ago, the only constant in any of my friends’ or family’s life is ‘The (White) Rapper Show’. I know, at least for that hour, I’ll be entertained and have something to pick apart and discuss besides why my best friend blew his head off.

This show is just good. It has all of the seedy and exploitative aspects of reality television with some additional aspects that make it insightful and discussion-worthy. All of this is mixed together without being “have your cake and eat it too”, as in, it doesn’t suddenly redeem itself from reality television cynicism with a touching ending. The unsavory and the kinder moments are closely connected, often right after one another and sometimes at the same time. Jus Rhyme’s painfully sincere political statements make me roll over laughing but the dude never gives up or just doesn’t give a shit: How can that not move you on some level?

Last night’s episode was probably the best episode of the season, which is weird because there was literally no tension. Jus Rhyme was eliminated before the show began. I think Serch had a bit of a hand in getting Jus out of there because $hamrock’s performance was definitely the worst but it would be too outrageous if Jus Rhyme’s luck didn’t finally run out. Serch’s slight manipulation of the outcome actually helps because it connects the show to the more questionable aspects of reality television. Those connections to more conventional reality TV are as necessary to the show’s success as the elements that separate it from something like ‘Flavor of Love’. Even if $hamrock sucked in the battle, he is modest and fairly creative and better upholds the ideas of the show than Jus Rhyme. $hamrock has a pattern, beginning with his ‘White Guilt’ verse a few episodes ago, of being even-handed about issues of race. $hamrock is not apologetic about being white but is also mindful of his place as a white rapper. He is intelligently skeptical of certain racial “givens” without being rude. When Serch, who really becomes a mentor to the rappers in this episode, tells them they “can’t make fun of [black battlers'] blackness” $hamrock thinks of a few battle-lines that flip racial expectations. Serch’s reason for not making fun of their blackness is that the white rappers are “coming from outside of the culture” but when we see the crowd at Saint Andrews, it is at least 30% white and not only white, but many audience members are (gasp) hipsters! There’s a hilarious shot of some white chick that looks like she majored in French or Peace Studies or something, shaking her head in disapproval at Jus Rhyme. Ridiculous.

“Nobody is setting up a program in unemployed studies, homeless studies, or trailer-park studies, because the unemployed, the homeless, and residents of trailer parks are not ‘other’ in the relevant sense.”-Richard Rorty (80).

When the white rappers meet the locals at the trailer park, it’s incredibly entertaining but also a confrontation with the real that is never, ever, shown on television now that ‘COPS’ is no longer a phenomenon. The crazy lady in too-short shorts, the scary-as-hell-but-kinda-friendly black guy, the guy just walking around with a fishing net and a framed fishing magazine (is he on the cover?); this is not “ghetto fabulous” or Trace Adkins’ version of white trash. To temporarily idealize these people, they probably all get along in the trailer park much better than racially diverse people on most college campuses. Buff Black Man doesn’t perceive being called “Tupac” as racist and I’m sure everyone treats the crazy lady like she is crazy and none of it is that big of a deal. Yeah, these people probably beat their kids or do meth and the whites probably toss the word “nigger” around but there’s still a weird, complicated civility at work in a place like that trailer park. No doubt Crazy Lady knows who Tupac is because she has a “wigger” son.

On Friday, I was at this Salvation Army in Newark, DE and a woman very much like Crazy Lady stood in front of me in line. As the stuff she was buying was being rung up she had to run out to her car to get her wallet. She went outside to her car, came back in and somehow forgot why she went out there because she returned without her purse, then, she went back out, only to return to tell the cashier, who was an ornery 60ish gay black man with blonde hair, that she didn’t have her credit card and couldn’t pay. She pleads with the Old, Gay, Black cashier to hold her stuff but he angrily refuses and argues for a few moments before, yes, an undoubtedly mildly-retarded white worker with dreads (?!) finally agrees to hold the stuff for her. The real-life Crazy Lady thanks the dreadlocked tard and walks out, but not before she reaches over and picks up the record-box-set I was buying and told me: “That’s a real nice chessboard”. Oh yeah, and the whole time some kind of reggae mix CD is playing really loudly and I assume Gay Black Man made the CD because no company would sell such a confused compilation. The CD segued from Shaggy to Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ to some non-‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ Baha Men track and back to Desmond Dekker. Try to explain that to somebody. That is what ‘The White Rapper Show’ explicitly presents with the trailer park sequence or moves towards when it puts weirdos like 100 Proof, G-Child, or any of the rappers on television and dares to show them humanely.

The final episode is next week. What will I do when it’s all over?

-Rorty, Richard. ‘Achieving Our Country’. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1998.

Written by Brandon

February 21st, 2007 at 8:07 am

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‘ego trip’s (White) Rapper Show’: Episode 04.

It took the show four episodes, but they finally made that Guy-In-a-Bug-Suit funny by showing him get-down at the strip-club. And oh yeah, Just Blaze is a dick. I’ve grown increasingly disillusioned with the guy because lately, he’s on this totally boring incorporation of “real” instruments into his beats kick…On the show last night, he just seemed full of himself. Coming in and telling 100 Proof his style isn’t good, at the point in which he did, isn’t going to do anything but ruin his confidence. The same with telling Sullee not to read off the page. Plus, I’ve definitely seen footage of real rappers holding lyrics sheets, so what is he even talking about? And even if Just is right, anybody could step-in and do that. Then, after all of Just’s snarky comments, he gives in and says they did better than he thought, an obviously back-handed comment. He couldn’t even give these guys an enthusiastic “Just Blaze!”? Come on.

I think Jay-Z comparing this guy with DJ Premier really fucked him up. Who can forget this legendary quote from Just: “I could rap right now if I wanted to. I rap probably better than most rappers”. Did that ever make XXL’s ‘Negro Please’? And they say Kanye West has a big head. At least Kanye doesn’t pretend to be humble. The whole thing reminds me of an old episode of ‘MTV’s Making the Video’, I think it was for No Doubt’s ‘Ex-Girlfriend’. I watched it to see Hype Williams in action and was disappointed to see a lazy, fat dude sitting in his director’s chair half-speaking direction and letting his D.P do all the work. That’s exactly how I felt about Just Blaze in this episode. In fact, Just and Hype are pretty similar, both are pretty good but much too lazy and rely on gimmicks and their reputation to get them through some pretty unforgivable bullshit (‘Show Me What You Got’, that Nike commercial everyone is in love with this week).

Ultimately, Just looks foolish because neither team’s song ends up being terrible, although when you see the making-of it’s pretty hilarious. I want to make fun of Blue Team’s ‘One Night Stand’ but my friends and I were all singing “That’s what it is/So it is what it is/Toniiighht” within seconds of hearing it. That’s gotta count for something. It also seems like Red Team had a better engineer or something. Blue Team’s song didn’t sound like it was produced at all, it was mixed poorly and really did sound like something on a mixtape.

Placing the club-song competition in a strip club and choosing Kool Keith, maybe the only guy that sings about strip clubs but has never had any of his songs played in a strip-club, to judge the contest was unexpected but interesting. It isn’t what viewers would expect and fits with the show’s conscious attempt at being even-handed and also contrarian with rap history. Each episode seems to consciously incorporate up-to-date rappers with significant rappers from the past or distant past, always fucking with expectations. It’s a fair-minded and hardly bitter approach to presenting rap music that is truly discerning in whom it pokes fun-of. That’s why Jus Rhyme doesn’t get any effort points for his “political rap”; he’s exposed for the jack-ass he is. He’s everything that is wrong with so-called “political” rap. “Political” rappers think they know everything; they aren’t even expressing themselves as much as they are trying to tell you how to think. Their music is more oppressive than the most misogynistic rap song. I’ve been holding out on this but Jus is the wrong kind of Ethnic Studies prof’s wet dream. He totally defers to what he is being taught and as 100 Proof insightfully put it, “harbors… an extreme amount of white guilt” which many Ethnic Studies professors misinterpret as racial understanding.

I teach 11th grade English and I was telling some of my more eager-to-please students that I am not big on “A-students”. What I mean by “A-student” I went on to explain, is students that follow the rules, say the right thing, but don’t have a single insightful or new thing to say. Jus Rhyme is something of an A-student. Had 100 Proof not stepped-in, Jus Rhyme would be perfectly okay with saying there’s a problem with “whiteness”. Wow. This show just gets better and better. Seriously though, it really does. The scenarios and contests are increasingly well-done and the show seems to have found its balance between taking the rappers seriously and allowing them to make asses of themselves rather than place them in super-obvious situations that would make anybody look foolish. Next week’s episode looks nuts! Somebody laughs at Serch! Between this and J.T Yorke’s death on ‘Degrassi’ television rules everything around me.

Written by Brandon

January 30th, 2007 at 7:41 am