Normally, the term “white rap” brings with it some reservations that make people automatically assume the worst about it. Personally, I blame Vanilla Ice and all the wiggas roaming around surburbia for giving white people a bad image in the hip-hop world. Fortunately, artists like the Beastie Boys, Everlast, Emimem, Atmosphere, and, more recently, Lady Sovereign have shown that the white folk can spit the rhymes and blast the beats just as well as the black folk.
Now I add the Lab Rats to that list of artists that are destroying the stereotype that white people can’t create good rap music. Why? For one, their music just plain ol’ sounds good. The beats are catchy and the lyrical flows pristine, but the songs don’t stay pinned down by the typical hip-hop conventions. With their multi-instrumental talents, Kelly Warner and Brian Brown explore various genres such as jazz, rock & roll, gritty blues, and even the trippy atmospherics of electronica.
The styles are all over the place without going out of control. For example, in the song “Devil’s Train,” MC Brian Brown raps over an old-school jazz tune with sampled sounded effects and affected vocals thrown in for ambiance. It reminds me of Lucas’s song “Lucas with the Lid Off,” which was kind of a goofy rap song with a ragtime kind of tune. But whereas “Lucas with the Lid Off” was a pretty silly song without any real meaning, “Devil’s Train” actually tells a tale. It’s a dark, complex story that about a young man running into the devil at the train tracks. It’s almost an old-timey kind of folk tune sung with hip-hop vocals. It’s got a “Devil Went Down to Georgia Feel” vibe to it… minus the triumph and the good times. It’s worth actually sitting down and listening to the lyrics in “Devil’s Train” to hear the story that is being sung.
This is where the Lab Rats differ from more popular white rap artists, such as the Beastie Boys or Emimem. Whereas a lot of the more popular material by those artists is just silly nonsense, not that there’s anything wrong with that, the Lab Rats are actually conveying stories with morals to their listeners. “Devil’s Train” can be interpreted as an allegory for temptation. Other songs get their points across a lot more directly. “Soul Gravity,” for example, deals with very personal moments and everyday struggles in the MC’s existence. Those little anecdotes of living and the repeated line “You’ve got to hope for a better tomorrow,” emphasize the feeling of desperation contained within the song. Though I doubt it’s a search for pity on the band’s part, it just seems like “Soul Gravity” was created as a testament to everyday struggles and an attempt to give people in similar situations something they can relate to.
If what I’ve said about the Lab Rats and the songs I’ve posted interest you then you should look up more info about them and purchase their debut album Half Full Ashtrays, Half Empty Glasses. It’s worth the money, trust me. It’s an excellent listening experience.
Purchase Half Full Ashtrays, Half Empty Glasses by the Lab Rats
The Lab Rats – Soul Gravity
The Lab Rats – Devil’s Train
By the way, I apologize for not updating this blog in a long time. I have been searching for a job for the past few months, so that’s been my main priority. Plus, it’s hard to motivate myself to keep going with this side project on a regular basis when I don’t really have a primary project to keep me busy otherwise.
Anyway, I’ve got a huge backup of submissions as well as non-submitted stuff that I wouldn’t mind posting, so I’m going to try writing a few more posts before the end of June and hopefully get back to a regular posting schedule in July.