Despite whatever hip-hop's perceived "intended audience," it's never been a secret that rap music has long been adored by the Caucasian crowd — since long before "Michael Bolton" spit Scarface's "No Tears" in his car over the opening credits of Office Space, and certainly as long ago as the Beasties Boys fought for their right to party.
But campus hip-hop has become a thing apart in recent years. The college party scene has always been blessed by white boys who can freestyle. But for a few years now — since around the time of keg rap pioneer Asher Roth's breakout smash "I Love College" in 2008 — bro bashes have spawned their own heroes. Hit an end-of-semester blowout at any school from UMass to USC, and you'll likely hear as many songs by so-called frat rappers like Sammy Adams as you will by proud dropout Kanye West. That's especially true in New England, which has produced more frat-tastic headliners than any other region in the country.
Everybody knows that honkeys have always adored boom-bap; what's more, despite popular yet misinformed narratives, hip-hop has for years been saturated with white icons other than Eminem — from Cage and Evidence to, before them, Everlast and 3rd Bass. On this vague four-year anniversary of frat rap (roughly from the release of Asher Roth's "I Love College"), what's interesting is how much this specific niche has grown as it's become part of a brave new commercial world.
Proud hip-hop purists have almost unanimously panned frat rappers for their super-synthesized backdrops, obvious samples, and typically trite and oversexed lyrics —despite comparable trends in underground and mainstream varieties. In addition to those jabs, however, critics also have an unease with privileged kids bragging about how hard they fornicate, and which designer drugs the girls who gang-blow them like to abuse. It's an understandable contempt.
But love it or loathe it, frat rap — or however haters wish to brand it — isn't just here to crash on hip-hop's couch overnight. They might not grab XXL headlines, but cats like Newton- and Wellesley-bred MC Cam Meekins are among rap's up-and-coming dynamos, with the numbers to prove it. Last month, Wayland chill-hop duo Aer's self-released What You Need EP debuted atop the iTunes Hip-Hop/Rap albums chart, ahead of Lil Wayne, J. Cole, and the Throne. Rounding out the top five was fellow post-adolescent rhymer Mac Miller, who plays the House of Blues December 3. The last time Miller came to Boston, more than 50,000 fans showed up to see him rock Government Center, causing some of the most raucous public pandemonium in recent Boston history.
Less than a year ago, popular rap-snob sentiment guessed that non-conformist players like Odd Future would out-shock and bulldoze the frat-rap scene — much in the way Wu-Tang Clan clobbered early-'90s lightweights like the Fresh Prince and P.M. Dawn. But that's not what's happening — despite Spin featuring none of the frat rappers in their new "Changing Face of Hip-Hop" issue. Instead, brew-happy dudes and party-rat co-eds are flocking to see these acts, and they're doing something that average rap fans stopped doing a long time ago — buying music.