If He's Black, He Must Rap
R. Kelly. Bobby Brown. Ray J. Estelle. Sisqo. Russell Simmons. Shaggy. Damon Dash. M.I.A. Santigold. Kelis. T-Pain. Akon. All of these people have two things in common: 1) At one point, they were referred to by the New York Post as “rappers,” and 2) None of them are. You see how some of these might confuse people: how the sing-songy styles of M.I.A. and Akon could be mistaken as rapping for the uninitiated and hard-of-hearing, old white people who write the Post. T-Pain is a “rappa ternt sanga,” so that explains that. Bobby Brown has rapped (I mean, has a couplet finer than “Too hot to handle, too cold to hold / They called the Ghostbusters in they’re in control” since been spat?), Kelis, R. Kelly and Santigold have kind of, as well, I guess. Russell and Damon have worked around rap, so I guess they’re rappers by association?
The fact of the matter is that even if the case can be made that a few of these people could possibly write “rapper” on their resume, a more accurate title could be applied to any of them. (Someone like Kid Rock apparently is one of the few of the multi-hyphenate elite. Guess why!) I do not know for sure why they are called “rappers,” but I can make a few guesses. The Post still fetishizes rappers as the bad boys of the entertainment industry. The vast majority of its hip-hop coverage — I’d say just from the informal survey that I took to find the above examples of faulty labeling, 80 percent of it involves the rappers involved in some sort of crime. As silly as it is, the word “rapper,” still has sensationalistic value at the Post that “R&B star” or “dancehall artist” or “mogul,” just doesn’t. (Shit, they called Barbie a rapper, even though she was actually, Rappin’ and Rockin‘.) Also, these people who have no idea what they’re talking about regarding pop culture, may hear about a (usually male) black recording artist and just assume that he is a rapper. I’m not saying that these people are racist (although, if they work for the Post, I’m not saying they’re not racist, either), but I am saying they’re lazy, ignorant and prone to stereotyping. That’s all!
The reason that I bring this up is that in Tuesday’s paper there was an item labeling Ne-Yo a rapper, which is the most egregious error of this sort yet. I think I’ve rapped more than Ne-Yo has. He’s a fucking crooner, you know? A singing, songwriting crooner. (I discovered through my research that this isn’t even the first time the Post has done that.) Seriously, Post, who’s next? Stevie Wonder? Miles Davis? Lenny Kravitz is part-black, so he must be part-rapper, too, right? And look, I understand factual errors. I make them often. I understand meaning one thing and typing another. But I don’t understand working at a national media outlet and just assuming in the place of fact-checking. That’s nonsense.
It’s not just the Post that does this, of course. Come, let’s laugh at the mistakes of what we can presume are stupid white people:
At least they know how to retract.
Rolling Stone calleda rapper. So much for music-industry authority.
Fucking Jet called Jodeci a “rap group,” once again proving that if you can fit a periodical in your back pocket, you should not trust it. (Sorry, Reader’s Digest.)
This one’s really, really bad: the New York Times referred to Mary J. Blige as a rapper. Granted, they were talking about the use of “411” as slang, and she does rap on the title track of What’s the 411? On virtually every other track on that album and since (except for “Enough Cryin'”), she sings, though. It’s just what she’s built her career on. No biggie.
Ginuwine “keeps rap Ginuwine” according to the New York Daily News.
Oh, and I’ve mentioned R. Kelly, but it seems particularly fucked up that a Chicago publication like the Sun-Times would be. Let me guess: house music is a form of country and western? It’s not even house music, in fact, it’s barn music.
The photo houses are really, really bad, too. WireImage says Mario…
…and Lyfe Jennings…
…are all rappers (the Lyfe example is from Life magazine, but since WireImage did the shot, its fair to assume that the frequently erroneous company is responsible for the caption as well). Yeah, that’s not a guitar Lyfe plays — it’s a stringed turntable.
Getty, on the other hand, lists Anthony Hamilton…
…and fucking Jamie Foxx…
…as rappers. You wonder if these people have ever heard any popular music ever. Isn’t there a nation of young, unemployed, pop-culture savvy graduates who would shit themselves for the opportunity to write even the most basic copy for an organization half as reputable as Getty?
But my favorite, favorite, favorite of all of these examples is this one about Usher:
That’s gorgeous, as irony goes. Really, really solid work, everyone. Oh, and since it’s from the Newswire, it’s basically a press release, so if you need a more reputable journalistic source for Usher’s status as a rapper, the Post has it covered, too. Good, old Post!
So basically the point is that just about every single male R&B singer of the past 10 years (and quite a few females) has been labeled a “rapper,” by sources that are more or less trusted. When in doubt, though, I think you should use your sense of hearing. It’s a much, much better source.