Eminem is hip-hop’s Jackie Robinson figure, and for better or for worse, that works for me. Because for all the goodwill generated by the Beasties, 3rd Bass, and House of Pain over two decades, it took Shady’s smashing critical and popular success (among both a black and white audience) to salvage the term “white rapper” from where Vanilla Ice buried it, in the Bottomless Trash Bin of Ignominy (where it lay, unloved, alongside Zubaz pants and the Mexican pizza).
But Em’s talent, like Jackie Robinson’s, was undeniable. The true mark of a transcended color line, then, is mediocrity. And that’s why the Houstonian Paul Wall is a sadly forgotten figure in the white-hip-hop-acceptance movement. When a dude like Paul Wall — an emcee as inconsistent, unimaginative, and unremarkable as the unfortunate majority of the hip-hop corps — breaks on a national level, with nary a word spilled over the color of his skin, one way or the other, that friends, is, equality.
So when I see Pittsburgh Slim (who, with his pre-ripped jeans and neatly folded bandana, is such a prime candidate for one of Lauren from The Hills’ patented awkwardly long, forlorn, cocked-headed stares that we will now gloss over the fact he’s actually half Mexican, half Algerian), I can’t help but think, Good for him.
Mr. Slim came up in a locally beloved Pittsburgh rap-rock outfit called Strict Flow and was signed to Def Jam as a solo act on the basis of his novelty hit “Girls Kiss Girls” (as in, “I like when girls kiss girls”). His signing was, apparently, personally orchestrated by Jay-Z, which sounds promising until you actually listen to the young buck. Slim’s enthusiasm is briefly engaging, but his flow is at best clumsily amateurish — dare we say, sub-Federline level. Most of you dudes have probably approached this type of lyrical dexterity in any given poorly advised end-of-party basement freestyle session (Ahem: “Hey pretty girl/ With your pretty face,” from “My Flashy World.” Yikes.) Tastemaker, at seven tracks long, is an almost embarrassingly obviously rush-job cash-in.
But who cares? Do you know how many kids just like the man born Sied Charhour there are in America? Kids who grew up worshipping the swagger and breezy charm of their favorite rappers, and whose worship translated itself in their bruisingly awkward suburban childhoods full of resented cultural appropriation? This guy can’t rap and he got signed to Def Jam! He almost definitely got to meet Jay-Z! And if not, he at least gets to lie convincingly to girls at clubs about meeting Jay-Z! The point, this time, is not the music — an instantly forgettable (if you’re lucky) batch of half-baked club rap. It’s that a young boy in Pittsburgh with little to no skill to speak of had the guts to chase a quixotic dream of rap superstardom all the way to its inevitably embarrassing logical conclusion. Good for him.