This Kotaku article has a great point, and I love the point its making. I’ve been into “backpack hip-hop” for years, and it’s been a while, but now it’s cool. People like Kanye and Lupe really paved the way for nerdy rappers. Kanye arguably has had one of the biggest success in hip-hop. It’s been a while since anyone called this music backpack hip-hop, but it’s a name I love for it.
I feel like this article, while having a great point (I can’t stress that enough), really misses some great examples from music and has a major misnomer.
First, Kanye’s albums are all fairly nerdy and middle/upper class, but one stands out as the nerdiest: 808s and Heartbreaks. 808s was met with extremely mixed reviews. Some people loved it, others not so much. That was probably because of the auto-tune, but still it has a song called Robocop, and that’s pretty nerdy.
Second, Lupe Fiasco is misrepresented as his Street Fighter reference is much more topical to being a nerd than explicitly saying he is. In “Gold Watch” he says ” I like Street Fighter 2, I find it hard to beat Zangief”. That’s one of the nerdiest things anyone has ever said in mainstream rap! Instead this article downplays his nerdiness a little.
Drake is not nerdy, he just raps about issues which some nerds have like loneliness. Honestly today it’s pretty easy for nerds to find nerd partners. Also “nerd fighters” are nerds in disguise so they sometimes meet regular people.
As for the major misnomer: Frank Ocean is an R&B SINGER while extremely nerdy he hardly falls into the category of “backpack rap”. WTF KOTAKU? Tyler the Creator and most of his crew is pretty nerdy though, just not video game nerdy. Tyler is creepy nerdy.
Childish Gambino is a great point, but I still think that Lupe definitely represents nerds better. Gambino is fantastic, but he appeals to a slightly different crowd than Lupe. Lupe’s followers are nerds, while Gambino seems to attract the indie listening kids who is beginning to recognise hip-hop as a genre of music because they are ignorant and assumed before that every rapper is like 50cent.
The final flaw with this article is that it completely fails to recognise the importance of earlier nerdy rappers like MF Doom, Madlib, and Del Tha Funkee homosapien. Without these people Kanye probably wouldn’t have been able to market his nerdiness the way he did. Kanye is super important for mainstreaming “backpack rap”, but something had to come before. This article fails to acknowledge that the really nerdy rappers are still not mainstream, only those who can get away with the quick reference here and there.
I love that this article acknowledges “backpack rap”. It’s great that it talks about the inclusion of current issues in “backpack rap”. It misses the mark on evidence that could have been used to make this article a lot more convincing. Still it has a great point and the evidence to prove that being a little nerdy is cool is there, just not in this Kotaku article. Ultimately Kanye is not only the face of backpack rap, but like him, you can’t be too nerdy.
i.e. He dresses too well to be nerdy. He could be classified easily as a nerd fighter.