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.