In my mind, there have always been three distinct camps of rap artists:
1) Rappers who know they’re funny but remain 100 percent credible. This is where the three Bigs – Pun, L and Notorious – lounge for all eternity.
2) Rappers who think they’re funny but aren’t. I’m looking at you, all album skit writers ever!
3) Rappers who aren’t trying to be funny but, to me, often are.
This third camp is an important part of what makes my artform enduringly fascinating. Here are some prime examples.
Dig deep into this East Coaster’s back catalogue and you’ll find gems like, ‘Fuck that, live nigga of rap/And you can catch me with a Teletubbie, holding my gat’. Let that one sit with you for a moment…
When you sound as much like a goose and look as much like an extra from ‘Rastamouse’ as Ja does, it’s hard to keep a straight face through lines like: ‘Don’t get caught up in your Range Rover, pullin’ over/On the Westside highway shoulder, nigga I’ll blow ya’. Okay, Ja, if you say so.
Similarly gruff-voiced, DMX was once ruler of camp three. Passionate and very angry, X was consistently generous with his unwitting work for comedy fans. ‘I been doing this… 19 YEARS/Wanna fight somethin’? FIGHT THESE TEARS!’ will forever be a highlight for me.
Slurring his words in a gimp mask in the video for ‘Devil Wants My Soul’, Frenchie’s attempts at deepness (‘Hood got young niggas stressing, going bald/Came up, I was poor, now rosé I pour’) smack of that uncle who hasn’t moved on with his life getting drunk and doing impromptu speeches at your mum’s barbecue.