A Dorm Room Renaissance
And it continues in 2015; this onslaught of amazing, which might go down as the best year in Rap, ever. And as the year goes on, the plot thickens. The year of amazing rap has grown a lot more nuanced than we could have ever imagined it – at least holistically. While WATTBA has the streets saying “yeah, yeah” and Rodeo has brought the dirty appeal of southern synths and grandeur to the forefront, there is something brewing underneath the surface that is slowing making its way up top. Basically put, we’re going through a slight renaissance of a phenomenon that struck us going in 2010. It was the height of the contemporary college rapper; the weed-friendly, non-violent, part conscious-part funny emcee whose novelty was of the utmost importance to the first year looking to exhibit their cutting-edge musical taste. And to my knowledge this rebirth is happening once again on a similar scale. Allow us to start at the source of this whole “college rap” genre.
While groups like ATCQ, Wu-Tang, Outkast and brainy groups of the like have never left dorm rooms, it wasn’t until Asher Roth came thru and made clear that college was the shit, an idea that those usually classified as nerdy would snatch up and run with, giving the 4.0s a little more swagger to jive with at their first keggers. It was around the same when the kid named Cudi started to appeal his base of comparably lonely kids who had just left home for the first time, likely already being isolated for being in college, a place where less than half of Americans ever find themselves (only ⅓ of the nation has a bachelor’s degree). In fact Cudi comes to the rescue of students by labeling himself a “hipster” and a “kid” on his first tape. Both Cudi and Asher occupied similar spaces as the two could set off both parties and smoke sessions alike.
At the same time, it was a place, perhaps the only place, where a dude like Tyler, the Creator could ever find a base. The things an open-mind can do. Though a few years short of college upon his emergence, undergrads had a great time being contemporaries with the Eminem type rapper of the time. Unlike the other catalysts of the first college wave, Tyler hasn’t exactly fallen but in fact grown out of the whole “i’m young reckless and saying shit just to shock” role.
Today though, the dynamic is a bit different. While there is no Tyler or OddFuture to push this new dorm room tunes, 2015’s greek favorites offer some different dynamics.
Enter Lil’ Dicky, the Professional Rapper who seems to have not a serious (nor a sizable) bone in his body. The July release of his debut album has brought to all (mostly 20-somethings en route to degrees) willing to listen into a zone com-musical genius. Without a hit to rival predecessor Asher Roth’s smash, Dicky almost inarguably outdoes Asher’s “Asleep in the Bread Aisle” on his debut effort. Not only does he surpass Asher’s considerable gut-busting ability with self-deprecation, but his rapid fire flow, laced with tasteful rants, is on par with damn near any contemporary in any sub-genre of rap you can think of. He offers the mix of intellect, style, and humor that every undergrad aspires to get a good grasp on before turning the tassel. Also “Professional Rapper” is full of allusions that appeal to the benefits of getting a degree. And the Dick’s wit is fucking flawless, boosted by sports references that make you wanna dap the boy, hoping it hasn’t been too long since he JO’d. But being a male college student it probably wouldn’t have been long since one his fans JO’d either so, perhaps it’s fair.
Features on “Professional Rapper” including Snoop, T-Pain, Hannibal Burress, and Fetty Wap (da gawhd) also give students -and hell, everyone else- a reason to tune in and enjoy some of the Lil’ Dick. Wait, what?
On the other end of this new-age flow for academia, we have Kyle from Southern Cal, who’s been on quite the tear this entire year. Kyle, like Dicky, doesn’t immediately come off as the type of rapper who is going to bust out with a “Day n Nite” or a “Bastard” but instead steps in uncharted territory that is just nerdy as fuck and admirably unapologetically so, which makes his stylo much the better. In many ways, Kyle’s comfort with his cheesiness is promising for the nerd who needs to learn that staying the course is usually the best move to come into their own. With songs like “Fruit Snacks & Patron” and “Sex & Super Smash” from his first LP “Beautiful Loser”, the Ventura rapper appeals to virtually everything that “college fun” entails. Games, sex, drank? What more could you ask for? Perhaps some weed, but no underclassmen needs Kyle bragging about blunts to take bong hits during the pregame.
But his subject matter is not what immediately separates Super Duper Kyle from anything Cudi or Tyler could do. It’s his use of video game character like charisma and confidence that allows Link to traverse the world of Zelda slaying niggas without second thought. It’s hard to get through “Beautiful Loser” without getting a little nostalgic of the long nights you spent playing games with the bros. The dope thing is both Kyle and college offer just that! And in, like, a more evolved form. Think of it now… Kyllege.
On top of these two upstarts, established names like Chance the Rapper and Childish Gambino have already infiltrated campuses wielding some of the qualities mentioned, a refreshing take on rap, which has further diverged into more lanes. As of now neither of the artists have hit superstar status which begs the questions of whether the sub-genre will ever blow up to the point of massive tours and crazy radio play with other posing whether them maintaining modest fame is actually better for the youth who connect to their music on a more intimate level.
Kyle’s second, cornily-titled LP (“Smyle”) will be upon us tomorrow where collegiates and more will rejoice. We can only hope the emcee hasn’t evolved beyond the likeness of the kids who would love none other than “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” 2.0. And for those not privy to the college life or for the 9-5ers who wish to re-capture a little of the cavortic of the past, Dicky and Kyle are sure to deliver.