Wednesday, May 16, 2007

News:: The Hill's Top 10 Hip Hop Gimmicks

Is it just me, or is gimmick rap dead? Back in the day, MC's often utilized gimmicks to try and ensure their high top fade stood tallest. In Kid's case, his gimmick was that his high top fade was literally taller than the rest. But gimmicks are gone from the rap biz now. Or rather, everyone uses the same gimmick now, the ole "I used to be a criminal and now I rap" routine. There are subtle variations in the gimmick, such as the "I used to be a criminal, got shot multiple times, and now I rap", but in 2007, if a rapper without a criminal record raps in the forest, does anyone hear him?

Ooo, wasn't that profound? Well, not really, but perhaps you get my meaning anyway. It wasn't always this way though. Before rap's current ice age made rap gimmicks obsolete, the history of rap was filled with gimmicks of all sorts. We thought it would be fun to list the hill's favorite 10 hip hop gimmicks. You're excited? We knew you would be.

10 - Oh, the horror
In all honesty, I'm not sure horrorcore is really one of my favorite rap gimmicks at all. Basically I'm only including it because of the Gravediggaz. This side project, which was comprised of The Rza, Prince Paul, Frukwan, and the underrated Too Poetic, is the most well know member of the early 90's rap genre focused on horror-movie style raps. I'm guessing there was some kind of audience for this stuff, as dudes like Esham, Brotha Lynch Hung, and Insane Clown Posse released multiple albums doing it, but it's fallen off the map now. But the Gravediggaz were big news back in the day, and it gives me a chance to say RIP Too Poetic.
mp3:: Gravediggaz - Diary of a Madman

9 - what's this, a parody?
For a while, the rap song parody was all the rage. I think just the whole phenomenon of rap music freaked (white) people out early on, so it was easier to laugh at parodies of the songs, rather then actually understand it. People like Bobby Jimmy & The Critters, The 2 Live Jews, Morris Minor and the Majors, and Vanilla Ice put out full parody rap albums back in the day, and apparently someone thought this was a good idea. I'll admit I used to get a kick out of Bobby Jimmy, but I am not surprised this gimmick has gone by the wayside. Well, except for Weird Al, who somehow still has a career doing rap parodies while he rocks a white man jheri curl.

8 - Habla la hip hop?
I was going to make this one about rapping in other languages, but I couldn't think of any good examples that weren't in Spanish. Well other than french I guess, where Mario's favorite Le Boyfriend held things down. But The Spanish/English style was a quality gimmick when it first appeared back in the day. Mellow Man Ace's Mentirosa was the first big song I remember that featured the Spanish rap. Kid Frost's La Raza also came out around the same time. Were the dudes who created Reggaeton influenced by these early spanish/english jams? If so, this could be considered on of the more successful gimmicks on the list. Well I guess that would be the case if you liked Raggaeton, which I don't, but I will digress...
mp3:: Mellow Man Ace - Mentirosa

7 - Fast rap
Long before fast rap was an Edan mixtape, it was a gimmick used by numerous emcee's to try and make a name for themselves. Why being able to rap faster that anyone else was considered a reason to buy someones album is beyond me, but at one point, it was. In fact, the holder of the Guinness record for fastest rapper used to be semi-common knowledge amongst rap enthusiasts. How else would I end up as the proud owner of a cassette copy of Daddy Freddy's Ragamuffin Soldier? Considering the fast rap title is currently held by this guy, I'd say that time has past.
mp3:: Asher D & Daddy Freddy - Ragamuffin Hip Hop

6 - Rap as dance craze
A classic gimmick found in all genres of music, the "song-with-its-own-corresponding-dance" is no stranger to hip hop. For a fine example of this, look no further than Joeski Love and his jam Pee Wee's Dance. As if explanation is really required, Pee Wee's Dance is an homage to the dance stylings of former kids show weirdo Pee Wee Herman. Of course this song came out before Pee Wee's big porno theatre adventure, because after that you'd need a hell of a lot more than a catchy Tequila sample to make people dance like Pee Wee. As shocking as it is, Pee Wee's Dance turned out to be the highlight of Joeski's career.
mp3:: Joeski Love - Pee Wee's Dance

5 - For The Kids
Another gimmick that can be found in plenty of musical genres, kids rapping has always been a reliable go-to gimmick. Usually the kids have some established svengali-like figure that helps put them on and then guides their "career". Another Bad Creation had Michael "Biv" Bivins, Kriss Kross had Jermaine Dupri, and Lil Romeo had wannabe Raptor Percy Miller as his father/Svengali. Chi Ali, despite being affiliated with the native tongues, did not have that one guiding figure. Perhaps that's why Chi is now serving a 14 year stretch for murder.
mp3:: Chi Ali - Funky Lemonade

4 - Evil twin brother
The rap alter ego has also been around for quite some time. I don't just mean having 50 "aka" names, as that is certainly still popular, but rather creating an alter ego to the extent that you release an album under said alter ego's name. Certainly it's still done today, as Madlib's helium voiced Lord Quas proves, but it's not done with the same commitment it once was. I remember having legitimate debates about whether Shock G and Humpty Hump where the same person in junior high. Although I wanted to believe Humpty was actually burned in a grease fire and hence the need for his Groucho nose & glasses combo, but I was always skeptical. It's also worth mentioning that The Humpty Dance is perhaps the most famous example of rap song as dance craze. And no, I won't do the Humpty Dance for you, but thanks for asking.
mp3:: Digital Underground - The Humpty Dance

3 - Cracker Rap
With the amount of pale-faced mic rockers on the scene today, it might to be hard to believe that the white MC was a gimmick at one point, but it's true. Certainly if you asked Serch and Pete Nice if they were a gimmick, you would be the recipient of a vigorous gas face. They considered themselves to be true MC's, regardless of their race. But that doesn't mean all white rappers abstained from the gimmickry. Case in point - Young Black Teenagers. This group of white kids was loosely connected to PE through Bomb Squad member Hank Shocklee and intended their name as some kind of homage to black culture, but in reality, it came off as a gimmick. For a long time white dudes worked some reference to white into their name (vanilla, white, snow, milk) to stress the "I am white" gimmick. Thankfully that has now faded for the most part.
mp3:: Young Black Teenagers - Tap The Bottle

2 - Weed Carriers
The practice of an established artist securing a record deal for one of his lackeys is as old as hip hop itself. If you're a rapper, once you get on, you're expected to put those around you on as well. Sometimes the results are good, former EPMD backup dancer and hill favorite Stezo comes to mind, but most of the time it's all bad. You can find most of hip hop's most offensive weed carriers on our list of 100 MC's we wished lost their voice instead of The D.O.C. The rap world is littered with "crew" albums that failed miserably, but it has certainly been one of the most consistent hip hop gimmicks, and that continues to this day. I mean who isn't dying to hear an album from Puff Diddley's manservant Fonzworth Bentley?
mp3:: Stezo - Bring the Horns

1 - Re-inventing the wheel
Would it cheapen the list if I said my #1 rap gimmick isn't really a gimmick? What I mean is this - as long as hip hop has been around, there has been some MC or group claiming to have invented a new style of speech. I include it here as more often than not, this new style is used as a means to try and promote the artist, but I hesitate to call it a gimmick because it's often the reason they're enjoyable in the first place. Case in point: Das Efx. They busted on the scene with their bum stiggedy bum style and blew up, because everyone started doing it (ahem, Fu-schnickens, Lords Of The Undergound) they went away from it and pretty much fell the fack off. I'm sure you can think of other examples of this gimmick, K-Solo's "spell-rhyming" is another one of my favorites.
mp3:: Das EFX - Mic Checka
mp3:: K-Solo - Spellbound

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Posted at 11:21 AM by naedoo :: 1 comments

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At 4:13 AM, Blogger ack did sayeth:

I still think the posse jam and the end of the album is a great gimmick. Seeing Everlast in the studio with the hat and glasses made me want to get "The Knack" for sure.

 

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