'Weird Al' Yankovic Is a Great Rapper

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When historians write the list of great rappers, whose names will be among them? Rakim, surely. Big L. Jay-Z, if only for "Regrets." And what about Alfred Matthew Yankovic? What about this weirdest of Als, best known for playing the accordion and signing parody songs about Star Wars, game shows, and being really fat? What about him?

Yankovic may not seem like the likeliest hip-hop hero, but he's got a champion in Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club. In a recent post about the Now That's What I Call Music! series, Rabin, who writes often about hip-hop, detoured into an unexpected appreciation of the parodist:

[Yankovic] is of course better known for "White & Nerdy," his smash hit parody of Chamillionaire and Layzie Krayzie Bone's "Ridin'." "White & Nerdy" represents one of the few times in Yankovic's career where his parody is more popular and better known then the song that inspired it, and for good reason. (Full disclosure: I'm working on a book project with "Weird Al," my childhood hero, but would have nothing but nice things to write about him even if I weren't.)

Yankovic is extremely underrated as a rapper: He's adept at recreating the flows of the rappers he spoofs. That's no small accomplishment when it comes to spoofing someone like Chamillionaire, who spits his rhymes in the rapid-fire, machine-gun singsong style popularized by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. On "White & Nerdy," Yankovic delivers a torrent of smart, dead-on geek references while remaining crystal-clear and delivering his punchlines with crack timing. It's a high-wire act Yankovic pulls off beautifully in a song that would go on to become the most popular single of his three-decade-long career.

Here's the Weird Al song Rabin is talking about, and the original version by Chamillionaire. Rabin doesn't reach into Yankovic's back catalog, but he'd find ample evidence there to support his claims: Amish Paradise (after Coolio, 17 ); It's All About the Pentiums (after Diddy, then Puff Daddy, 17 ); and even I Can't Watch This (after MC Hammer, natch). And then there's the breakdown on Hardware Store, which defies everything science knows about lung capacity:

Note: the guy in this video is not Yankovic, though he's obviously a student of the Tao of Al.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.