There's No Right Way to White-Splain Rap Music

Cole Alexander of The Black Lips spoke out against Lorde's "Royals" today to defend, in his words, "ghetto and ratchet sounding" rap music performed by people from "ratchet-ass ’hoods." It gets worse. 

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Cole Alexander of The Black Lips spoke out against Lorde's "Royals" on Tuesday to defend, in his words, "ghetto and ratchet sounding" rap music performed by people from "ratchet-ass ’hoods." It gets worse. The AV Club asked Alexander to talk about his hatesong — the song he hates the most — which gave him a chance to talk about how racially problematic he found Lorde's problematic song. Alexander manages to find a new way to white-splain rap music. While Lorde's song implies that chasing gold teeth and Maybachs reveals the empty materialism of rap music, Alexander argues that that materialism is what makes rap music great — it's the smart stuff he finds boring. Both have the same narrow, one dimensional view of rap culture, they just value it differently.

The problem with "Royals," according to Alexander, is that it puts down poor black people in ghettos who want material goods. "I feel like they come from worse parts and they aspire to get Maybachs and diamonds because they come from ratchet-ass ’hoods where they have no hope," he said. "I think it’s a bit righteous of her." That's a criticism Lorde is familiar with. As Spin argued in November, the problem with "Royals" was that it marked "the second time this year that a white pop song has appeared on hip-hop radio while framing its anti-materialism message around a critique of hip-hop signifiers." The other song was "Thrift Shop."

We'd stop short of calling her a racist, but she's definitely limited in her understanding and appreciation of the various strains of rap music out there. During an interview with New York magazine last June, she said "I’ve always listened to a lot of rap. It’s all, look at this car that cost me so much money, look at this Champagne," proving that she does not, in fact, listen to a lot of rap. In November she again argued she listens to a lot of rap "like Nicki Minaj and Drake... They all sing about such opulence, stuff that just didn't relate to me — or anyone that I knew." No one cares if "No New Friends" doesn't relate to Lorde's experience in the New Zealand suburbs, but, more importantly, her comments show that her idea of rap is as limited as it is dismissive.

Alexander's view is equally limited. The only thing he agrees with Lorde on is that Drake sucks. Lorde thinks he's "irrelevant," but Alexander thinks you can tell he didn't grow up in a ratchet ghetto based on his voice. "He didn’t have that pain in his voice, but it’s a subtle nuance," Alexander said. Other than that, he loves everything Lorde is criticizing, and he thinks rap music should be a dramatic show of anger and violence:

I like my rappers more ghetto and ratchet sounding. Personally, I like more melodramatic, ignorant rap where they’re talking about violence and anger and it’s just evil. I don’t like when it’s too conscious, I don’t like it when it’s too smart. To me, it’s just like a gangster movie. In a gangster movie, you don’t want to see polite guys; you want to see them do horrible shit. 

He thinks good rap music is ignorant, not smart. It's ghetto and ratchet, not conscious. It's "evil" guys doing "horrible shit." Whereas you can give Lorde the benefit of the doubt, everything about Alexander's thoughts on rap music is racist. More importantly, it's further proof that good intentions don't always lead to enlightened comments. It's absolutely possible to say ignorant, horrible shit, even when you're trying give a compliment.

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