I expected seeing Lil Dicky on Tuesday at the Independent was going to be one big $15 dick joke. What I saw was hilarious and also transcended the role of the modern white guy rapper.
I have and will always be a fan of underground hip-hop, which has consistently had many white emcees. Slug, Aesop Rock, Sage Francis, Sole, ADeeM, Buck 65, and Dose One come to mind as immediate examples. But I think that on the bigger scale, it’s important to give a lot of credit to Eminem, because he was the first white guy to do it and get really, really popular, and thus shift the paradigm of what a white guy rapper can do.
Eminem was funny in a sick way, all anger and angst that was easily relatable to many young white men (such as myself) who were fans of rap in general. Eminem was so good that his appeal exceeded his genre, and I remember growing up hearing his songs on the Alternative Rock radio station. I like to think that Eminem paved the way for many of the white rappers who came after him; because Eminem proved that you didn’t have to be black to be a legit big-time rapper.
A friend of mine, a white guy rapper named Spose, experienced not-insignificant success a few years back with his song “I’m Awesome”. Spose used self-depreciating humor, championing the self-loathing white guy guilt that for me (and many young men like me) is relatable and recognizable. I can listen to 50 Cent and see how he feels, or I can listen to Spose and know how he feels.
As expected, a couple of other talented white guys were working the same angle as Spose. Jon Lajoie (“Everyday Normal Guy”), Asher Roth (“I Love College”), and Adam Samberg/The Lonely Island (“Threw It On The Ground”) all come to mind. These were slightly different takes on the same perspective: being white and owning up to all of the lack-luster stereotypes associated with it. Average sexual performance, not being a baller, being slightly above average at a few average things, generally lacking confidence, having “first world problems”… these themes are echoed in the collective works of the aforementioned artists. And yet they are spoken in the language of the hip-hop emcee, which means (and I credit Method Man for this definition) flow, breath control, and lyrical wordplay. So now here we have Lil Dicky, who is doing the same thing, but he is doing it in the best way I have witnessed so far.
photo by instagram user monicamariedeus
To get a solid idea of Dicky’s particular brand of white guy rapper flavor, check out “White Dude”, which is about all of the good parts of being a white male. He poses them hilariously, and his rhyme schemes and wordplay are clever and on point. Plus he filmed parts of it in San Francisco so that’s cool. Dig a little deeper into Dicky’s impressive and well-maintained online presence and you see the white guy complex branching into other things more specific to Dicky himself: being a Jew and using the “K-word” the way black people use the N-word, being physically overshadowed by other more handsome white guys, and being a funny white rapper that is also a technically talented lyricist are some of the main themes he highlights, each with their own song and music video featured on his regularly updated Youtube channel.
Dicky's set was highly interactive with the audienceLil Dicky put on a hip-hop performance Tuesday night. Yes, it had humorous elements. Yes, it built on white guy stereotypes. But by the end of it I felt like I had witnessed a rap show and not a comedy routine. A good rap show features a couple of things. First, you need a great DJ who properly backs up the emcee. In this case DJ Omega not only backed him up but opened for him in a very live and high energy display. It was very simple but very well done. When Dicky came on, he put up a power point presentation, outlining the amount of fun the audience was about to have. To me this was genius. A hip-hop show should be fun. Dicky threw in some jokes, but when it came time to rap, he threw down. He was live on the mic. He had every word dialed, with excellent flow and breath control, never running out of steam or fumbling with his lyrics. When he brought up his hype man, a totally swagged-out black kid, he joked “how cool do I look now with this guy on stage next to me?” The beats were well produced and trappy, and Dicky had the lyrical talent to hold it down. So while he joked about having a small dick, and took off his pants, and brought up a girl on stage and gave her a lap dance, he also reiterated that he “is a professional rapper”, he kept the crowd engaged and responding with tons of energy, and he held down the stage with the same presence and strength I can attribute to other very successful rappers I have seen (and I have been to many, many hip hop shows).
If you liked this blog entry, check out Jon Hopkins Live @ Mezzanine