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Is This Whiteface?

Think of how much headwrap-wearing black tail whitey-whites with the balls to toss around words like “co-opt” and “blackface” and some ‘African American Studies’ classes under their belt must get…

Jamie Radford’s post, linked through OhWord’s constantly-updated “shared items”, keeps popping back into my head. The post is labeled ‘Is This Blackface?’ and discusses some random-ass L.A fashion line,Fowl Clothing which Radford sees as signifying:

“…a recent trend among middle and upper-class white kids displaying a fashion sense that typifies some of the most obvious signfiers of hip-hop fashion — straight-billed caps, colorful jackets, flashy jewelry — but in such a way as to almost mock hip-hop culture.”

At first glance, it sounds like something I could agree with. Recall this post: ‘The Deadening Effects of Ironic Indie Culture’ but I gotta disagree with Radford, painfully sincere as he seems to be. I take issue with half-formed assertions, invoking “blackface” and racism because they only damage legitimate, more thought-out critiques. It made me think of this post which totally misreads the Rolling Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar’ as being racist. It helps no one to toss-out thoughts about race and appropriation that are half-formed.

On the no-homo tip, ‘Fowl Clothing’ is just plain derivative and boring. An attempt at American Apparel-esque simplicity with some Bachelor’s degree in fashion-level print-making stolen from ‘Mark Ecko’ or ‘BAPE’ who of course, took it from skateboarder, metal, and punk-rock fashion…Also, making patterns out of iconic movie images like ‘The Shining’ is pretty played-out. The models also kill me. They look like girls you make-out with at a college “dance party” and spend the rest of the semester trying to avoid.But Radford has more pressing concerns (as he should); he is responding to the models’ holding of guns and wearing of Slick Rick-thick chains. Yes, the pictures are ironic. Yes, they are stupid. Maybe even sorta kinda racist, but its fashion! It’s always dripping with irony. I’m more frustrated by Fowl Clothing’s inability to do pseudo-subversiveness right than by any ill-informed moves towards disrespecting hip-hop culture.Fashion, in general, has a good grasp of irony as being alienating and harsh rather than cute and funny. Totally motivated by the next-big-thing, controversy, and $$$ as fashion designers often are, the ironic nature of some fashion points towards ugly truths. These Fowl Clothing pictures fall short but, American Apparel’s pervy-polaroids and Calvin Klein’s heroin-chic although “problematic” from a moral perspective, are truly subversive in their ability to make people look gross AND attractive, which is what sex is anyway…

Perhaps the biggest problem with Radford’s post is that it is founded on very-shaky ground. No one will ever agree upon what is true respect for hip-hop culture and what is disrespect. It gets even more complicated when you make assertions as to who is an “outsider” or “insider” in relation to that said culture. On a simple level, I can agree with Radford’s definition because it is pragmatic. The insiders to the culture are “those that really grew up in a neighborhood where they had to tote guns to survive” and the rest of us, are outsiders. But it’s not that simple!

I don’t think Radford (or anybody) accosts middle or upper-class blacks who also never had to “tote guns to survive” (whatever that means) but wear hip-hop clothing. Remember Tony Dungy’s kid? He tragically took his own life but for those few hours when you could look at his myspace you saw a kid, that in terms of hip-hop culture was every bit an outsider as these indie-fashion fucks. He’s allowed to do it simply because he was black?

There’s also the fact that outside of the chains and guns, which are working at a level of irony so thick and muddled that the joke seems to be ironic-white-guys-toting-guns-unironically-to-the-point-that-it-becomes-ironic, these white kids in L.A are wearing the epitome of “white” sub-cultural fashion not conventional hip-hop fashion. These designs comes out of the world of metal, punk-rock, skateboarding, and even, emo culture and have, in recent years, been dare I say- SAMPLED by designers of all races involved in hip-hop culture.

Obviously these Fowl Clothing people are being insincere but for the most part, we can’t really gauge sincerity, so forget about it. Strict rules on sincerity leads to weird grey areas no one wants to fuck with: Is Nigo doing blackface? is Pharrell doing whiteface? Are the Shop Boyz doing anything different in regards to race-mockery than Fowl Clothing? On one level, the Shop Boyz are doing a strange reversal that is primarily absent from the culture and as a result, we can applaud it, as Sach. O. of ‘OhWord’ said, it’s “a taste of their own medicine” while Fowl Clothing is maintaining a super-obvious parody of hip-hop, but really, the two ain’t that different…

Written by Brandon

June 29th, 2007 at 5:54 am

Posted in Indie, Irony, NO HOMO, fashion, woon

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You Should Maybe Watch: ‘ego trip’s (White) Rapper Show’

(the picture is unrelated, it just looks awesome.)

This show is really, really entertaining but it isn’t much more than that. ‘The (White) Rapper Show’ isn’t even that funny, which is weird since ego trip ostensibly had something to do with it. MC Serch is incredibly unlikeable (and is not “a hip-hip icon”); he adds an embarrassingly serious aspect to the show that isn’t necessary but makes the show more like every other reality show out there. The humor is kind of off or just seems strange and borderline offensive to blacks and whites: the cast members sleep on inmate beds, their house is ‘Tha White House’. The strangest is the way they represent a cast member being eliminated: MC Serch tosses a pair of shoes with their name on it atop telephone wires. It is all corny and uncomfortable the same way someone calling my out-dated cell-phone “ghetto” is uncomfortable. Those types of “ghetto” in-jokes seem bitter and forced; it’s much funnier making these goofballs play mini-golf or putting a giant ‘N-Word’ chain around Persia’s neck. That’s hilarious in a way that ego-trip is usually funny. Less of MC Serch’s personality and more of Prince Paul’s.

‘The (White) Rapper Show’ really is just a reality show that is rap-themed and that’s okay. The cast carries the show and their decency (at least so-far) makes it interesting to laugh at without feeling too superior. I was enthralled for the full hour because of the cast, not the production. The cast is nutso in a typical reality television way, however, they seem sincere about their rap inspirations, so there’s a little less cynicism at the heart of their actions. When G-Child unabashedly says her biggest inspiration is Vanilla Ice and is shown in previews for next week’s episode screaming “I hate 50 Cent! I hate Dipset!” it’s easy to laugh-off but she probably means it. My friend John also made the very good point that, out of all the rappers on the show, G-Child is probably the most “real” in the sense of having a tough-life. She’s this sad, weird, kinda trashy chick from Allentown, PA. I went to school in a semi-rural area and you get girls like G-Child there. They just seem perpetually out-of-place, too angry while, at the same time too sincere about everything (Exhibit A of her sincerity: her love of Vanilla Ice). I’d bet money she’s been molested or raped or cuts herself or something. The girls like this in my area, listened to Insane Clown Posse and drew fairies and stuff. It’s sad and not because I think these girls are lame but because they are just lost. Where do they go? Who do they marry?

Earlier in the night, I was at ‘Wendy’s’ with my friend John in this semi-crappy part of town where this discount store we were going to is located. Two G-Childs were working the register of the ‘Wendy’s’. That is what happens to these girls. They work at Wendy’s. Anyways, I can’t even really explain it, if you’ve ever met the girls I’m describing you already know what I’m saying…but seriously, the only thing that got me through my Big Bacon classic without crying may have been the discounted CDs I found at C-Mart, this weird discount/remainder store that gets all kinds of crap. It seems like most, if not all of their stuff comes from businesses that have closed. For example, a few months ago they randomly had racks of ‘American Apparel’ stuff. Well, some kind of record store must have closed-down or flooded because C-Mart had about 3000 flood-damaged CDs for sale, $3 apiece or two for $5. Here’s what I picked up:

-At the Gates – Gardens of Grief
-Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – Art of War
-Can – Landed
-Juelz Santana – What the Game’s Been Missing!
-Lee Hazelwood – Love and Other Crimes
-Scott Walker – Looking Back With…
-Slum Village – Detroit Deli (Advance Copy) *Has ‘Hood Hoes’ on it*
-The Obsessed – Incarnate
-The Whatnauts – Message from a Black Man
-Venom – At War With Satan

So yeah, had the excitement of opening those CDs not existed, I would have had a G-Child meltdown. But again, what makes ‘The (White) Rapper Show’ entertaining on a human level is the way the rest of the cast (besides Persia) seems aware and respectful of one another’s neuroses. The cast is just really confusing. 100 Proof is just Andrew Dice Clay in ‘Brooklyn Bad-Boy’ mode. John Brown is the Sun-Ra of white rappers, his whole bizarrely sincere demeanor and referring to himself as “an entity”…and did he name himself after thisJohn Brown? Dasit sounds like Eminem and it isn’t because he’s white, he’s trying to do that. Jon Boy, Sullee, and $hamrock are pretty good rappers and that’s a good thing because I was afraid the whole show was going to be a total joke (I’d still watch it but hey-). Jus Rhyme is jus a fucking idiot and who knows what to say about Persia. Oh yeah and sorry fellas, especially black men because I know you’re thinking it, but Misfit Dior is not hot. Also, I think she and G-Child conceived a child and named it Lady Sovereign.

All half-jokes aside, if you step out of the irony box, all of these people are really interesting because they are so damned earnest, too earnest. That’s interesting because I’d say that there isn’t a group that could possibly be more laughed-at and equated with inauthenticity than so-called “wiggers”. Can you imagine the life of the “wigger”? No one takes them seriously! I mean, I dress like a dorky white guy and I have a hard enough time justifying my love of rap to most people. The show itself actually encourages this laughing at them and and it’s a testament to their personalities that they all come out kind-of dignified (except Dasit).

I’ve always been disturbed by the word “wigger” for a million obvious reasons. My friend John (again) made the point that so-called wiggers should really be called “woons” (as in white-coons) because the biggest offenders of wigger-ism do not act “black” rather they act like gross stereotypes of acting “black”. I can recall being weirded-out when I saw the Genius in Baltimore a few years ago, not because everyone was patted-down for weapons, but because of so many woons with something to prove bumped into me and leered at my girlfriend’s ass. Baltimore’s a pretty real place and plenty of people in that audience probably do carry guns but it was only the woons that act like they have something to prove. This is what Tom Breihan was talking about in this entry when he said: “rap shows…are always sort of stressful [because] you’re jammed into an extremely full room with a whole lot of dudes in hoodies, and it’s always somewhere in the back of your mind that you might jostle someone wrong or spill someone’s drink and start a fight”. Breihan got a lot of shit for that comment as being racist and he probably could have explained himself better, but I knew exactly what he was talking about. Those fight-at-the-rap-show types are woonin’. There are plenty of white kids that I knew in high school who would have been called “wiggers” by outsiders but were legitimately into rap music and weren’t interested in acting “hard”. They wore Wu-Wear in eighth grade and white-T’s in 11th but they kept to themselves and I have pretty fond high school memories of joking around with those guys and occasionally talking rap with them. Let’s put it this way, Eminem is a woon, Paul Wall is just a guy who likes rap. Paul Wall is fun-loving and knows his rap history while Eminem is all self-indulgent look-at-me anger. He should probably drive down to that ‘Wendy’s’ in Joppatown, MD and bang one of those girls, they think that agro-shit is cool, it’s why G-Child is admires Persia so much…

This entry doesn’t really describe ‘The (White) Rapper Show’ at all though, sorry. It’s an entertaining way to spend an hour and I felt legitimately pissed-off that I had to wait a whole week for the next episode. I’d say the show is entertaining the way this is entertaining…

WOON STORY # 10,806:
Location: Edgewood, MD. ‘Goodwill Super-Store’
Description: This giant kind-of white-trash guy that looked like one of The Nasty Boys was pacing around this dressing-room mirror on his cell-phone telling someone about the “roc-O-wear” jeans he just found: “Honey, you’re gonna love these, I look so bangin’ right now…”

-‘ego trip’s (White) Rapper Show’ is on VH1 every Monday at 10:00 PM.

UPDATE:(01/18/07) I just recieved an email from my friend John, mentioned in this post…

“I am honored to have such a complex definition of a woon attributed to myself, but I am afraid my separations were much simpler.

When I mean “woon”, I mean guys who basically clown their whiteness to fit in with blacks and entertain them as subservients-just like “coons” did before [with] their black stereotypes. ‘White Mike’ on the ‘Wayans Brothers’ [but] really any white guy on a black show: ‘White and Nerdy’ all that. Dasit’s appearance sort of fits in.

I’m afraid that saying a wigger doesn’t act black implies that “nigger”= black.
A “nigger” is an exagerration of the negative stereotypes of a black person.
Perhaps then, Kid we went to high school with/Paul Wall are just “Whack”? Ehh? Get it?”

Written by Brandon

January 9th, 2007 at 9:41 am