Cue DJ Khaled’s “We Takin Over” because today marks the second week in a row that hip-hop has landed the front cover of the Sunday NY Times Arts Section!! This week’s feature discusses the growth of white rappers and their style as preservationists. Check out the article after the jump as writer Jon Caramanica draws parallels of rappers Action Bronson, The Beastie Boys, The Lonely Island, Eminem, Mac Miller, Machine Gun Kelly, Colt Ford, and Rittz to music greats of the past.


(NYTimes)–NOT 30 seconds into “Dr. Lecter,” the debut full-length album by’ Action Bronson, and the history lessons begin. It happens quickly, this one — a few bars rapped in the cadence of “Broken Language,” a minor 1995 hit by Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigger Tha Gambler. It’s the sort of reference dropped in as a wink, from connoisseur to connoisseur, insider to insider.

Action Bronson, who hails from Queens, has heavy echoes of Big L and Ghostface Killah in his flow, which is dense and burly and acidly nasal, a classic New York roughneck style. And the impressive “Dr. Lecter” (Fine Fabric Delegates) would have fit in neatly in 1995, right between those rappers’ debut albums. (The Ghostface comparisons only become more apt given the two rappers’ shared obsession with food.)

That Action Bronson is white doesn’t matter, strictly speaking. But his historically specific sound is one of the foremost examples of a recent movement, that of the white rapper as preservationist.

Once was a time when the only role available to white rappers was that of an outsider, whether they conceived of themselves as such or not — sheer rarity and novelty ensured that. The Beastie Boys understood their interloper role and played it to the hilt. Rappers like MC Serch and Pete Nice of 3rd Bass, and Everlast of House of Pain did their best to blend in, but even if they succeeded, they were still anomalies. Vanilla Ice — who looks better in the rearview, it should be said — was one of hip-hop’s first Antichrist figures.

Each of these artists was a small assault on hip-hop’s self-conception and self-presentation. But now, white rappers are commonplace, if not ubiquitous or especially influential. And a recent crop of albums and mixtapes by white rappers shows a new strategy. Where in the past, the way to avoid ruffling feathers was to lay no claim to hip-hop’s center, now it’s by looking backward, studying up and making unimpeachable choices. Who can argue with the path already taken?

For the Beastie Boys, that means pilfering from the younger versions of themselves, which means in turn pilfering from the protean rhyme schemes and rap-along chants of the Furious 5 or the Cold Crush Brothers. The new “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two” (Capitol) is the Beasties’ most tolerable album in years, largely for the sincerity with which Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D clamor for, and practice, a return to old-school values. “Too Many Rappers (New Reactionaries Version)” features fellow old grump Nas and positions the Beasties as unlikely old-guard warriors, churlishly lamenting changes to the genre in which, quite accidentally, they became part of the vocabulary.

The Beastie Boys were, in essence, a joke that became serious that became, over time, easily mockable and co-optable by lesser talents. The Lonely Island, another jokester troika, skipped all those steps and went directly for laughs. The group — Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone — began life as a comedy troupe, and the members are now in the employ of “Saturday Night Live,” where they’re responsible for many of the music-driven digital shorts that have infused the show with cachet in recent years.

The Lonely Island expresses its affection, and its knowledge, through astute parody. “Turtleneck & Chain” (Universal Republic) is the crew’s second album, and it’s heavy with winks — one song mocks hip-hop’s obsession with the epic song intro, stringing a series of them together, never getting to the song itself (with lyrics about erectile dysfunction, no less). There are “SNL”-facilitated collaborations with Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. (On its last album, it recruited E-40 and T-Pain.) The Lonely Island may not aspire to actual rap stardom, but it aspires to be taken seriously by those in the know.

That a group like the Lonely Island exists at all has a lot to do with the artist who casts the longest white shadow over hip-hop, Eminem. Eminem was probably the last true foreigner, arriving at a moment when mainstream acceptance of hip-hop was on the rise, following a decade of Dr. Dre and Puff Daddy, Biggie Smalls and 2Pac. He was articulating the outsider experience just as a whole new wave of fans — white fans — were experiencing it themselves for the first time.

But Eminem’s success meant that they didn’t have to be outsiders anymore — they could listen in, and also participate at the highest levels. And it wouldn’t be disingenuous: hip-hop has been around long enough that most young people don’t know a life without it. Their connection to the music, even if it’s just via consumption, is sincere and unavoidable.

Eminem’s success obviated the need for new Eminems. Bubba Sparxxx tried with devastatingly good Timbaland-produced country-rap beats. Asher Roth tried with Native Tongues-influenced slacker-rap. Yelawolf is trying with nimble skate-crunk. No one’s established a firm foothold.

And so whiteness, as it’s rendered now in hip-hop, is mostly implicit: draw too much attention to it, and risk being excluded.

When it’s there, it’s generally subtle. For example, half the songs on “On and On and Beyond” (Rostrum), Mac Miller’s first commercially available EP after a string of mixtapes, is light guitar-driven rock and funk that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Jason Mraz album. On his “1993” mixtape, Cam Meekins — a favorite of the perspective-skewing Web site — just goes all the way and reconfigures Mr. Mraz’s “I’m Yours” as “I’m Bored.”

Read the rest of the story HERE