Indie kids have been into rap music for some time now. As with all things indie kids do, they tend to stay away from the really mainstream music that you might hear on your local KissFM station. Instead they are drawn more to underground rap (indie kids like anything that can be labeled as underground) and gangsta rap (anything to make them seem paradoxical).
But over the last few years the connection between indie kids and rap music has taken on a completely new life. Rap culture and indie culture are starting to mix in new and often bizarre ways.
Fashion, as seen above, is one example where the cultures are colliding. As indie kids adopt high tops, flamboyantly colored t-shirts, and other staples of 80s rap concerts, rappers are quick to return the favor by wearing skinny jeans and as much plaid as they can find. Anytime Kanye West shows up someplace not wearing a suit, you’re bound to get some weird hybrid look of classic rap star with suburban white kid.
It makes some sense that rap stars and indie kids have similar tastes in fashion. Indie kids often live in poverty. Not when they’re young, but after their parents cut them off because they “won’t get a real job.” This means they’re forced to shop for clothes second hand, where bright, ugly t-shirts that are 3 sizes too big are all that can be found. Instant early 90s rap street cred. Combine this with the wardrobe they still have from before their father saw their band play and gave up all hope, $200 dollar skinny jeans and plaid shirts galore and you have the ideal indie look. Rap stars on the other hand were often raised in the hood (or the suburbs close enough to the hood that they try to claim it). They were poor, and had to wear clothes from Goodwill that didn’t fit right. When they get some money, they blow it on jewelry and fancy cars, sure, but they also buy some of those nice skinny jeans they saw those white boys wearing. Unable to completely abandon their fashion sense growing up they end up with the exact same look as the indie kids.
Beyond fashion, indie rock and rap music are starting to musically bleed together as well. Chicago mash up DJs, The Hood Internet, have one essential formula: put rap lyrics on top of indie rock songs. And it works! They are insanely prolific, releasing hundreds of songs and almost 20 mixtapes in the slightly more than 3 years they’ve been making music. Apparently just about everyone who gets their music ripped off by The Hood Internet is cool with it. Black musicians have been getting their music stolen by white guys for hundreds of years anyway, and the indie kids are trying to act cool in front of their new black friends.
Because of groups like The Hood Internet (there are too many others to name here) indie rock has become very accepting of the remix. Groups put out remix albums, where they get other musicians to each rework a track. Even relatively unknown Massachusetts’ rockers DOM scored a major coup by somehow getting Gucci Mane to jump on a remix of one of their songs during the one week he usually goes between committing felonies.
Although the group that I suspect identifies the most with rap culture is the Swedish band jj. The cover for the first full album by jj, No 2, is a blood spattered pot leaf. I’m sure Snoop Dogg would be proud. Their biggest song to date, Ecstasy, features singing over a loop of Lil’ Wayne’s Lollipop. To top it off, on Christmas Eve they released their very own mixtape, Kills, which followed the motif set forth by other rap mixtapes, namely original lyrics over samples of other people’s music. One big difference between jj and other rappers is that jj doesn’t rap. Not even a little bit. The lead, Elin Kastlander, mostly sings in a very sweet lilting voice. Of course she sings lines like “let them snitch, let them be, let them die.”
This mixing of cultures is just the logical end to what started so long ago. Indie rock bands used to cover rap songs to be kitschy and get some attention. Now they embrace rap culture in all aspects of their career. Rap stars have moved from having their lyrics put over indie rock tracks by DJs to just doing it themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these two scenes moving closer and closer together until they’re both swallowed up in a cloud of arrogance and self-entitlement. I guess this is just another sign that we’re living in a post racial America. Thanks a lot Obama.