Before I get into this rant about Mad Rad, I suppose I have to confess that I’ve never actually seen them live, nor do I own their album, nor do I have any idea about their level of respect for hip-hop culture, how they came to be involved in the art form, who they are as people, if I am actually distantly related to one of them, etc.

I just know that whenever I see one of their videos or listen to their music, I can’t help but think they’re a bunch of f*cking tourists. I get the whole white-boy rap sub-genre that exists in the music, and I understand the need for white kids to express their jones for hip-hop and that that expression sometimes manifests itself in the form of a collage (bastardization?) of less-than-awesome styles (Limp Bizkit comes to mind). What doesn’t sit well with me is when I feel like the culture is being exploited at the expense of an artist or group’s personal gain, and this is where my own personal hypocrisies come into play. For example: I hate Fred Durst, but not Kid Rock. I hate Vanilla Ice, but not Eminem. I hate MC Hammer, but not P. Diddy. Who should be performing hip-hop at this stage in its history is a matter of complete conjecture, so who am I to question someone’s right to participate in the culture? I’ll try to explain myself…

Hip-hop, to me, is like your grandfather’s old Chevy. Whenever he lets you drive it, you should treat it with the utmost respect because, ultimately, it is not yours to keep. You shouldn’t eat in your grandpa’s Chevy; you shouldn’t drink in your grandpa’s Chevy; you shouldn’t make out with your girlfriend in your grandpa’s Chevy, unless, of course, you ask him for permission to do so, and he says that it’s okay.

Everything I’ve been told and read suggests that Mad Rad puts on a hell of a show. I understand they really get the crowd hyped, they have actual skills on the mic, and their production is on point (as much as a rap/punk/electronic collage of sound can be “on point”). I also know that they often behave like complete jackasses, getting themselves banned in local clubs, nearly destroying Chase Jarvis’ beautiful spread at his Songs for Eating and Drinking event, and generally causing hundreds of hipsters to lose their skinny-jeaned, coked-up minds in the streets of Capitol Hill.

So why must I hate? Probably for these reasons:

1. I’m not a member of a rap group, and they are. I can love hip-hop as much as anybody, but it doesn’t mean that I’m a particuarly active participant. I’m a consumer of the music, I pay for albums and shows, and I can hop in a car, put a CD on, and rhyme alongside my favorite emcee and think that I sound pretty damn dope (especially when the volume is turned all the way up). But I have never been in the studio, gotten in front of a mic and dropped 16 bars over a Jake One banger. And that will probably never happen. So why do I hate Mad Rad so much? The number one reason might be because I will never get to do what they’re doing.

2. I think hip-hop music ultimately belongs to the African-American community. If hip-hop was patented, it would be owned by the pioneers from the South Bronx. Of course, that would never happen because hip-hop, by its very nature, is a collaborative effort, and many non-African-American folks have come along in the game and done it well. In fact, arguably just as well, if not better than some of the music’s earliest founders. But that doesn’t mean true ownership has ever been transferred. I’m sure there are some pretty amazing Japanese chefs who can prepare Coq a Vin just as well as a French chef, but just because you’re Japanese cooking French, doesn’t mean you don’t have to be qualified.

And are Mad Rad qualified to be doing hip-hop the way they are doing it? Who am I to say? I guess my point is that when I see Mad Rad performing for their fans (who are majority white, hipsterish and presumably not the most learned fans of hip-hop culture), I get upset. Especially when Mad Rad is dropping lines like “smoke the dro/choke a ho.” Not that anyone should be able to get away with saying that and have it be okay, but when it’s coming out of the mouth of a white dude wearing ironic sunglasses and a gold chain? It sounds more like disprespectful parroting than a conscious attempt at what I can only presume is sarcasm.

In the end, I suppose the point of Mad Rad is to bring a different perspective to the genre. They appear to simply be a group of white men expressing their creativity and points of view as honest fans of the music. And, inherently, there is nothing wrong with that.

I guess I just wish they’d been required to attend a sort of Hip-Hop University where they first had to study the origins of the culture and earn a diploma before being able to release their first album. Come to think of it, the curriculum at Hip-Hop University would probably be useful for a whole gang of other hip-hop artists in the game today.

Probably the most important tool in helping propel the art form into the future, is a knowledge of the roots of its past. Mad Rad, in my opinion, haven’t properly traced those roots. They need to go back to Hip-Hop University. They need to ask their grandfather if they can ride in his Chevy.

9 comments

  1. Mostly agreed. But it’s a shame they’re getting so much burn in the local press. These guys probably love the fact that people are talking about them…

  2. My first encounters with mad rad were like yours. Saw the videos on YouTube, previewed a bit of their music and thought they were jokes. They didn’t impress me lyrically at all and it was a bunch of hipster glamour crap. when I saw them live for the first time, I almost felt sick to my stomach. They acted just like you read. They don’t respect the venue (climbing on top of stacks of speakers and continuing to jump all over them), didn’t care much for the people in attendence (in the middle of the set radjaw jumped off stage to fight someone during a song) and they were just plAin raunchy. I was more in shock than anything that they were able to get away with it.

    A few months later, I somehow ended up At a show which they were opening. The first show I saw them at they must of been on a binger becuz the second one was a bit more mellow. In any case, since then I’ve seen them multiple times and they have grown on me a little. Sad to say. Their live show is where there bread is buttered. The I don’t care mentality becomes humorous and that’s where the entertainment is for me. I review bands for another local blog and am going to their July 17th show to take a peek at project lionhearted. You should come along and check both of them out live. I’ll put the invite out there, email me and let me know. K?

    What bothers me the most abot them is alllllll the press. Psmoov (from mad rad) has a side project called fresh espresso who is blowin up just due to his name. I’ve seen them live and it is an awkward experience (I can get more into that later). Their recorded stuff sound like another world but it is still the same fd up formula as mad rad. Glamour hipster hip-crap about drugs, women and ego centric themes. So sick of it. The inside cult that is the local press just fools them into thinking they are doing everything right and letting them disrespect the genre.

    Anyways, I had to vent. EmAil me about the show if you want to go.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts.

    I’ve noticed a slight undercurrent of not-quite-hate directed at Mad Rad from some of the other local artists. Although, it’s not like the kids who really love Blue Scholars are going to transfer their affinities onto Mad Rad. MR, not surprisingly, seems to attract a different breed of fan.

    I honestly did want to like these guys. Seattle’s hip-hop community is so small and there should be room for everyone. At this point, though, I just don’t need to be spending time, energy, and money on bratty rap hipsters!

    Thanks for the invitation, by the way. I’ll let you know if I plan on hitting it up!

    – 206-UP! Staff

  4. (I re-read what I wrote last night and realized how jumbled it is. Sorry, i had typed it all out on my iphone.)

    Of course, the smart local artist knows networking is the game and if MR is getting all the attention then they will be wanting to do shows with them and ride their coattails. Plus, PSmoov does alot of production work for alot of them (Sol, Grynch, Saturday Knights, Spaceman to name a few).

    You shouldn’t waste any time on them, but if you do have a free moment it wouldn’t hurt to see what all the fuss is about. 🙂

  5. It’s been a while since you posted this and a lot of things transpired in the city and for Mad Rad/Fresh Espresso/OFS. The first paragraph of your article is the most important statement. If you did know these guys you wouldn’t be inviting them to attend “Hip Hop University.” The first time I met Radjaw he was packing around a back pack full of vinyl – the first record I pulled out was the Peoples Instinctive Travels… from Tribe. These guys know the history, the art and the culture.

    It was never them who claimed to be a part of that tradition.

  6. True, it has been a while. I’ve worried that this post would become irrelevant as time passed and I had an opportunity to become more comfortable with Mad Rad’s shenanigans; that type of thing happens with groups that I don’t like at first listen and time allows me to give more of a fair shake.

    Four months have passed and I can assuredly report that my opinion hasn’t much changed. I still think they’re tourists in a genre that doesn’t belong to them. However, that certainly doesn’t mean they can’t have a place in the scene. Mad Rad’s style is clearly a sub-genre, hip-hop inspired but not practiced in the grand tradition. That’s okay, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    If I make any unfair accusations, it’s partly because of what you aptly pointed out: I don’t know them personally. And that certainly works to my disadvantage when attempting to comment fairly on them. On the other hand, Mad Rad’s art (yes, I do consider their music art), should on some level speak for itself. I just happen to not like what it’s saying.

    But thank you for reading and commenting, I appreciate it. I enjoy reading your blog, too. Another reader commented to me that I basically need to lighten up and just celebrate the fact that there are so many voices in the current hip-hop scene. That’s not lost on me, but like Tip once said, “Opinions are like voices we all have a different kind.” Pretty sure he said that on “The Low End Theory” “Midnight Marauders,” before us listeners and consumers of hip-hop music had a chance to vomit forth those opinions into the blogosphere. It is cool today that bloggers like us (and groups like Mad Rad, for that matter), have the opportunity to be participatory members of hip-hop culture — that’s something definitely worth celebrating.

    (By the way, just because someone has a Tribe album in their backpack doesn’t mean they’re necessarily an expert on hip-hop. What fan of good music DOESN’T have a Tribe album?)

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