Eminem was for many years not defined by his music or his lyrical panache, but by his ethnicity. The white face of rap, Marshall Mathers was an exception from the musical rule. What Mathers did was prove that if you’re good enough, it doesn’t matter what your background is to be able to make it in the world of rap.
While before it was an anomaly, since the turn of the decade, more and more Caucasian rappers have been coming out of the woodwork and been embraced on both sides of the Atlantic by the hip-hop community.
By far the most established of our group in the UK, Plan B has become one of the shining lights of the British urban scene, with two number one albums and a list of awards to his name that include a BRIT, a trio of Ivor Novello Awards and three MOBOs. Bringing all of his inner city upbringing and venom to the page and the mic, Plan B is more than match for anyone lyrically.
The UK might be generating more than its fair share of white rappers with Professor Green, Devlin and K Koke all showing that the UK urban scene is amongst the most colour-blind out there.
The American’s aren’t going to let the Brits steal the headlines though. After dominating the charts both in the US and the UK with the insanely catchy ‘Thrift Shop’, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have risen right to the top of the hip-hop pecking order.
It’s not a case of overnight success though, as Macklemore has been releasing records since 2005. What might make him last more than one hit though is that Macklemore offers a truly unique voice. Almost like a subdued Eminem, Macklemore’s not above poking fun at the whole rap game as well as raising issues on homophobia, class and other aspects of the human condition that others just seem to ignore. With Mac Miller also topping the American charts in 2011 with his debut album Blue Slide Park and both Machine Gun Kelly and Asher Roth on the scene, the world of rap is becoming more equally split by the day.
Thankfully, it’s not just the guys getting in on the act, as Iggy Azalea has hit the music world over the last year like a sledgehammer. Becoming both the first ever non-American and the first ever woman to make it into XXL magazine’s exclusive ‘Freshman’ issue last year, Iggy looks set to rocket out of her small town beginnings and break out into the mainstream in much the same way that Nicki Minaj did a couple of years ago. Utterly bristling with attitude, we look forward to what she’s got in store for us over the course of this year.
The best thing of all though is that while this was a much bigger thing back when it was just Vanilla Ice, The Beastie Boys and Eminem breaking through the cultural divide, now it’s not even a consideration. Having now crossed that line, hopefully the hip-hop world can keep moving forward tackling different issues in as clear and cogent a way. With A$AP Rocky and the aforementioned Macklemore now taking on homophobia, that might be even quicker.