‘Bro rap’ clouds creative music in real hip-hop

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By Phil Brown, Contributor

Omaha has been spoiled rotten when it comes to visiting hip-hop acts in the last few months. Artists such as Joey Bada$$, the Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers have all graced Omaha with their talents this fall.
Gateway contributor Taleisha Newbill was at Joey Bada$$’s gig at the Slowdown earlier in the year, and wrote about the incredible atmosphere the young rapper and his crew brought to Omaha, the way people from many different backgrounds felt welcome at the show, and the passion shared by fans and performers.
Bada$$, and the other performers who swept through the city from the East Coast, are certainly a tough act to follow for anyone. But the lineup of hip-hop acts this winter looks absolutely terrible in contrast.
First is the dreadful spectre of bro-rap, the pseudo-genre that piggybacks on the popularity of hip-hop among college kids, but should really be relegated to the basements of party houses and not allowed to find it’s way into venues or tour the nation.
Populated by suburban kids who jump gleefully at the chance to copycat the most superficial and harmful tropes of top-40 hip-hop, bro-rap as a genre is incredibly shallow, relying on obnoxious, earworm instrumentals for any staying power whatsoever.
However, it seems booking agents across the city have embraced it, and bro-rap is set to sweep through Omaha this winter like the plague. Mike Stud kicked the influenza off this Sunday. If you’re the kind of person who uses the word “Stud” in your stage name, I don’t want anything to do with you automatically. But Mike Stud doesn’t just stop at the name, his act is full of unapologetic douchery, and he seems hell-bent on reinforcing every single negative stereotype of 20-something middle-class men.
Worst of all, he seems completely unaware of his own place in the genre, in contrast to someone like Macklemore. He’s currently trying to prove himself as a real artist, and legitimate voice in hip-hop, but with absolutely nothing to say, there’s no way for him to say it compellingly.
There’s also another segment of hip-hop that will be overrepresented this winter: the overearnest and undertalented “artistic” rapper.
Watsky is the best-known representative of this style that will be coming to town this winter. I admire Watsky for his critique of many of the things I find wrong with bro-rap, the stereotypical vocalization, the shallow subject matter and the general meaninglessness of it all.
But Watsky’s own offerings aren’t compelling either: while he has technical skill as a rapper and poet, his poetry is cheesy and completely unsuited to rap, and his rapping serves vocalization that’s simply boring.
While rappers like Lil B and Riff Raff use their cheesiness deliberately, Watsky seems unaware of it, and fully assured of his own worth, self-aggrandising in his lyrics. Unfortunately, I would similarly classify the hometown project Capitol Ave.
While the music itself I find to be truly fun and more interesting than run-of-the-mill hip-hop, the rapping of Benny Salz is similar to that of Watsky, with less technical skill.
It will be a bleak winter for hip-hop fans in Omaha, with the possible consolation of Yelawolf’s gig later this month. Go and support local music with Capitol Ave., if you’d like, but besides that, hunker down, wait for spring, and listen through Kendrick’s discography on your iPhone a few times.

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