Whatever Happened to Wack MC’s?

Wack rappers… It seems like yesterday on how Will Smith was considered a wack rapper.  At the time, rappers criticized The Fresh Prince for his jovial, white suburb-friendly rhymes.  While skilled, he was considered soft.  Squishy.  Not thugged out.  Not hood.  Not gangsta.  Not hard.  The Fresh Prince — yes, that’s Will Smith — was practically the Drake of his time.

So late eighties early nineties, what happened with this wack rapper?  This wack rapper, despite harsh criticism from his rap peers, ended up making music industry history by being the first rapper to win a Grammy, and after a few more songs he had a six season show and a prolific movie career.  Currently, Will Smith is an apex movie star, and among the highest paid and sought out actors in the business.  While others didn’t share that same level of success, rappers such as Kid-n-Play were also considered wack and they ended up responsible for three teen movie cult classics between the House Party series and Class Act.

Who else was wack? MC Hammer.  Let me be clear — when I was a kid, I honestly didn’t know MC Hammer was a wack rapper.  His stuff was catchy, he seemed like a reasonable man, and he even had his own Saturday morning cartoon.  The reason I didn’t realize that MC Hammer was a wack rapper as a child was because he catered to children.  In this case, the rapper wasn’t teen-friendly, he was child friendly.  Unlike the Fresh Prince, MC Hammer’s rap style was simplistic and… looking back at it all, wack.  While P.Diddy get a lot of credit and infamy for straight samples, I think I’m correct in my assessment on how MC Hammer sampled Rick James with little to no mixing involved.  MC Hammer, was incredibly wack.  MC Hammer created the phenomenon of disdain called “going pop”; that meant a lot of things, but the negative connotation was that you sacrifice skill, content and credibility for stacks of cash, pretty much.  In rap going pop, there were many rappers who detested hip-hop becoming T.V. commercial jingles, and the like.

While MC Hammer went far more pop than the Fresh Prince did, he did not share the Prince’s fate.  MC Hammer went broke, and he didn’t really have anyone in the rap community to aid or assist him.  MC Hammer seemed like a total product of the industry; no ties, no lyricism.  While the business savvy Masta P tried to give him another hand in rap, “Hammer” now older, rapping as if he’s thugged out… really didn’t sell.  He had no credibility to sell the notion that he was gangsta.

(SO!) Roll out the red carpet cause I’m kickin’ this
Vanilla Ice platinum? That shit’s ridiculous
Excuse my French, but profanity is all I knew
And to you other sellouts, oh yeah, eff you too ~ Phife of A Tribe Called Quest

Vanilla Ice was an industry A&R product that was, like Frankenstein, a composite of multiple rappers and ideas, primarily a white MC Hammer.  And what was worse, was the fact that every rapper knew this.  This did not end well.  While Vanilla Ice was an ill-advised attempt to cross-over and break boundaries, he set back the possibility of a white rapper a couple of years.  Interestingly, the one who followed him was not an industry created phenomenon, and is pretty fucking good at rapping, to say the least.

Before we leave the early 90’s, I’ll also state that the “New Jack Swing” style R&B was also deemed wack.  Those rap breaks where R.Kelly tried to rap? Horrible.  And this is before Bone Thugs and Nelly arrived to actually show rappers and singers alike how to fuse the two genres.  This is before TP2.com… this was Born Into the 90’s.  Back then it seemed like singers were trying to look like rappers.  Of course they are not rappers, but genre blending was also taboo at the time.  Rappers were mad at other rappers who even got singers on their tracks.  It wasn’t until the mid-90’s when singers collaborating with rappers were fully accepted.

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