Madonna did it. So did Sum 41. Heck, even Aaron Carter gave it a try… Yes there’s no shortage of singers who have made that ill-advised foray into rapping—even in the indie rock world. These are 5 alternatives artists who took their love for hip-hop to the next level and bravely tried their hand at rhyming—even if they didn’t all, fully hit the mark.
Ezra Koenig (of Vampire Weekend)
ILoveMackonnen – “Down 4 So Long Remix ft. Ezra Koenig and Despot”
Considering his penchant for irreverent, highly referential lyrics that mix the personal and political, it is perhaps no surprise that Koenig was a “joke” rapper before ever starting Vampire Weekend in college. In just one verse, Koenig manages to mention a judgmental Mary-Kate Olsen, Nicolas Sarkozy, the nude-leak controversy of 2014, his love of Monaco’s tax system, and “Shmoney dancing with goth teens.” Hats off to you Ezra.
“You & Me”
Electro troubadour John O may not have the flow or lyricism of a seasoned MC—with lyrics like “Living, dying, loving, crying, trying, sighing, flying, soaring high” he sounds more like your dad singing along to Vanilla Ice than a student of the game—but it’s hard to deny the fun he’s having. Clearly a fan of hip hop, his bars in “You & Me” are as positive and endearing as you’d expect from the former lead singer of D’Urbervilles. Skip to 2:32 for the goods.
“Blues On Two Trees”
Jack White has done just about everything there is to do in music. He’s sold millions of records, collected Grammys like some people collect stamps on their Subway card, and even holds a Guinness World Record for the shortest concert of all time. So when his first foray into rap turned out to be just as awesome as his usual work, few were surprised. Channeling the creepy, and lurching sound of his late career work with White Stripes—but with a dash of old school hip hop—“Blue on Two Trees” is mandatory listening for any fan.
“Rapture” was the first #1 song in the U.S. to feature “rap” back in 1981. To put that in context, that’s before Drake or Kendrick Lamar were even born—when Kanye was in diapers and Jay-Z was still learning his ABC’s. Combining disco, funk, and hip hop with its groundbreaking rap section, it may not sound like much today, but “Rapture” is the work of a real OG.
Samuel T Herring (of Future Islands)
Hemlock Ernst – “Marble Hill ‘10”
Soulful, intelligent, and gorgeously retro: no, I’m not describing Future Islands (the band Samuel T Herring plays in as part of his day job), but his rap side project Hemlock Ernst. With a flow reminiscent of positive rappers’ Brother Ali or Tribe Called Quest, Herring might just take the title for best indie rock-rapper in the game today.
(Photo by Shawn Anderson via Flickr)