When rap and hip-hop started to make its way into the mainstream and radio, most of the artists were of the African-American persuasion. As rap became more popular and trickled down to the suburbs, rappers of the fairer complexion started to come forward with their own spin. While some white rappers have had obstacles to overcome and received ridicule for trying to break into this sector of the music industry, some have flourished and made their mark on pop culture history. Here are five rappers, that I feel were pioneers and paved the way for artists like Eminem to succeed in the late 90s.
HOUSE OF PAIN: JUMP AROUND
Everyone’s favorite Irish rappers, Danny Boy, Everlast and DJ Lethal, scored one of the biggest hip hop tracks of the decade if not ever. Til this day, this song can be heard at clubs everywhere, in movie soundtracks, at sporting events and multiple mashups. You can’t but help literally jump around when you hear this song. The group released three studio albums but were never able to match the success of their debut album. When the group disbanded, each member achieved differing levels of success on their own. Front-man Everlast went on to collaborate with artists like Eminem, Madonna, Snoop Dogg and Swollen Members to name a few, while DJ Lethal formed the nu metal band, Limp Bizkit with Fred Durst. In 2006, the three founding members joined Ill Bill and Slaine to former a hip-hop supergroup, called La Coka Nostra.
THE BEASTIE BOYS: INTERGALACTIC
Technically they made their debut splash during the 80s with “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”, but they also scored big hits during the following decade. Out of all their string of hits, this is by far my favorite. The boys initially started out as a hardcore punk band in 1979 but switched to hip hop in 1983 after achieving more success with an experimental urban track. Since then, the trio have achieved both commercial and critical success cumilating with the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With over 25 years under their belt, they show no signs of slowing down. They have their eighth studio album scheduled to be released in 2010. Initially it was slated for a late 2009 release but was pushed back due to one of the boys being diagnosed with cancer.
I licky boom boom down.
Yup, that’s Canada’s contribution to the world of American hip-hop. Snow was Canada’s answer to Vanilla Ice. With their “genius” white-themed rap names, these two pushed the white hip-hop movement back from receiving street cred by at least a few steps. With such a huge track as your debut single, there is usually only one way to go- that’s DOWN. After six years of commercial failure, he sort of achieved a mini-comeback with moderate hits like “The Plumb Song” and “Everybody Wants To Be Like You” in Canada. Unfortunately his image was so tarnished from his silly Cross Colors outfit in the video, the two tracks never had a fighting chance on the US airwaves.
MARKY MARK AND THE FUNKY BUNCH: GOOD VIBRATIONS
Was he influential? Probably not in the hip-hop community, but he was definitely influential in raising a few erections with gay boys all across the land. “Can you feel it?” Yes Marky, we can. Before he became serious A-list actor, Mark Wahlberg, he was pressing concrete barbells and dropping trou and responsible for creating the male “underwear supermodel”. If you take away the hot body, thug appeal and the third nipple (yes he has one), you’re still left with a catchy little song. He only ever released two albums under his rapper moniker, but his “Marky Mark” is forever embedded in pop culture history.
VANILLA ICE: ICE ICE BABY
All right stop collaborate and listen. Ice is back with my brand new invention. Something grabs a hold of me tightly. Flow like a harpoon daily and nightly. Will it ever stop yo I don’t know.
Thankfully it did stop- I kid. This is one of my guiltiest pleasure songs of ALL-TIME. Born Robert Matthew Van Winkle, Vanilla Ice’s single “Ice Ice Baby” was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts. It is often credited with helping to diversify hip hop by introducing it to a mainstream white audience. At the height of “Ice Ice Baby” mania, he was seen everywhere from getting naked with Madonna, hawking products in commercials and even appeared on the silver screen. He could’ve had a long lasting career, but he fell victim to bad management and more importantly, a bad stylist. When word broke out regarding his fabricated biographical information about growing up in the ghettos of Miami, he quickly became a joke and never fully recovered.
There you have it folks, this week’s trip down memory lane. Did you like this week’s segment? What would you like to see in future installments of the “Old School Flashback” series? I’m open to any and all recommendations.