This started out as a hybrid article in the “What’s Cool Now” and “Guilty Pleasures” varieties, but I realised that if this really was so cool, I wouldn’t feel so guilty enjoying it. There is a cheesiness to it. I obviously don’t mind proclaiming my love for things I consider a little tacky or weird; those of you familiar with the older version of the site will remember my old “Guilty Pleasure” series. I just don’t want to be one of those folks that lies to himself thinking that just because I like it, it’s cool.
With that being said, join me as I take a small voyage of the senses, and introduce to you several artists that I think fall into the category of “Weird Rappers.”
I remember seeing this guy’s stuff maybe 10 years or more ago. I came across one of his videos, White Slavery, by accident. From what I can remember, it began with Necro in gimp mask giving shout-outs to some folks before he began rapping and eating a hot Italian meal in an aluminum takeout pan, on the ass of what looked like a sex-slave in distress. It was definitely unsuitable for YouTube.
At that time I thought he was just some creepy, weird internet gangster with delusions of grandeur. Who would be afraid of this guy? Who the fuck is this guy killing? How is he enslaving women and bitches? Who the fuck is he?
Well, for better or worse, that was my first impression. The atmosphere of the video is meant to illicit a strong response, but then Necro also opens his mouth…Holy shit…some of the most disgusting shit I’ve ever heard in my life poured out. This guy has imagination and problems…but it doesn’t stop there! The boy can rhyme!
Richard Pryor’s supposed words of wisdom come to mind: “You can’t just have no curse show!” In other words, Necro wouldn’t have amassed his cult following on just being some disgusting weirdo with the manners and vocabulary of some MARTA dweller. The boy can spit! Necro is so witty and inventive with is rhymes, with the sick and evil shit he says, you actually start to feel ashamed of yourself. You have to acknowledge the skills. Your body is moving a little without your permission.
Necro is definitely a gimmicky and dark themed rapper. I’m not saying that he really is a gangster that kills people, sleeps on mattresses full of money, and has a dungeon full of hoes like he raps about, but the darkness and inventiveness is there and real, nonetheless.
Tyler the Creator
Tyler the Creator is probably the most famous featured name on this list. He’s one of the founding minds of Loiter Squad, a group of dare stunt lovers in the same vein of Jackass (associates and producers). (Loiter Squad also created skit and prank comedy.) Who he is as a rapper is more complicated because of what he was.
Tyler the Creator was a young, brash, and irreverent well-spring of energy, testing the limits of taboo, his own creativity and powers of expression, and senses of daring and adventure. A lot of his style that I brushed off as just childish gibberish was kind of a clever camouflage for other issues. However, like anyone that puts such cryptic allusions in their art, Tyler the Creator wants you to follow the bread crumbs to his secrets. He’s just not going to make it too easy or apparent for the average person that can’t handle them. He wants you to crack the code. He wants to be caught…Also, I do honestly think that some of weirdness was just for weirdness sake. (Yeah, that’s snarky youth for ya.)
Tyler the Creator needs to push you away three spaces for every one that he lets you in. I also think that in his creativity there is a mad scientist curiosity and amusement in seeing how people will react to aspects of his being, both what he presents and what they assume.
Okay, I just went a lot more into the person than his rap style, but that’s only because my ideas of him changed in listening to him and learning about the person. I think that you will always find the strange in his work. He is a stranger person. However, the average person often mistakes the strange, eclectic, or misaligned with goofy, immature, or mentally skewered.
Oh, BTW, if you haven’t seen any Loiter Squad, see you some. As a big fan of weird comedy, I whole-heartedly endorse them. If you like Eric Andre, I think you’ll like this; it’s comparable, but not exactly the same.
As a character, Oliver Tree is a weird vaping, bowl-cutted scooter boy with huge skateboy bell-bottoms, Physically, he a mash-up of the same version of the same weird boy circa 1991, 1998, 2003, and 2018, but that’s not all that’s so familiar about him. Oliver Tree also has so many aspects that are almost frankensteined from some of pop culture’s best weirdos. His bowl cut would make Moe Howard proud, not to mention Doc Ock, who would probably sign off on his specs as well.
Oliver Tree is sort of famous and I didn’t even know it. He has a song, Hurt, that has been getting good regular airplay for about a year now. Calling Oliver Tree a weird rapper may be a stretch. He is definitely weird, but he is one of those singy rappers. He’s got a unique voice that lends itself well to singing, rapping, and that weird place in between that his songs tend to live in half the time.
Oliver Tree’s musical style is almost two styles. Some songs he straight up raps. Most of his songs are actually songs complete with chorus, but in which he sort of rap-sings the verses. It all fits together, though.
As far as what Oliver Tree raps about, each song is like a conversation with someone that he is apologetic to for some sort of weird misunderstanding. Sometimes his songs feel like the confessions of an alien weirdo pleading his case to a jury in the Court of Normalcy. Other times they are upwellings of emotions from not being good enough.
I actually discovered Shakewell in a video that he did with Fat Nick (also featured in this article), for a song called Pemex. While I thoroughly enjoyed the combined efforts of the two, when it came time to examine Shakewell on his own, I was disappointed.
He’s all over the place. Sometimes he’s a redneck nobody. Sometimes he’s playing gangsta. Even his rapping style is inconsistent. Sometimes he’s a mumble rapper. Sometimes he goes T-Pain and sounds like he has a synthesiser shoved down his throat. It’s like he primarily uses hip hop to fuel his fantasies.
How does that make him different from a lot of hip hop artists or rappers? It doesn’t. I suppose that I expect a little bit more from indie artists; I think we all do. We expect a little more substance and integrity because these indie artists haven’t “made it” yet, but sometimes we underestimate the allure of fame and even near-fame. I think Shakewell likes playing the part of a rapper.
Maybe I’m being hard on Shakewell. Maybe I just don’t like his work. Maybe he’s just not so good. *shrugs shoulders*
Fat Nick is pretty much an extension of Shakewell. Both of them are a part of the group “The Buffet Boys.” They do a lot of collaborations and appearances in each others’ videos, and their styles are similarly all over the place. However, if Shakewell is a trailer park gangsta wannabe, Fat Nick is the the Mexican kid that watched too much Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon and enjoys the image of Thug Life.
Of the two, I would say that Fat Nick is the more lyrically talented of the two. Visually, he also more entertaining, plus he exudes a weird sort of rainbow-enema aura of positivity.
SonReal is a pop rapper. If I had to describe him, I’d say that if Weird Al Yankovic could do the fusion dance with Justin Timberlake, you’d get SonReal. I wouldn’t say that he seems very deep or has something to say. He just makes semi-witty rhymes that are catchy and easy to bob to.
I wish I had more to say about him, but he really didn’t strike me as much else as what I’ve said. He’s very polished. His strangeness is mathematical. His oddness is well rehearsed.
Before she was the wisecracking funny actress pigeon-holed into Asian comedies, Awkwafina was an internet personality that went viral in her response to Mickey Avalon’s own viral opus, My Dick. (My Vag)
‘Awkwafina’s rap style? In comparison to some of the folks mentioned here, her flow is much more natural. It’s also effortlessly clever. This could be because she’s just a cleverer rapper, but I think there’s a bit more to it. She raps like someone that not only listened to rap her whole life, but as someone that grew up in the culture that cradled and gave birth to it.
I know that Shakewell is this guy that messes with the guns and has boys around. I know that Fat Nick is a person of colour, and one of Shakewell’s Buffet Boys, but Awkwafina strikes me as more genuine. This little woman with the nasal voice of Asian mother complaining about why you don’t call home enough, and a Yiddish mother that does the same, actually has more authenticity in her being. It also helps that her rapping voice tends to me a silky smooth and laid back version of her speaking voice. The differences between Awkwafina and Nora Lum, besides voices, are probably very few.
With all of this said, I almost forgot to mention my favourite thing about Awkwafina: She’s really funny. I always get a laugh. She doesn’t have to be weird or goofy. She doesn’t have to try too hard. Awkwafina is a straight up clever, funny, New Yorker with some street in her bones.
If anyone else on this list could possibly rival the following that Tyler the Creator has, it would be Die Antwoord. Die Antwoord is the crazy South African rap duo of Ninja and Yolandi. Die Antwoord has a musical style to go with their lifestyle. Die Antwoord can be described as ranging from experimental electronic to heavy incorporation of both traditional Native African and contemporary African styles; a rapid-fire techie tinny, drum bassy, African sound blast that is Die Antwoord’s music, with words to match.
I wish I could be cool and say that heard about them because of their music, but I was introduced to Die Antwoord in Chappie. Supposedly their characters ended up taking shape very closely to the musical identities Ninja and Yolandi portray.
On a personal note, I don’t know what to say about Ninja and Yolandi’s life together. I remember Ninja being very insistent that He and Yolandi were merely best friends to the point of family. Then I find out that not only do they have a daughter together, but they are married, and adopted three more children together.
There’s something in how you choose to describe yourselves, and perhaps the important part is that they consider themselves best friends that became family before any other definitions.
I’m sure that there are more weird rappers that I could list, but these are the ones that really stuck out to me at the moment I decided to write this. With the way that rap is evolving, and becoming more and more accessible to everybody, I think that many of the mainstream rappers would have been eligible for this list 10 years ago. Some of them I’ve only heard of, like Post Malone. Some of them, are actually very talented like Lil Nas X. This explosion of variety is to be expected with so much new blood coming from so many new places; the genre and its norms becomes that more fluid.
Here’s to weird rappers: for better and for worse. From serious to ridiculous, may they continue to be a guilty pleasure and not an embarrassment.