Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop

Written by Aaron. Posted in Culture

Published on June 13, 2011 with 13 Comments


Imagine a white kid from suburban America. His family is well-off, and he never goes without the necessities of life; food, clothing, shelter. In addition, he enjoys luxuries that much of the world doesn’t; access to transportation, a college education, and the fruits of modern technology.

On the surface, this kid may seem to have nothing to do with hip-hop culture. Hip-hop, after all, was born from the fires of the South Bronx by black and Latino youths looking for something fun to do. Nearly four decades later, hip-hop culture has gone global for many reasons; its accessibility in modern times, its infectious sound, and its strong desire to be heard. But there is one reason for its wildfire-like spread that super cedes them all; hip-hop is about the people.

Who are the people? This question is not as complicated as it may seem. The people are those who keep the wheels turning in this world. They are the ones who want their voices to be heard, to have a part in changing society for the better. In short, hip-hop is the culture of the underdog. (Whether or not the music is still for the underdog is a different subject; one that I will not delve into at this time for relevance’s sake.)

Back to that white kid. How is he the underdog? His economic status in this world is more than favorable, and he seems to have opportunity laid out right in front of him. However, there is more than one way to be an underdog. Social misfits and loners who may be from a broken home or may deal with some other unseen difficulty have long since found solace in hip-hop culture and music. Think about it: a kid may hear pop/dance/love songs on the radio all the time. Not only can he not relate to the lyrics, but he can’t even relate to the themes or feelings of that music. That kid may turn to “emo” rock. He may turn to hip-hop. If he turns toward the latter, he won’t be able to relate to the tales of urban America. However, he will be able to relate to the some of the themes and feelings of the music; hope for better days, desperation, continued pushing in the face of adversity, internal/external awareness, etc.

The problem with the image of white kids who love hip-hop comes from the poor image people have of hip-hop itself. Networks such as BET and MTV exist to make money, and they show what the mainstream culture enjoys. However, in doing so, said networks are giving the rest of the public a false image of what hip-hop really is. In fact, BET once blocked the showing of Little Brother’s “Lovin’ It” citing the song as “too intelligent” for BET. This notion, aside from being ridiculous, creates an assumption that hip-hop is all about blunts, broads, cars, and guns. In reality, there are so many different kinds of hip-hop. The white kid above is just one example. There may be a girl out there with political aspirations who receives inspiration from Black Star or Public Enemy. There may be a kid who is crazy about his girlfriend and listens to LL Cool J. The themes of hip-hop are not limited to struggle or hard times.

Hip-hop is universal. It seems that emcees realize this more than critics of the culture do. It’s time we all start realizing what hip-hop is, and what it can do. Labeling any kind of people “posers” for enjoying a genre of music limits what that genre can do for the world. Hip-hop is not some collection of silly dance crazes: it is representative of the world. We need hip-hop as much as hip-hop needs us. As Eminem once put it: “That’s why we sing for these kids who don’t have a thing/except for a dream and a fuckin’ rap magazine/who post pin-up pictures on they walls all day long/idolize they favorite rappers and know all they songs/or for anyone who’s ever been through shit in they lives/so they sit and they cry at night, wishing they’d die/so they throw on a rap record, and they sit and they vibe/ we’re nothing to you, but we’re the fuckin’ shit in they eyes!”



Aaron, by day, is a broke-college student and a journalism major with a deep passion for hip-hop culture and music. He hails from Erie, PA and loves all things Pittsburgh and the Sixers. By night, Aaron is the most-feared superhero prowling the streets, looking to apply justice wherever he sees fit. (Note: it is rumored that when Chuck Norris goes to bed at night, he checks his closet for Aaron)

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There are currently 13 Comments on Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. “There may be a girl out there with political aspirations who receives inspiration from Black Star or Public Enemy.”
    I’m pleased to inform that I know one such white girl, and went with her to Black Star’s concert in London last month. Hip-hop is all powerful!

  2. Unfortunately, the many white kids I know do not like hip hop for the above reasons. It’s the “cool” thing. It’s pitiful how hard these wealthy privileged kids try to force themselves into a culture they are not knowledgeable about. They also do not have the (in my opinion) proper mindset about all of hip hop. They are more narrowed into the mainstream songs and for those few who want to be extra call, the occasional Illmatic song to brag to their friends. Maybe it’s just my years of discontent and loathing for these kids who have ruined half of Biggie’s songs for me, but this is just my opinion.

    • *extra cool

      • On the real tho, I’ve been at parties, where the white kids didn’t know any biggie lyrics, but when he’s like, “I been robbin ni@@as since the slave ships” they all yell it out, so I think they can really relate you know…but generally its about being endowed with strength and everyone feels love and pain its all relative and to different degrees

        • I’ve been at parties where the black people didn’t know any Biggie lyrics either.

    • A lot of people aligning themselves with what’s “cool,” isn’t that the case with any popular genre, regardless of colour? The point is that not ALL white kids automatically are ‘posers’, that’s a overly simplistic generalization. Besides, if some kid gets into rap because it’s the cool thing he hears everybody going on about, his/her love could possibly grow into a genuine appreciation. It’s not like you can know everything of the bat, you have to start somewhere.

  3. So people are only allowed to want things for the world which directly affect them? I’m a pretty well off white teenager from London, and I know more about hip-hop in general and certainly conscious rap than anybody else I’ve met, black or white. I went to a protest about the rise in university fees, not because I was worried that I wasn’t going to get the chance to go, but because I was worried that other people in worse off situations weren’t going to get the chance.
    And if a black person who did not have a very good growing up listens to opera and reads books aimed at well off people, is that them trying to “force themselves into a culture they are not knowledgeable about”? There’s plenty of black people who listen to hip-hop because it’s “cool”, and there’s plenty of white kids who listen to it because of the same reasons that the black “underdog” does, and that kind of sterotyping  is just as racist as some of the things white people think about blacks.

  4. Great article. 

    I explored this topic recently as well on Word is Bond – http://www.thewordisbond.com/archives/21888

    I think hip-hop is universal but so many people outside of the culture, and a few inside of it, still think it terms of skin colour or race. And that is a shame. 

    Music is music and hip-hop is beautiful. It’s time we recognize and celebrate that!

  5. Some of the dumbest shit I’ve read all year, which represents a serious accomplishment. This was epic in it’s banality.

    • Care to explain?

  6. 1. black people live in the suburbs and have it easy too, and also get into hip-hop in the same way for the same reasons.
    2. big sigh….. *hits cross in the upper right corner*

    • “Imagine a white kid from suburban America.”

      Right there, the first sentence. It’s talking abbout a hypothetical situation, not a race of people. The piece is trying to explain why this hypothetical white kid CAN have a genuine love for rap, in spite of still too oftenly expressed preconceived notions by others. It’s a response to those (wrongful) notions, certainly not a confirmation of them. Why you seem to read it like that is unclear to me.

      • Going back to this post a year later, I’m glad I wrote it. I realize some people will always look at me as a “poser” for my genuine love for hip-hop, but I don’t care. I love what I love.

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