Staff Top 10
Top Ten Hip-Hop Gimmicks Of All-Time

rapper’s Delight” was a novelty record—Sylvia Robinson randomly cobbled three hacks into a group, and with a Chic beat and a few pages of raps by Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers, a ten-million-selling smash hit and a fad was born. Except it didn’t end up being a fad after all, but rather, a vital new music genre. But oh, the gimmicks that it spawned! Even staying within the frame of recorded music (denying us the pleasure of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Parappa The Rapper, and “my name is Barney Rubble and I’m here to say/ I like Fruity Pebbles in a major way”), some nonsensical shit, amusing and awful, has come out of hip-hop. Why keep it real when you can kiggidy keep it riggidy real like Dr. Phil?

10. “Ventriloquist Rap” by Willie Brown and Woody
“Yeah, I’m a dummy, what’s your excuse?” Recently unearthed on Stones Throw’s excellent Connecticut old school hip-hop compilation The Third Unheard, “Ventriloquist Rap” features a “Got To Be Real”/”The Breaks”-cribbed beat and lots of standard braggadocio about rolling in Sevilles and taking ladies to the motel…half of it delivered in the high-pitched voice of a dummy. How big this could have been if the Gong Show and hip-hop had ever crossed paths.

9. MC Skat Kat
“Well, you’ve never seen a kat with so much charisma / Got more moves than a mutant ninja… / Turtle, that is, and I’m doing the Skat Strut / To hell with John Travolta and the Disco Duck!” MC Skat Kat, like Nate Dogg, made his name on a guest appearance but could never quite get a solo career going, reaching a career peak on Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” unmatched by anything on The Adventures of MC Skat Kat and the Stray Mob, The Onion A.V. Club’s Least Essential Album of the 1990s. Would Gorillaz have ever existed without this brave cartoon street “kat?” Are you really going to waste time thinking about that?

8. Horrorcore
Coined as “horrorcore” upon the emergence of Def Jam’s the Flatlinerz and the supergroup Gravediggaz—which quickly became less super as Prince Paul and the RZA dropped off the follow-ups to 1994’s Six Feet Deep—rhyming about suicide and disembowelment wasn’t completely new (see Geto Boys), but had never been marketed as such. Nevertheless, horrorcore sank as quickly as Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, although disciples of Necro and his Psycho-Logical label continue to blaze the trail and the houses along the way, after chopping up the bodies and mating the baboons and buffalo.

7. The –iggity style
Das EFX’s ridiculously quick flow of pop culture plus nonsense (“the boogidy, woogidy Brooklyn boy’s about to get his digs”) style was dazzling, even if it was empty at its core. Ice Cube’s use of Das EFX on “Check Yo’ Self” and their style throughout 1992’s The Predator, not so dazzling. Das EFX wannabes like Fu-Schnickens and Lords of the Underground (and to a much lesser extent, Kris Kross), not so much anything. Das EFX themselves even tired of rhyming iggidy with wiggidy, they dropped the style on 1993’s Straight Up Sewaside. The album went aluminum, and the iggity reappeared on their comeback record.

6. Singers Who Should NOT Be Singing
If Biz Markie on “Just A Friend” was the end-all and be-all of this gimmick, it would have never made the list. Then, there was Biggie and Puff Daddy on “Playa Hater”. And Eminem on “Hailie’s Song”. And the career of Ja Rule. Mos Def and Lauryn Hill can sing all they want, but other emcees must at least consider the words of Prince: “The rapper’s problem usually stems from being tone deaf / Pack the house, then try 2 sing / There won’t be no one left”.

5. “Featuring” (Sampled Artist Here)
Is the “Kashmir” beat-jacking “Come With Me” by Puff Daddy more artistically credible because it “features” a sleepwalking Jimmy Page? Was Kool Moe Dee asked to appear on Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West”. or did he just have nothing else to do? The trend is silly, but it did bring us one of the sweetest phrases ever said: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony featuring Phil Collins.

4. The Fat Boys
“We’re fat, we’re fat, we can never be wack?” I disagree. Novelty career concept (hey, they ARE fat!), novelty remakes of “The Twist” and “Wipe Out”, and one horrendous film, Disorderlies, that ranks among the worst things shown ad nauseum on BET, makes for nothing but a gimmick. When Darren “The Human Beat Box” Robinson died of a heart attack in 1995, it is safe to say “All U Can Eat” would never seem funny again.

3. Rap-Metal
Yep. All of it.

2. The Athlete Turned Emcee
The suspension of the Indiana Pacers’ Ron Artest due to exhaustion caused from working on his rap album would be funny on its own. However, taken along with the ignoble rap careers of Shaquille O’Neal, Roy Jones Jr., Allen Iverson, Ken Griffey Jr., Kobe Bryant, the WWF’s John Cena, as well as the compilation B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret, the Artest episode is just the latest tragicomic chapter in a story started with “The Super Bowl Shuffle”. Skillz summarized this sad trend perfectly on his Shaq takedown “99 Free Throws”: “Not a rapping ball player in the sense he could rap / Well, actually, none of them are really good at that.”

1. The Skit
When Prince Paul and De La Soul created the skit on Three Feet High And Rising, it was funny, and the self-mocking skits on De La Soul Is Dead (“this shiz-nit is kinda wid-dack!”) are brilliant. But when “Intro” and “Outro” became vital parts of every rap album and seventy-minute albums suddenly had 20+ tracks, the skit, though not dead (see White People by Handsome Boy Modeling School), had lost its reason for being. Number of skits on De La Soul’s newest, The Grind Date: Zero.

Honorable Mention: MC Paul Barman; Use of Movie Dialogue, Kung-Fu or Other; Child Rappers (Kris Kross, Another Bad Creation, Illegal); MC Miker G and DJ Sven.

By: Josh Drimmer
Published on: 2004-11-19
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