The rise of hipster rap has been well documented in the past 5 years, with Kanye West, M.I.A. the Cool Kids, and others rising to prominence in hipster and hip-hop circles alike. Lately however, there have been a slew of angry retorts to the rise of hipster rap, which can be curtly summarized as "white kids want the funky otherness of hip-hop…words, without all the scary black people." While this phenomenon has been around ever since suburbanites in Connecticut started listening to N.W.A., the recent complaint has directly addressed the current hipster culture, with polls on Unkut about The Biggest Douchebag in Hipster Rap, angry YouTube posts by Mazzi, etc.
Now, the retort to those criticisms has had its most prominent article yet, thanks to Miles Raymer of the Chicago Reader. Raymer makes the case that to dismiss hipster rap is an insult to hip-hop’s legitmate and essential place in the rock canon:
Calling hipster rap fake doesn’t just insult hipster rappers and the people who love them—it insults hip-hop itself. The pioneers of the genre struggled to establish it as a legitimate pop form, and by the late 90s it had become one of the great common languages of global musical culture. Is it really respecting that triumph to insist that a movement of such world-changing scope isn’t big enough to contain hipster rap? The people going nuts over this stuff grew up immersed in hip-hop culture, whether they’re black or not, and it’s entirely predictable for them to want to start fucking with the formula. Hip-hop is grown-up now, with kids even, and it’s going to have to go through the tug-of-war over norms and values that always arises with a generation gap.
That’s a fair point, but one that glosses over the larger cultural criticisms that exist behind the music itself. Has the dominance of hipster rap taken away from hip-hop’s vitality, and is it a symptom of the larger problem of apathetic hipster culture? While I’ll be the first one to criticize hipsters, I’m not sure what to think here.