Anatomy of a White Suburban Hip Hop Fan

I’m not ashamed to admit that the first three records I owned were, in subsequent order, MC Hammer’s Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme, and Kriss Kross’ Totally Krossed Out. Then came Wrex-N-Effex, Biggie, KRS-One, NAS, Wu Tang, and by the time I was in high school I had almost every Gangstarr record memorized. But still, the lure of being “real” has always been just outside of my grasp. Here are the top ten ways that a suburban white boy like myself defines himself as a Hip-hop fan, and lets the whole world know that he is, in fact, from the streets:

1) Timbos: It’s real in the battlefield, and a true thug must always make sure to wear their Timberland boots. These are rocked loose, and must be totally spotless, as any wear and tear will detract from one’s legitimacy.

2) Outdated slang: As most of us get our slang from records rather than the streets, we are liable to use terms that went out with Cross-colors denim jackets. Such terms include, but are not limited to, referring to something as “that fire,” or “johnny blazin’,” saying “that’s gangsta,” “word up,” “shorty,” or using any term learned from Big L’s “Ebonics.” Biggie is also copied unmercifully. In high school we used to drink Balentine 40’s and roll White Owl’s just because Biggie told us that’s what he did. Also, merely dropping the ending to most words, and as a result sounding “more urban,” is a technique frequently used. Example: “Yo dog dem cron cron’s was dat fire. We goin’ to the sto’, but you can hit me on the hip if you feelin’ like peacin’.”

3) Uncomfortable around actual black people: Even if we grew up in a multiracial environment, once any white Hip-hop fan comes to Vermont, rap music can become ones only connection to African American culture. Then, one becomes convinced that they must prove how thuggish they are whenever they meet a real, live black person. What would be “Hello, my name’s Billy. What’s yours, my new friend?” becomes “Sup,” followed by a long, hard stare (a grill).

4) Baggy jeans: Well, baggy everything actually. It seems as though to look urban one must wear their clothes as though any strenuous effort will result in them falling off. Jeans sagging, Tim’s unlaced, jersey baggy as hell, and a hat that is barely on the top of the head.

5) A reliance on matching colors to coordinate: Rather than subtlety and finesse in organizing one’s outfit, merely matching as many things as possible is just fine for the Hip-hop white boy. If our Pelle Pelle velour suit from three years ago matches the laces on our white Air Force One’s, and our unnecessary doo-rag as well, we consider ourselves “fly.”

6) A huge ego: Or at least the outward impression of one. No true Hip-hop white boy will admit that he’s just a baby inside. Even though most of us have never been in a real fight, the ice grill has been perfected over the years, and can be unleashed in Red Square at a moment’s notice.

7) Mom’s credit card: How would any of us afford our $10 mix tapes and our $30 LRG tee-shirts from Herban Stylz without the assistance of dear old mom? Some of us pretend to get by with slangin’, but really we just do that to look cool and break the law. ‘Cause breakin’ the law is just about as gangsta’ as you can get homie!

8) Constant insistence that we are, in fact, keeping it quite “real”: “I’m from Montclair, New Jersey motherf**ker! That’s like twenty minutes from Newark! Redman’s from Newark! Scared yet? You better be!”

9) Too little knowledge of black history or culture to fully understand what is being said: As much as white Hip-hop fans will pour over The Source in a misguided attempt to gain some deeper understanding of “the ‘hood,” most of us don’t know Stokely Charmicael from Jesse Jackson. Nor do we understand exactly why the Ghetto Boys had “fatal thoughts of suicide,” for that matter. We just thought it sounded cooler than Green Day in tenth grade.

10) Elitism: Any good white rap fan worth his salt treats the art like collecting trading cards. “Yeah, I heard that new Ghostface. You heard that new Beanie Sigel joint? No? Then I’m realer than you are! I win!”