Nineteen-year-old Wiz Khalifa protégé Mac Miller drops his debut Blue Slide Park today and what’s more notable than the young Pittsburgh natives’ swift ascent to notoriety is his place as the latest white rapper to make a run with a social media onslaught.
Prevailing opinion may be he’s the latest to sprout from Eminem’s hip-hop tree but closer examination will tell you a story of a door, undoubtedly opened up by the prolific hip-hop icon, but not necessarily the influence you’d imagine.
Miller, for one, carved out his lane by being a social media dynamo instead of an underground rapper building buzz behind epic battles in seedy venues.
From Facebook to YouTube to Twitter, Miller has conquered them all. Building a certifiably deep fan base with high-energy, easy to digest music that can easily be boxed and sold as “frat rap” but a flow that can be just as spot on when the beat and occasion call for it.
The honesty of his sound really sticks out, while admittedly not being nearly as stirring and deep as his counterparts are. He’s the kid who rocked the ‘burbs first and slowly won over the streets mixtape after mixtape.
In his current Billboard cover story, the rapper wasn’t ashamed to admit reaching for something soul stirring and emotional wasn’t his lane, telling the magazine, “I’ll never pretend I have an inspiring story like certain people. There are people here to tell inspiring stories, people like Kendrick Lamar or Big K.R.I.T. who have deep messages about things that…I can’t say. It’s not my place to say,” Miller said.
“I just make music that’s hip-hop. I’m not here to be a teenybopper sensation. I make music because I love making music. So whoever wants to love it, that’s who I want as my fans.”
I don’t know if the same can be said about some of his ‘white’ rapper peers. While the likes of Kreayshawn, Yelawolf, Asher Roth and Machine Gun Kelly have all piqued mainstream ears, and artists like Aesop Rock and El-P have owned underground circles. None have gotten 40-second video responses from people like Donald Trump declaring them “the next Eminem”, the way Miller did.
If anything, all have ran into the wall of being ‘the white rapper’ when most would’ve assumed the coincidence of race would’ve been advantageous.
For Kreayshawn, the n-word that derailed her onslaught on the mainstream after “Gucci Gucci” blew up virally.
Yelawolf, whose backstory is probably the closest of the bunch to Eminem’s, has had to leap hurdles of credibility and being so Southern, despite his deal with Eminem’s Shady/Aftermath imprint.
Asher Roth saw the heights of “I Love College” earn him the “frat rap” label despite a Gangsta Grillz mixtape with DJ Drama and Don Cannon and really lyrical side projects with artists like Lupe Fiasco but that initial success has made some shy away from his dope, newer releases (like the Chuck Inglish produced “In The Kitchen”) because they can only see him one way.
Miller hasn’t hit that snag and his entrepreneurial spirit in the lead up to his release today has been masterful.
By releasing tracks when he hit certain social media milestones, Miller grew his fan base while keeping long-time fans engaged because of the new music that was at stake. He pretty much had them do the work for him because they were so hungry to hear more. And even if that doesn’t translate into sales, an active following of over 1 million on Twitter and 1.4 million of Facebook but him in a social media strata of movie stars and TMZ regulars.
His energy is totally Beastie Boys minus a lot of the edge. Sure, he raps about weed but at the core, his music is harmless, his shows are teen-friendly and major labels – who’ve tried to get in on the hype — are watching to see what comes from this.
What is encouraging and noteworthy is the current crop of white rappers seems cognoscente but not caught up in the gimmick that can grow from being in their shoes. They’re constructing their own projects and may poke fun from time-to-time about just how different they are from the bulk of their peers in the game but they aren’t so consumed by it. And as far as having a leg up on the competition, that’s minimal but they’ve certainly figured out how to milk their social media presence better than most.