Cher Lloyd and the White-Girl Rapper Voice

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Cher Lloyd
  • Cher Lloyd
This will likely go down as the year that the mainstream decided that it's OK for anyone to be a rapper. Among the year's buzziest rappers are openly bisexual black women who dabble in genderqueer lyrics, a Korean man, and a white hipster dude who openly advocates for marriage equality. And with "Oath" by X-Factor success story Cher Lloyd making its debut on the Hot 100 (at number 99, granted), we have a white British woman rapping on the American pop charts, which even now seems slightly unbelievable. (OK, she has Romany roots, but look and listen and tell me you'd guess that in forever.)

White girls have had a difficult time gaining acceptance in the rap world, largely because the vision of white-girl-ness that's ingrained in the pop-cultural psyche is seen as the diametric opposite of hip-hop authenticity—some white female artists have bucked that vision, while others have unabashedly played into it. If Cher Lloyd's Hot 100 appearance is any indication, we're going to be seeing a lot more of them around. Which is great from the perspective of all-around fairness, but her performance itself raises some possible issues—by which I mainly mean the White-Girl Rapper Voice that she deploys.

If you want to get technical about it, the White Girl Rapper Voice is the General American accent with an exaggeratedly nasal delivery, interspersed with pronunciation lifted from African-American Vernacular English. But essentially it's a combination of a stereotypical white female's voice with a stereotypical black-man accent, sort of an impression of an impression. You can hear Internet phenomenon, Grimes video muse, and aspiring (terrible) rapper Brooke Candy deploy the same inflection on the single "Cloud Aura" from the Super Ultra mixtape by British avant-pop star Charli XCX, which I recently had to listen to more times than I would have liked.

The White Girl Rapper Voice can suggest that an artist has doubts about her own legitimacy, or that there's a weird racial dynamic somewhere waiting to be unpacked—and I'm sure that as more WGRs invade the public consciousness there will be a lot of opportunities to do so. My main issue at the moment is simply that it's super irritating to listen to. The sooner the pop-music world embraces white female rap musicians, the sooner they're likely to give up the Voice. So let's all agree to make this quick.

Miles Raymer writes about what's on the charts on Tuesday.

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