Douglas Martin normally blogs at Fresh Cherries from Yakima. He has never been to Yakima, but he can do the Watusi.
Being the world’s foremost blipster sure is a thankless job. Ever since I was given the opening quote in that infamous January 2007 feature in the New York Times about that new, cutting-edge subculture that long before had merely been known as “Afropunk” or “Tight Pants Wearin’-Ass Negroes” or whatever, my life’s been a whirlwind of dust, from being a public representative of Pacific-Northwestern black kids who listen primarily to art-punk, to receiving potshots on Gawker about being 23 and recording a folk-rock album. Now, I’m 25, have graduated from “folk-rock” (which was erroneous even as it was being printed) to “avant folk-pop” (hipsters are nothing if not arty individuals, right?), and am still unsigned. Thanks for nothing, Gawker.
In the two years since I became a footnote in the bowels of American popular culture, there has been a wellspring of blipsters springing up all over the place, as well as one of the most divisive scenes in rap history, “Hipster-Hop,” which comes across as some sort of backwards-reverse-racism sort of thing, where rappers do crazy, unprecedented things like not wear baggy jeans and chains, essentially discounting the “blackness” of these groups for not adhering to racial stereotypes. As I’ve learned from the four sentences written about me in The New York Times which quickly read like a pitch for an ABC Afterschool Special, the basis of the term “Hipster-Hop,” just like the term “blipster,” proves that some journalists are so silly.
So, for my first of my (hopefully many) columns for Passion, I thought I’d do a service for the blogging community by comparing and contrasting the blipsterness of the leading artists in the Hipster-Hop scene. Lace up those dingy Chuck Taylor’s people. It’s go time:
EXHIBIT A: KIDZ IN THE HALL
PROS: Double-O and Naledge apparently met at the University of Pennsylvania after a talent show, forming Kidz in the Hall and recording an album called School Was My Hustle. The irony of being college-educated and having a phonetically-spelled group name has “hipster” written all over it. They released an album called The In Crowd, which has a bevy of early-90’s hip-hop nostalgia. No wonder critics latched these guys onto the Hipster-Hop scene; some things are just too calculated to make up.
CONS: School Was My Hustle was co-signed by Just Blaze and released by Rawkus Records. The In Crowd was released by Duck Down Records, founded by Boot Camp Clik. Hipsters may know of Just Blaze, from their rarely-listened-to copy of The Blueprint to prove that they do actually enjoy rap. There’s no way a hipster has heard of Boot Camp Clik, no matter how many ironic hip-hop-themed parties they’ve gone to. Plus, Kidz in the Hall’s style is more “Baby Boomer Douchebag Chic” than anything that resembles a hipster these days, but perhaps someone will take a wrong left turn towards Pitchfork and stumble on this post, and adopt this look at their next Williamsburg costume party appearance, in which the guys will get extra points for being ahead of their time.
HIPSTER SCORE: 7.2. The whole “hipster” angle they’re going for is sort of contrived, but being as though contrivance is sort of what the movement is based on, it comes across as weirdly well-played.
EXHIBIT B: THE COOL KIDS
PROS: In addition to opening for hipster icon M.I.A., Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks have been playing the retro-angle hard, sampling drums, melodies, and even vocals from golden-era hip-hop hits such as “My Posse’s on Broadway” (Seattle, stand up!), all while wearing acid-washed skinny jeans and retro sports gear and shouting out Starter jackets in their rhymes. Genius! Way to bring back Starter like the ill-fated Members Only craze of 2006!
CONS: You get the feeling that if The Cool Kids were an all-white rock band, they’d be touted as “saviors of rock ‘n roll” and all that jazz. But, because they’re a revivalist hip-hop group? Hipsters they are. Plus, they hopped on a track with Lil’ Wayne, and everyone knows that makes you REAL hip-hop!
HIPSTER SCORE: 3.9. However, if they were being solely judged on their fashion choices, they’d get an 8.8 and be inducted into the “Best New Hipster-Hop Music” category.
EXHIBIT C: THE KNUX.
PROS: A pair of Los Angeles-via-New Orleans brothers, Krispy Kream and Rah Al Millio play their own instruments (which includes guitars, people!), wear tight jackets and jeans proudly (namedropping American Apparel in their Passion of the Weiss interview, even), and, by their own admission, have been listening to TV on the Radio since the release of their Young Liars EP. And they have connections to hipster-dance scene demigod Steve Aoki! They have a background in jazz, played in their school’s marching band, and still managed to not get beaten up when they were kids. Their very promising debut, Remind Me in Three Days, is a genre-defying excursion into the world of scenester L.A., with guitars blaring over drum machines as girls snort lines like hypochondriacs drop Airborne in their water. Although they’ve vehemently denounced the term, this is the type of group hipsters could really get behind.
CONS: Not only do they rap very well (name one hipster than can even sorta rap, and Kanye West doesn’t count), but they play their instruments with a high level of technical proficiency. Hipsters that play music value amateurishness and obscure that behind the fact that you’re not “advanced enough” to engage in their art. Not only that, but they are from New Orleans, and both carry the main trait of the city’s natives: they don’t pull punches (once again, see their Passion of the Weiss interview).
HIPSTER SCORE: 7.8. Hipsters love things that are sonically progressive. And they love dudes who wear tight jeans, take it from me.
MP3: The Cool Kids- Oscar the Grouch (Left-Click)