Rye Rye, Azealia Banks, Brianna Perry, and Angel Haze each have a shot at hip-hop stardom for a simple reason: They sound distinctive.
"I'm a hood girl doing white girl shit," announces Baltimore rapper Rye Rye on the leadoff track to her just-released debut album Go! Pop! Bang!, a claim that can be taken in several ways. First and foremost, it's the standard hip-hop boast of overcoming low-income origins: She's using "white" as a synonym for "middle-class," as in the NPR-mocking blog Stuff White People Like or the Twitter hashtag #whitepeopleproblems. Demographically speaking, it's a wildly inaccurate usage (plenty of middle-class people aren't white, and plenty of white people are poor), but it's also immediately comprehensible.
But "white girl shit" is also a nod in the direction of the fact that a significant portion of Rye Rye's following is made up of, well, "white" girls: educated, middle-class, professional (often in the media industry) women in their 20s and 30s, who were attracted to her day-glo fashion sense, her smart pop feminism, and her collaborations with indie-friendly pop auteurs like M.I.A. and Robyn. For example, chatty post-collegiate women's blog The Hairpin has featured Rye Rye's videos far more frequently than WorldStarHipHop.com, the Drudge Report of hip-hop, ever has. The clip for "Hardcore Girls" was widely praised on feminist blogs for its depiction of women of widely varying ages, races, sizes, and gender presentations, all looking undeniably cool.