Frontier Psychiatrist

The Hood Internet: How Youtube Is Subverting Rap Music

Posted on: November 15, 2012

Kreayshawn_Gucci Gucci_Mouse Ears

Kreayshawn performing “Gucci Gucci”

At some point, every good movement must die. Hippies eventually became less worried about the abuses of government in Vietnam, and more concerned with their retirement accounts. Horrified punks, emo kids and goths were forced to watch their carefully crafted identities become branded, packaged, and sold as Hot Topics sprang up in shopping malls around the country. Hip hop may be reaching its critical mass as we speak, as one-hit-wonder club rap is about the only marketable thing remaining in mainstream music. But with the advent of the internet, and in particular YouTube, new voices are given a chance to be heard, ultimately providing a platform to subvert, appropriate and innovate in whatever way they please. In the crossroads of hip hop and the shape of what’s to come, a number of YouTube emcees have added their voices to the mix. Alternately parodying and lionizing hip hop, these artists exalt the virtues, while lamenting the decline of the genre.

One of these YouTube sensations is Kreayshawn, whose infectious “Gucci Gucci” drew nearly 3,000,000 views in its first 3 weeks, and landed her a deal with Columbia records. Although the song is undeniably catchy, its success can’t be divorced from the video, in which a shockingly diminutive white girl parades around Oakland in Minnie Mouse ears doing hoodrat things with her hoodrat friends. The video is representative of a trend I like to call the “Zooey Deschanel-ization” of rap, a movement in which hipster girls adopt hip hop mannerisms to results equal parts cute, ironic, and rebellious. Responses to Kreayshawn have divided her viewers into two camps. The first is the feminist camp, or those who think appropriation of hip hop can be seen as a path toward individual expression and empowerment, especially in regards to a genre with distinct misogynistic undertones. The second is a racist view, in which such pandering towards hip hop culture can be seen as insensitivity to the complexities of racial identity. Ironically, both views seem to be simultaneously promoted by Jezebel (“A Complete Guide to Hipster Racism” vs.”Learn Valuable Life Lessons About Ladyhood in Gucci Gucci by Kreayshawn“).

Then there’s Kitty Pryde, whose listless teenage puppy love jam “Okay Cupid” takes the unlikely rapper mold to the next level. While listening to a high school girl innocently rapping about doing lines of cocaine in what appears to be her childhood bedroom is strange enough, even more shocking is the codeine-hazed beat, provided by Beautiful Lou (A$AP Rocky, Lil B). Though initially surprising, the collaboration seems to reflect ambivalence toward an alternately innovative and stubborn genre.  Despite their vitality, forward-thinking producers are often stuck with low talent, high ego emcees (see Clams Casino remix of XV’s “Swervin” and Lil B’s “I’m God”). The result is a sort of rap caricature, in which uniquely affecting and musical beats are pulled down by tired rhymes and uninspired participants, highlighting the genre’s limitations. In a way, a song like “Okay Cupid” is unintended parody, emphasizing the absurdity of the relationship between innovative beats and their undeserving and potentially disingenuous vocalists.

An even more intriguing parody is the career of Krispy Kreme, most famous for “The Baddest”. On the surface, Krispy Kreme is just a kid making stupid rap songs. Subsequent listens uncover a nuanced stupidity, adding an over the top childish innocence, boasting about his toughness (he will beat you up “even if you have a thousand knives”), stacks of cash (he has “400 houses and 400 mouses”), and his way with women (he has made out with every girl in the world), all while pointing cap guns at the camera. Somewhat purposefully, Krispy Kreme is a suburban Don Quixote, convinced of his status as the baddest rapper alive, despite his visibly running nose. The irony speaks on two levels: as commentary on the absurdity of hip hop boasting, and as commentary on the suburban youth who naïvely seek to emulate it. But is it quality?

What attracts me to these videos is their inherent ambiguity. It’s hard to claim that this work is intended to be ironic, an honest piece art or somewhere in between. The millennial generation has embraced irony to the point that it is becoming completely indistinguishable from sincerity, almost two sides of the same coin. In this way, hip hop has become a target, oft dumbed down to the point of stupidity, and yet equally as attractive for the same reasons. Despite the artists’ intentions, YouTube stars are logical, viral responses to the increasingly stale world of Top 40 rap.

Tim Myers is a frequent contributor to Frontier Psychiatrist. His recent hip hop columns include Lil Wayne’s reign as the leader of a generation, and a review of Killer Mike and El-P’s R.A.P. Music.


1 Response to "The Hood Internet: How Youtube Is Subverting Rap Music"

I think Kreayshawn is actually parading around Los Angeles in her video.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Follow Us:

Send Us Your Music:


L.V. Lopez, Publisher
Keith Meatto, Editor-In-Chief
Peter Lillis, Managing Editor
Freya Bellin
Andrew Hertzberg
Franklin Laviola
Gina Myers
Jared Thomas
Jordan Mainzer


James Tadd Adcox
Michael Bakkensen
Sophie Barbasch
John Raymond Barker
Jeffery Berg
P.J. Bezanson
Lee Bob Black
Jessica Blank
Mark Blankenship
Micaela Blei
Amy Braunschweiger
Jeb Brown
Jamie Carr
Laura Carter
Damien Casten
Krissa Corbett Kavouras
Jillian Coneys
Jen Davis
Chris Dippel
Claire Dippel
Amy Elkins
Mike Errico
Alaina Ferris
Lucas Foglia
Fryd Frydendahl
Tyler Gilmore
Tiffany Hairston
Django Haskins
Todd Hido
Paul Houseman
Susan Hyon
Michael Itkoff
Eric Jensen
David S. Jung
Eric Katz
Will Kenton
Michael Kingsbaker
Steven Klein
Katie Kline
Anna Kushner
Jim Knable
Jess Lacher
Chris Landriau
Caitlin Leffel
David Levi
Daniel F. Levin
Carrie Levy
Jim Lillis
Sophie Lyvoff
Max Maddock
Bob McGrory
Chris Lillis Meatto
Mark Meatto
Kevin Mueller
Chris Q. Murphy
Gina Myers
Tim Myers
Alex Nackman
Michael Nicholoff
Elisabeth Nicholson
Nicole Pettigrew
Allyson Paty
Dana Perry
Jared R. Pike
Mayumi Shimose Poe
Marisa Ptak
Sarah Robbins
Anjoli Roy
Beeb Salzer
Terry Selucky
Serious Juice
David Skeist
Suzanne Farrell Smith
Amy Stein
Jay Tarbath
Christianne Tisdale
Phillip Toledano
Joe Trapasso
Sofie van Dam
Jeff Wilser
Susan Worsham
Khaliah Williams
David Wilson
James Yeh
Bernard Yenelouis
Wayan Zoey

Listening To:

Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.