Where Are All The Other White Rappers?

Poverty, Haystak, Kain among those trying to break through color barrier.

"Hey, there's a concept that works/ 20 million other white rappers

emerge"
— Eminem, "Without Me"

It's true. Hollywood loves an idea that works: whether it's boy bands,

volcano flicks, "Friends" rip-offs, reality shows or this year's model

— girl surfing movies.

And while Eminem's got a good point, where, exactly, are those other

19,999,999 white rappers?

It's not enough to keep blaming Vanilla Ice. Yeah, he and Marky Mark ruined

things for a while. But Em's success, along with Kid Rock, Bubba Sparxxx,

the rock-rap crossover of Linkin Park and such underground sensations as

El-P, Necro and Non-Phixion, have renewed and mainstreamed the credibility

of a new generation of white MCs.

While it's hard to pin down why the bottle hasn't yet been uncorked on a raft of Eminem wannabes, a number of promising white rappers are

bubbling under, hoping to finally blur the racial lines in hip-hop and, once

and for all, well, avoid the need for articles like this one.

"Hip-hop is about the unknown grabbing the mic and setting the world on fire," said Gary Harris, executive vice president of urban A&R for ArtistDirect Records, which will release the debut from Portland, Maine, rapper Poverty in January.

"What prepared me to hear Poverty is that I'm a child of the '60s and the

civil rights movement, where the important lesson that black and white

Americans hopefully learned was that color doesn't matter. Like Martin

Luther King said, we should all be judged by the content of our character,

not the color of our skin."

Harris, who was the head of promotion at Def Jam when the Beastie Boys were

signed, said they taught him that it doesn't matter where you come from as

long as you're dope. "And Poverty is dope," he said of the MC, whose

grimy rhymes deal with his destitute upbringing by a drug-addicted mother

and his struggle to beat the street.

The other rappers you can expect to hear from in the near future range from

New York slick to Southern grit and underground gonzo.

On the flashier end of the spectrum is Kain, who appears on P. Diddy's

The Saga Continues (2001). While the MC was given plenty of shine in

Diddy's videos, a Bad Boy spokesperson said there is no information on when

Kain's debut album might drop.

The Wu-Tang Clan invited Remedy (a.k.a. Ross Filler, a.k.a. Reuven Ben

Menachem) into their extended Killa Beez family by giving him a track on

their 1998 Wu-affiliated release The Swarm. Last year Remedy —

like the Wu, a Staten Island native — released a self-produced debut,

The Genuine Article, mixed by RZA. He is slated to release his latest

independent album, Code Red, on August 20.

Big Apple Italian-American Jojo Pellegrino has been rhyming for years, most

recently as part of the Violator crew. A veteran of New York mixtapes with a

number of white label singles under his belt, "The Rap Tony Soprano" was

slated to have his full-length debut, Pellegrino Story

featuring Busta Rhymes, Method Man and Kurupt — released last year.

Since recently splitting with Violator/Loud Records, a spokesperson said the

goodfella rapper has been shopping for a new deal and is hoping to release

his debut soon.

One rapper you can hear now is 6'4", 320-pound Nashville native Haystak, who

shares a hick-hop vibe with new pal Bubba Sparxxx. Whereas things were

lovely for Sparxxx, veteran rapper 'Stak has a dimmer, more introspective

outlook on life than the pigsty-loving Timbaland protégé.

Haystak's third album, The Natural, is full of tales of poverty,

struggle and strife delivered in a raw but catchy style that wouldn't be out

of place on a DMX record.

While many white MCs try to deflate the race question by ignoring it,

gravely voiced Haystak tackles it head-on in the lead track from the album,

"White Boy," a litany of derogatory names for white people. The 27-year-old

rapper said he purposely front-loaded the album with the song as a means of

deflating his media detractors.

"I get hit with that so often that I figured, 'Let's get this white boy sh--

out of the way, because I'm one of the coldest rappers out there today,

period,' " said 'Stack, who duets with honorary Crazy White Boys member

Sparxxx on the track "Oh My God."

Haystak knows acceptance isn't always easy, but even he's at a loss to

explain why more white rappers haven't broken through. He copped to the fact

that being white has definitely made it much harder for him to gain

acceptance from his peers, which has always been his #1 goal. "It's like a

blind man being a professional bowler," he said of being a white MC. "He has

to practice so hard and try much harder for people to think he can do it."

So, why does it matter that these rappers are white? Frankly, it doesn't.

They're all talented MCs with original flows, regardless of race. All that

matters, as Harris said, is that they bring the goods. But, like watching

Tiger Woods on the golf links, NHL forward Anson Carter on the ice or

Sevendust singer Lajon Witherspoon on the stage, the issue is there because,

for now, in the rap game they are still a visible minority.

One explanation for the dearth of white MCs, according to Harris, could be

the way the contemporary hip-hop business works. "Artists are normally not

introduced to a label by a manager or lawyer, but by another artist," he

said. "The latest kid in a neighborhood to get a deal brings on his crew.

But I just don't know that white folks, to this point, are plugged into that

network."

An example of an artist who has gained that juice and already used it to his

advantage is Kid Rock. His DJ, Uncle Kracker, is about to release his second

solo album, which would not likely have seen the light of day if not for the

breakthrough success and sponsorship of his boss.

If nothing else, the slow rise of this new generation of white rappers

reflects the pervasiveness of hip-hop in our culture over the past 20 years.

The same dirty white boys who used to bang around on guitars in their rec

rooms trying to be Kurt Cobain are just as likely to be sampling beats and

writing rhymes, hoping to be the next Ja Rule or Tupac. Some of them, such

as the members of Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and the like, have gone platinum

many times over combining the best of both worlds.

But, as controversial as Eminem is and as proud of being a redneck as Bubba

and Kid Rock are, there remains a line that white rappers seem reluctant to

cross: the use of the N-word.

Almost everyone, that is, except Long Island's RA the Rugged Man. The

X-rated MC, a 28-year-old whose been rapping on street corners since well

before he could drive, dropped the by-now-obligatory hip-hop epithet in his

raw 2001 single "What the F---?," though he doesn't remember doing it.

"I say what I want to say, and other people play politics," said RA, who

swore he wasn't trying to be controversial when he let slip. "I honestly

don't remember saying that, but I don't even listen to my records. The fact

is, all this foul sh-- people are saying now — killing their

girlfriends and whatnot — I was doing 10 years ago."

Known for his wild stage show and dirty mind, like Jojo, RA is in limbo as

he waits to get out of his contract with the defunct Priority Records and

release an album later this year.

Though he too was mystified as to why there isn't a sea of white mic

controllers out there yet, RA — who recently completed vocals for an

album he's recording with legendary hardcore punk outfit Bad Brains under

the name White Mandingo — said it's only a matter of time before

hip-hop is as black and white as a zebra.

"There may not be [a lot of white rappers] now, but there will be," RA said

wearily. "Back in the day, if you was a dope-ass rapper, black people gave

you respect faster than white people, who didn't think white boys should be

rhyming. But hip-hop is being drained by white people. It's becoming a white

culture, and eventually black people will move on to some other sh--."