The trouble with backpack rap

Yesterday one of my colleagues here at XXL suggested that I think backpack rap is boring because backpack rappers tend to complain a lot. In actuality, I don’t have a problem with backpack rap. The subgenre—like any other in hip-hop—contains a wide spectrum of material, from the hot, to the fairly decent, to the wackest garbage conceivable. I can’t stand flat-toned rappers spitting impossibly abstract rhymes over dark, predictable basement beats, for instance. But I’m certainly not mad at records with cutting-edge concepts, innovative soundscapes, and thought-provoking lyrics.

My problem is not with backpack rappers. My problem is with hardcore backpack rap fans.

Those dudes kill me. They have to be the most self-righteous Stans under the sun. Let me run down the profile.

You can find these hotheads in the record store copping a holier-than-thou attitude, spitting obscure hip-hop trivia with an almost religious fervor. They are the ones you see in the back of the club, glaring when the DJ drops a 50 joint.

These knuckle-shufflers harbor an obscene amount of nostalgia for a golden era that they were never a part of, and a baffling level of resentment for all that is gangsta and/or flashy and fly. They despise the music industry, without ever having had any contact with it. They romanticize poverty, worship political rappers (who, truth be told, often don’t want these guys as fans in the first place), and demonize any artist that doesn’t fit into their rigid definition of “real hip-hop.” They deliberately ignore anything that calls their limited conception of “real hip-hop” into question. (The Jay-Z/dead prez collabo “Hell Yeah,” for example.) They have little interest in dialogue. More often than not, they are very young, suburban white dudes.

Adam Mansbach nailed it in his novel Angry Black White Boy:

“How, Macon wondered as he cut a path toward the small stage at the back of the club, had the backpack rap set gotten so self-righteous so quickly? These kids were as dogmatic as the bitterest old-school has-beens, oozing with keep-it-realness and wistful reminiscences of a misimagined past in which hip-hop hadn’t been shackled to capitalism. The backpackers scorned commercial success and radio airplay—corrupting the culture, yo—but spent all their money on niche-marketed hip-hop accoutrements, from breakdance videos to old-school Pumas. They ordered water at the bar, not for fear of being carded or out of desire to stay sharp-witted for the freestyle ciphers to come, but because their giddily professed pennilessness nudged them closer to the underground rappers they admired—rappers who for the most part would have traded all the adolescent-male dick-riding for a major-label advance check and used the money to move out of the projects.”

I used to get a lot of letters from backpackers. No matter how many articles I did on Lyrics Born or Mos Def or Talib Kweli or J5, whenever I wrote on Jay-Z, the Backpack Brigade would inundate me with outraged mail. One dude fumed that Jay was the height of superficiality and that I was wasting media space on money-hoes-and-clothes rap. (Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?) Another guy called Xzibit an “ass-kissing establishment man” after I reviewed one of his releases, characterizing X and radio rap in general as “vacuous self-aggrandizement, misogyny, and status-peddling.”

What’s unsettling about the backpack boys is that their critique of mainstream hip-hop doesn’t actually fall too far from hipster’s ironic interest in crunk. Both feel free to mock elements of black culture. Both are certain of their own aesthetic and/or intellectual superiority. Both can’t manage to see the humanity of those outside their own narrow worldview.

So yeah, give me Zion I’s Deep Water Slang any day of the week. But keep those Zion I fans far, far away from me.

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  • The ON1E

    you’re a bitch

  • The ON1E

    why you talking about black when you canadian?

  • soulrise

    this might be the greatest summary of backpackers that i’ve ever read in my entire life!!

  • P-Matik

    Wow, I didn’t know there was a country called Black…

  • gluvnast

    smh@ on1e

    so there’s no black people in canada…LMAOOOOOOOO whut an idiot!

    hey props for this blog…and for the most part it is true…

    like a former backpack allum turned mega-superstar once said:

    The underground just spunned around and did a 360
    Now these kids diss me and act like some big sissies
    “Oh, he just did some shit with Missy,
    so now he thinks he’s too big to do some shit with MC Get-Bizzy”

  • lee

    Yo you speak the truth i don’t read your blog as much as i should but you have some realy good points. thank you for somthing other than the reguler blog.

  • P-Matik

    I used to say around the late 90′s, that if it wasn’t for the internet that these kids probably wouldn’t exist.

    The internet (and increased media attention on hiphop) gave the super-suburbian backpackers a way to “learn” about hiphop without having to interact with it’s originators. Now they know everything and act all elitist.

    We called them “culture bandits” because they will rock the gear, talk slang, and shoot for affirmation but then when they get older, they can revert back to their surburban ways and probably will end up voting republican in the future. Perfect example are those Anticon d-bags.

    Some cats are cool but they are few and far between.

    • Trego J

      You can’t know everything about hip hop unless you experience it. I’m a backpacker (big backpack fan) and a back pack rapper. But I respect Wayne, Drizzy, Jay, Yeezy and everyone like them excuses a few. I hate those bad fans too.

      P.S. Waka Flocka is still garbage!!!

  • troy

    AWWWWWWW I love it… the funniest part is that most the backpack rap fans reading this don’t or won’t even know that you are talking about them. Most of them don’t wear backpacks anymore…. but you sure do give a lot of indicators in there… as for me, I love the collabo between dp and jigga… as well as jigga and linkin park… shit all of jigga’s latest joints for that matter… but I am also a dp fan to the bone…. i hate the industry, love the culture, hate the system, organize for change… and if i got a backpack on, its cuz my uzi weighs a ton!

  • gluvnast

    yea…alot of these so-called purists is that they never truely EXPERIENCED the eras that they think they know so much about…

    alot of these 80′s babies grew up on hiphop when the mid-90′s and assume that’s “real hiphop”

    speak on them about anything prior to ’94 they won’t have a clue…

    one day i posted a quotable from melle mel from his song called “1984″ which was REAL ahead of its time…it tripped me out that half of them didn’t even KNOW who melle mel was…

  • Shone Jones

    Good Read

  • Black London………..

    Dear Ms. Henley

    I dont usually read your blogs, so when I started to read the 1st set of posts, replying to this blog, I thought you had written so sh!t about black people etc. So I decided to read what you had written, and my VERDIT THIS WAS A:

    Very Good Read………

    You make a lot of good points Tara, id like to add one thing.

    Most if not all of these “..self-righteous…holier-than-thou…very young suburban white…knuckle-shufflers..” get PISSED when its mentioned that Hip-Hop is…Derived from Black culture.”

    But like stated above they’re the SAME ONES that “feel free to mock elements of black culture”.

    Very good post Ms. Henley…..

  • mod

    Marry me.

  • Mikey Ess AKA SukedowN

    Very true, but perhaps a little overstated and harsh.

    After all-in the end, packers have feelings too.

  • DocZeus

    So essentially what are you saying is that you are annoyed with white people who like rap music? Either, they are “racist” hipsters who are only capable of liking crunk or crack rap ironically or “self righteous AND racist” surbanites who only appreciate backpack rap because it mocks modern youth black culture say “gangsterism” as if rapping about politics somehow makes you less black.

  • Philly Black

    This blog is on the money like a muthaphucka! It’s very accurate in my opinion….

  • Adam22

    yes, that is exactly what she is saying you dumb, dumb man.

  • randomhater

    Nail on the head. Another thing that sucks about backpacking stans is that they ruin it for us normal backpacking fans. Which is to say that I can’t tell too many people that I like El-P’s production without them thinking I’m another narrow-minded, self-righteous, hyphenated-adjective, delusional hater of all things green. Hell, I usually gotta sneak the El-P thing in in-between talks of the new trinity of rap and news of a sequel to “Belly.” We’re not all self-righteous, some of us just like weird-ass shit sometimes.

  • Mike G

    Backpack rap is very non-confrontational….perfect for white folk

  • thoreauly77

    man, i hate rap. why am i even here. i should be at gawd, i am so stupid, i think that backpack must have been squeezing my brain too tight.

  • J. Lamb

    Ms. Henley, I salute you. You’ve distilled in a few short paragraphs the trouble not only with backpacker rap fans, but all intense rap fans – their inability to allow laissez faire market forces to dictate rap popularity without taking personal offense. There is no rap “golden era” where uplifting rap lyrics changed America, unless one references the First Amendment challenges of 2 Live Crew – hardly Pulitzer material from the so-called “Black CNN”.

    It’s obvious that most mainstream rap involves materialist misogyny laden with dehumanizing African American stereotypes, yet backpacker rap offers no general alternative to the money, hoes & clothes routine the Sean Carter school of hip hop lyricism offers American youth.

    On the contrary – Mos Def and Talib Kweli are just as likely as Nelly or 50 Cent to produce procreation records that devolve the African American female to livestock in heat, as long as major label marketing and radio playable single production are offered by their music labels.

    Rap music is not a revolutionary tool. Again, Ms. Henley, great post.

  • Football Hooligan

    Mike G

    Yeah us whiteboys hate confrontation dont we you mug cunt?

  • gluvnast

    just waiting until lupe fiasco to blow up and see how the backpacker fans turn on him….

    “he’s mainstream now…fuck him!”

  • freddiejackson

    DocZeus Says:’So essentially what are you saying is that you are annoyed with white people who like rap music? Either, they are “racist” hipsters who are only capable of liking crunk or crack rap ironically or “self righteous AND racist” surbanites who only appreciate backpack rap because it mocks modern youth black culture say “gangsterism” as if rapping about politics somehow makes you less black.”

    yeah, tara is basically saying only she knows how to appreciate real hip hop without being a hipster or a purist corny suburbanite. i dont disagree that the purists are blinkered to a parodic degree but what humanity is there to talk about in jay-z and lil waynes lyrics that is convincing? explain me that one please tara. im not saying theyre as one dimensional as the backpack stans make out but you make it look like theyre being hard done by. as fucking if. its funny how the backpackers get dissed, while the millions of other white suburbanite teens who arent hipsters or purists but get off vicariously on the easy to swallow version of black ghetto life as peddled by wayne, jigga, et fucking al, come in for NO slamming whatsoever. weird.

    tara also seems to be into the whole ‘you cant say anything about rappers or hip hop or youre hating’, its like no one is allowed to have an opinion on jigga or jeezy or whoever or their bias/racism whatever shows through. when theres a ton of black fans saying the same shit. obviously things are different if youre white, and the reasons may well be different, but taras basically saying that white fans cant say anything about black culture (in this case: rap). im all for respect for black culture but mocking pop stars (which is what jeezy and co ARE) is alright with me, sorry tara

  • skdamc

    Damn the advent of the internet. This blog is so on point, it’s ridiculous. These “backpackers” recite from rote memory about experiences they didn’t have, songs they haven’t heard, and people they’ve never seen. As a first generation Hip-Hop head, I have come across folks like this who relish dropping obscure information in a “gotcha” sorta way. Plus the internet has made information MUCH more accessable, so these cats back up their claims with “cyber-facts”(I should trade mark that phrase) My position is if you’ve never seen T-LaRock spit live,know that Melle Mel’s critical verse from “The Message” was FIRST dropped on “Super Rappin’” or that sampling didn’t start with Preemo, you can’t tell me shit. I don’t wanna be lumped in with the “backpacker-nazis” because I like the dispel myths by speaking from experience. My point is that there is a wide divide between “hard core backpackers” and Hip-Hop Historians. I consider myself the latter.

  • bhillboy

    im 34. im all grown up. but i remember in college how these 2 backpacker fools (black guys) were upset b/c VIBE had MASTER P AND NO LIMIT ON THE COVER. they couldn’t understand why COMPANY FLOW couldn’t get this much recognition. i told them very simply that NOBODY REALLY LIKES COMPANY FLOW. they protested saying that they ‘liked company flow’ I said “Exactly, Y’ALL NOBODIES.”

  • P-Matik

    Co Flow was dope though.

  • qwtrqtwy

    you’re a white, canadian, female.

    i think you’re intentionally just trying to distince yourself from where you stand in hip-hop’s fanbase.


    i like mos, talib, lupe etc…but i cant stand people who only listen to that and claim to be the keepers of true hip hop. hip hop is about diversity.

  • lava

    big up tara! it’s the truth and nothing but the truth!

  • suckitmarshall

    Anyone who quotes Adam Mansbach obviously knows what’s really really good.

  • elephant nutz

    Rappers who rap about rapping most of the time are boring unimaginative fucks. Thats what sucks about most of this “backpack” shit. Plus these fucks dont really have much personality. Certain shit is dope in the cipher, but it makes for wack ass records. We need that ignorant, mysoginistic, materialistic rap because that reflects our mindstate- Fucked up! That being said I like that obscure, subterranean, dirty, filthy, nasty, sounds-like-i-made-it-in-my-bedroom closet shit. As long as it has presence, skill and substance. As far as the fans, they know not to talk that elitist shit around me cuz if we break the shit down line 4 line, their heroes probably aint really saying shit either.

  • balkanite

    “you’re a white, canadian, female.

    i think you’re intentionally just trying to distince yourself from where you stand in hip-hop’s fanbase. ”

    haha, so true. pseudo-intellectuals trying to be something they’re not. i don’t know what’s wrong with these fuckin’ cakers man. people like this probably started off as whiny backpackers themselves after hearing eminem on the radio, but now they’ve stepped their game up and write columns ON THE INTERNET about backpackers. haha…

  • khal

    backpack rap fans run the internets. don’t talk about anything major label on the internet around backpackers… they will throw the 90s down your throat.

  • Mikey Ess AKA SukedowN



    The Backpack Hater Bandwagon has now reached full capacity.

    Please re-enter at the back of the line for either the Jeezy/Juelz Life Partners in Crime Stanclub or the Salty Old Folks Tavern.



  • D Money

    Anyone who is a self proclaimed hiphoper,or what have you,will tell you that Tara is on point with this post.What the fuck is real hip hop,if it isn’t a collage of the minority experience as begun in the South Bronx.(party music”Planet Rock”,Rappers Delight),(social commentary”The Message”,”White Lines”)to the other boroughs,(rock-rap”Run DMC,”braggadocio,”I’m Bad”,fly rap”Top Billin”)all the to Philly reality rap(Schoolly D)to L.A.,Compton,(Ice T,N.W.A)Oakland mack rap,(Too Short)oh lest I forget,back to Queens comedic narratives(Slick Rick,Dana Dane)to protest rap(PE)to the South,booty music(2 Live Crew),intropective psycho-realism(Geto Boys).

    The list above is a brief sampler of hip hop’s diverse catalouge.In my opinion,all of the above is real hip hop,because these artists made music in their cultural context.Some cats hustlers,pimps,casanovas,Malcolm X figures,Hugh Hefners,Richord Pryors,poetic Shakespears,gangsters,or mere people tryin to make it.

    I say this to make one point:
    whether you tote crackpacks or backpacks/if the music is garbage black,then fall back/and take off that musty ass fitted cap/its a wrap/its a fact/half these cats can really act/with that/make your to Broadway if you can’t rap/

  • mighty d/r

    hiphop is not only rap you dumbfucks so all you wanna be hiphop historians and purists and muthafuckas putting labels on shit don’t forget the elements and their history …d.j.’s b-boys graffiti heads and emcees …it’s wackshit and cool shit in every genre of rap but not many truly tight or should i say great lyricist….fuck the industry hiphop exist with or with out babylon

  • mighty d/r

    by the way what the fuck is backrap///really so pretty much anything sounding native tungish or like the wu or like freestyle fellowship or even nas is backpack…get the fuck outta here if anything you need to blog about this hip pop (or as i call it r&b rap & bullshit)shit destroying the minds of the youth pumping they brain with this fake ass tony montana shit and how nobody sets trends anymore and how the industry gives cats the formula you must make a club track a girl song to get exposure emcees need to start being performing artist and not confroming artist and to the cat who said some shit about fools rapping about how ill they rap makes wack songs i guess to you rapping about laffy taffy and being the snowman is raw and bdk/rakim/guru/krs etc..was weak i guess aint no half steppin and raw/microphone fiend aint classics dumbfux///stop putting muthafuckas in a box we all human dumbfux and one more thing co flow was ill//they represented all elements damn near except breaking i.e ill d.j. both graff writers and dope conceptual emcees…put that in ya pipe and smoke it fuck’n cockroaches

  • k_orr

    “Both feel free to mock elements of black culture. Both are certain of their own aesthetic and/or intellectual superiority. Both can’t manage to see the humanity of those outside their own narrow worldview”
    This whole diatribe is intellectually dishonest. You’re using codewords for white folks. You should own up to it.

    There are plenty of blogs/posts/websites devoted to hating on backpackers – but the truth is the sentiment is anti-white.

    Plenty of blacks and latino underground hip hop fans see Jay Z and all that he represents, and still do not like it.

    You make it sound as if the argument against the rampant commercialism of rap music since 1992 is null and void.

    In essence, you don’t get it. You don’t have a real counterargument against their points, because you’re trying to tiptoe around the racial issue.

    Be honest with yourself.


  • gees dat dude

    your shit was on point until until you said the white guy shit most back packe rs i know are black they little funny style niggas you described but they’re more often than not corny ass black dudes who hate the fact that they have no style. i compare to the white kids who haten evert thing that come on mtv, they can love an artist but soon as they every body else start to like em they flip the script like that pale bitch from real world.

  • 2chéLupe

    >>One dude fumed that Jay was the height of superficiality and that I was wasting media space on money-hoes-and-clothes rap. (Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?)

    –i luv that quote

  • lone1

    Damn…good blog…I would consider myself a backpacker of sorts…but not that damn bad…saw speckles of the truth in that joint though…but I’d rather bump Canibal Ox than Jay-Z anyday…although Jay makes good albums (or made for that matter)…all of his tracks are more or less of the same subject matter…where as if I bump Canibal Ox because these “flat-toned rappers spitting impossibly abstract rhymes over dark, predictable basement beats” are pretty damn talented…

    Good blog nontheless.

  • Tray

    Tara’s clearly a very intelligent woman.

  • freddiejackson

    tara has self hate issues. shes one of these people who thinks only SHE can ‘get it’ about hip hop, and when all these other lame white rap fans/hipsters/backpackers/whatever are into it, they are obviously not really understanding it, or are just bandwagon jumpers or closet racists. only tara knows whats up. she knows how to appreciate rap and black culture properly – everyone else doesnt.

    im still waiting for her to just come clean and make a blog entry saying that white fans arent allowed to have an opinion about hip hop unless its complimentary, blindly fanboyish or simply racist/reductive/backpackerish (confirming her observations of course)

  • freddiejackson

    K_ORR said: “Plenty of blacks and latino underground hip hop fans see Jay Z and all that he represents, and still do not like it.”

    ^^^the truth.

  • Sarutama

    I’m black, damn near 30 (in about a month) and I have this to say:

    1) Crunk is awful, step-and-fetchit music for the 00′s. If this was 70 years ago Lil-Jon would be wearing blackface.

    2)If the fact that I would rather listen to Boots riley say:

    Death to the pigs is my basic statement
    I spit street stories ’til I taste the pavement
    Tryin’ to stay out the pen while we face enslavement
    Had a foolproof hustle ’til they traced the payments
    I was grippin’ my palm around some shitty rum
    Tryin’ to find psalm number 151
    To forget what I’m owed, as I clutch the commode
    Alright, put down the bottle and come get the gun

    then I would listen to Lil wayne say:

    You do better gettin yo ass off up in that coupe bitch
    Sit yo ass on that new leather and regroup bitch
    It’s only me you bitch, on our way to tha stoop
    I’m the Birdman Jr., you ain’t know
    And don’t gimme that silly bullshit about you ain’t, hoe

    makes me a “backpack stan” then so fucking be it.

  • Danja29

    Tara, you done hit it dead on the fukkin’ head.

    In fact, everything I used to think I hated about hip-hop was usually rooted in the behavior of the dick-eating fans moreso than the music itself. This is most apparent in “backpack” music. I love the part about the way they feel obligated to “school” everyone on an era they weren’t even a part of. As a person who DID grow up listening to hip-hop in the early-’90s, I tend to find their delusional “everything from that era was classic and pure” rants laughable at best. I have videos, tapes, and memory to prove it was far from what they probly think it was. But they would hear nothin’ of it anyway, so why even engage in the debate?

    And then if it ain’t that, it’s the blatant HATE for anything that travels further than their box. Even artists who they SWORE deserved
    “props”, become “the enemy” as soon as said “props” are given. To co-sign another comment above, I can’t wait to see the Lupe backlash- because you know it’s coming. It’s really sad for me, a former open-minded backpacker, to see the shit for what it is. It’s a bunch of kids whose musical scope isn’t really as good as they’d like you to believe it is, trying to dictate what “real hip-hop” is or isn’t- shit’s disgusting.

    Funniest thing is- more often than not, so-called “commercial rappers” are why most of them even started listenin’ to hip-hop in the first place. But they wouldn’t tell YOU that.

  • Danja29

    Oh, and LMAO @ the feelings bein’ caught. Emotions are runnin’ high out this bitch…

  • Anthony Obi

    Real talk.
    Thank you.

  • hahaha

    lot of self hating backpackers in this bitch posting comments here i see.

    tara, you are still hot though.

  • Darryl Williams

    Very true post Tara.

    Even underground rap isn’t free of the materialism that backpackers claim mainstream rap propagates…
    Materialism dosen’t make or break a record. Nas’s whole career is an example of backpacking taken to far.
    Nas’s debut Illmatic received infamous praise from backpackers; his subsequent efforts, such as It Was Written and I Am… have often been labelled as overly commercial by those same backpackers. His skillz were never in declinement, they just found that he was getting to commercial.
    Fort Minor on the other hand, raps about “thought-provoking stuff”, but they have no actual rapping skill whatsoever.

    Unlike other music genres, Rap isn’t “What you rap about”, but it’s “How you rap”

    The biggest thing I have against backpackers, is there refusal to acknowledge that Rap is black music.

  • Darryl Williams

    Another thing to note about white backpackers: The majority dress/act/talk like there black, and then they complain about the fakeness of Hip-Hop.

  • Sheer

    i hate the industry, love the culture, hate the system, organize for change… and if i got a backpack on, its cuz my uzi weighs a ton!

    quote of the day

  • DJ Cary

    Question of the day-What’s more boring and played out, backpack rap, or the banal discussion of race and hip hop?

    Backpackers hate Jay Z because they’ll never be him, and they’d all sell their soul out in a minute if they knew how to do it. And show me and ‘underground’ rap party and I’ll show you a party with no one dancing or having fun and 85% dudes standing with their arms folded….

  • M.C. Trust Fund


    Contestant A: I’ll take real hip hop for 200, Alex.

    Alex T.: This group showed what happens when a backpack rap group gets tired of not selling any CD’s.

    Contestant A: Who are the Black Eyed Peas, Alex?

    Alex: well done. choose again.

    Conestant A: I’ll take producers for 400…

    A: A producer that lost relevance around 2002, This artist and collaborator with Guru, the most overrated MC of all time besides Fat Joe, is still being poorly imitated by nearly every backpack rap wannabe producer from the suburbs, resulting in stale, repetitive beats.

    Contestant A: Who is DJ Premier, Alex?

    Alex: Correct Again. You’re up.

    Contestant A: How about played out dorks For 600, Big ‘Al?

    Alex : ‘Bet son, bet…Flooding the street with over 150 sticks of incense for no reason and acting tough, these kids mimic 15 year old rap slang they never grew up with before hitting the train back to their gentrified Ft. Greene brownstones.

    Contestant A: Who are the kids that stand outside the Williamsburg L station and Fat Beats and sell incense and bad mix CDs?

    Alex: I’m sorry, the correct response is: Who are the employees of Fat Beats and the Sound Library. Contestant B-boy, you’re up, dunnie!

    Contestant B: You da bomb Alex!…I’ll take Poseurs and Herb fakin’ Jacks for 1,000.

    Alex: And you’ve hit todays daily double!: this art form, a once vital form of music and expression for minority youth, is now in its declining phases like Jazz in the 70′s, and little more than another commerical musical form attracting insecure poseurs from all walks of life, mostly white kids from the suburbs.

    Contestant B(in frat boy voice): What is hip to the hop, my brotha alex t? word em’ up, my man!!!!

    Alex t: Word to Big Bird!!!! That s–t is hot son! (gives Contestant B awkward white boy rap handshake)…And check out the new collabo joint by the Trust fund hip hop crew, brought to you by NPR with Terry Gross…See you next week, Yo!!!

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  • DJ Main Event

    bwahahahha. Tara got ‘em on this.

    dudes are masking their close-mindedness via elitism. i was born in 87, so really what the fuck is a golden era to me?

    these dudes need to stop trying so hard @ LIFE and be themselves.
    and if that happens to mean youre CASUALLY into hiphop but you really have no interest besides the shit you stumble upon on Ares or YouTube or Myspace… well then fuckit thats you.

    but dont ruin a good thing for those who actually grew up in hiphop and still listen to it by claiming this that and the 3rd about “whats real”.

    real to you MIGHT NOT be real to me.

    but what can i say, im using logic against ignorance, what do i know.

  • K Summers

    thats a fact

  • asm

    look, quit all the name-calling. there are those of us in the world that look beyond the rap/hip hop spectrum and regard all of this as MUSIC. and beyond that, there are those of us that would like to judge hip hop like one would judge any other music. and that is, is it engaging? memorable? relevant? progressive? etc. same with the lyrics. some of us would dare hold hip hop lyrics up to the same standards as good poetry, since thats what most emcess claim they are writing. so, is it wrong to judge based on delivery, substance, coherence, flow, etc? it shouldnt be, and bottom line, there is rap that holds up, and rap that doesnt. “ms new booty” does not hold up. im sorry.

  • D.J. Middle Class White America

    Sorry to say this, but I think all of us who got real into rap are gonna look back in twenty years and kind of feel really embarrassed the same way people who got really into disco probably feel ashamed of themselves. There’s some good music out there, but it’s time to acknowledge rap for what it is….a played out musical fad that’s long past its heyday. Put on your Paid in Full Album, enjoy it, and just live your life like a normal person and be who you are. Too much to ask?

  • John Doe

    i get the feeling that you’re complaining about yourself in the article. next time save yourself the time and just look in the mirror and say I loathe thyself.

  • Vantanna

    Word. You are complaining about your ilk, but I feel you. It’s ruff, after living thru the “so-called” golden-age, I tried to deal w/ the late-90′s underground, but I was driven/forced out by the fan-base. I agree, I’ll listen to Buck 65 or any amount of “underground” MC”s but keep their fans…. far, far away

  • Devan

    and yet another white girl or guy that claims to love black folks music .gets to work for a magazine about black music.

  • DARK

    honkeys need to fuck off our rap 4 real black folks in the real world not the fake pretend ghetto world our getting tired of this. white people that actually live in the hood don’t try to act black they act like themselves and they don’t try to get down with us.

  • fraggle

    it’s sweet how you care..but now you should focus on other things

  • Auston

    I don’t agree with you, I love backpack rap. But it’s not my life. I enjoy Jay-Z, Nas, T.I. and Lil Wayne. But the backpacker “fans” feel closer to the rappers because they identify with being poor and know that the system is fucked up.

    I mean I know the system is fucked up and so I say fuck the system, but I fuck the system by owning businesses.

    So I definitely feel you’re stereotyping hardcore. I don’t really mind the generalization, only because I don’t give a fuck.

  • Enigma

    I see what he’s saying, and weak minds should stay in the easy perspective of hating people who are different. Why should it be ok to like the music you like and be who you are? If you’re white and you don’t listen to Jay-Z then your just fronting or confused or something. What the fuck? I don’t hate on Native Americans who listen to Metallica and play in a heavy metal band (Blackfire, some local shit). I don’t think that they’re stealing my culture or some bullshit like that. Music is music, love it, and respect others, even though its easier to hate.


    I appreciate a wide variety of music, and though I tend to be into underground music of all sorts (not exclusively hip-hop,) there’s an MC for all occasions. I own several Jay-Z cds. Do I think he’s an exceptional lyricist? Hell no! Can he flow? Well, yeah. Can he afford dope beats from hot producers? That’s a given. And somedays I’m just in the mood for a banging beat.
    However, I am definitely one of those people who tracks down albums from the 90′s and longs for “the golden era.” I just got “Moment of Truth” by Gang Starr in the mail, and damn, that’s one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. I miss that old New York sound. There’s a rawness and a freshness that a lot of this new radio shit is missing. But that has more to do with it being radio shit than it being 2006. The Coup just put out a new album and Kanye occasionally has something interesting to say.
    I don’t understand why people don’t just listen to what the fuck they like, instead of premeditating their purchases to solidify some image. I like underground music, but don’t need it to prove my superiority as a human being.
    At the same time, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that “artists” put some thought and creativity into their work. It’s not like you can’t be creative AND sell records.
    And I feel it’s worth repeating:

    >Put on your Paid in Full Album, enjoy >it, and just live your life like a >normal person and be who you are.

  • Kool-Aid

    Nice way to flip some good points into something racist. Do you think this will make you look cooler around black people you dumb bitch?

  • SomOne

    Stereotypes, generalizing, and assuming… You’ve managaed to do everything you said you hate about BackPack Rap fans.

  • SomOne

    PLus, you make it seem like you’re saying white kids shouldn’t listen to rap? What is this the sixties? White music and black music?>

  • Stzzla

    I’m fascinated by your use of stereo typing….and i’m wondering….why the hate?

    we’re all in this for different reasons…some just want to shake ass, some want to be moved by a concept, some just want to wild out, some want to use hip-hop as a social force for change, some just wanna get fuckin high.

    Whats the big deal?

    Are you really that petty that your gonna let a non existent stereotype inspire you to write something that ignorant?

    I have a few words that might serve you well in the future….Live and Let Live… me, its easier, cos you aint changing nothing by ranting about stereotypes.


  • T@ywill

    your fuckin stupid

  • T@ywill

    your fuckin stupid

  • S.O.

    Im sorry to say, but your partially right about “backpack” hip hop fans


    Artist like j. Santa, young joc, franchize boyz, ect ect. dont even deserve to be called artists. A 5th grader with a bad attitude could write thier lyrics. Yet they sell records, why, cause people can sing along wit the song after hearin it once.
    Its catchy, and to the
    mainstream, catchy is more important than the message its sending.

    This is why there is an overbearing hate for all that is

  • S.O.

    also, if you really wanna know it, thiers more “backpack” fans that have dug into the history of hip hop and its elements then mainstream fans.

    EX : The kid standing outside the hip hop show doing a big graff peice. Hes got a backpack…..

    The b-boys and b-girls rockin the dancefloor at the shows, They got back packs…..

    The DJ that values scratchin over “dropping the latest hot shit” I bet you could classify him as a “backpack fan”

  • Rock > Hip-Hop

    >you’re a bitch

    She’s a good writer, too.

  • realness

    we must also remember there is a flipside to the white backpacker image.. and it’s equally as annoying. I don’t know what to call it other than the “suburban wannabe thug” look.

    Backpackers may be annoying in their own way, but i find that “suburban wannabe thugs” are more likely to use the “N” word and are a much bigger problem.

    Backpackers aren’t even on my radar to be honest.

  • Ballpoint Jedi

    First things first, I’m in total accordance with ASM here. All of it, the “mainstream”, the “backpack”, the “crunk”…it’s all music. And as with all types of music there are more talented and less talented artists who write good and bad songs. Who’s more talented and which songs are better is up to the individual who is listening to them and what their tastes are. If you choose to listen to Company Flow over Master P, which happens to be the choice I’d make, it doesn’t mean “Y’ALL NOBODIES” as someone so intelligently put it before. It just means you like what they’re doing more than you like what Master P, or insert artist there, is up to. That’s it. Next, you “backpack stans” (fuck that’s corny) who are telling this columnist to basically “fuck off”, only using a couple more of your vocab words of the day in doing so, are only proving her point. You think I don’t have an opinion about misspelled words, heartless lyrics, and recycled beats? Wrong. However when you voice your opinion in the fashion in which you all are doing so, you are enabling people to justify the stereotype that scarred your soul deep enough for you to pull out your thesaurus and mix it’s contents with four letter words with which to bash this girl. I’m sorry, but most of you probably are caucasian college kids(nothing wrong with that, i was once one) taking advantage of free high speed internet connections I listen to so-called “backpack” stuff more than I listen to the “mainstream” stuff. But in some aspects Tara is absolutely right. No-one likes a holier than thou, self-righteous, whining know it all. If you’ve got a beef, voice it intelligently..maybe someone might actually TRY to see things from your point of view rather than ripping it to shreds..and the same goes for you cats ripping the “backpackers” with your less than articulate commentary. 1

  • lethal1

    fuck a backpacker…….whats the problem with hiphop?….nothing at all its an artform it changes it rearragnes it evolves!!! so to all those backpakers out there you arent a real fan of the music if you cant respect an artist for what he does even if its not you cup of tea!!!! man im olskool like fuckin slap braclets…..shit im olskool like rap with only black rappers……but im home skooled so never call me backpacker!!!!!

  • lethal1

    but im sorry fuck 50 an fuck jay-z they ruin the music!!!!

  • ZAR

    I don’t know why backpack rap gets singled out. I have no doubt that there are a lot of pricks who like backpack rap, but shit, there are a lot of pricks who like any kind of rap. For every person who looks down on mainstream hip hop as being “sell out” and “one dimensional”, there are just as many who look down at backpack for being “nerdy” and “bitch”.

    I was kind of suprised that backpackers are usually seen as more of posers than other types of hip hop listeners. White kids from the suburbs who listen to talib kweli describe social conditions in the inner city are more poser than white kids from the suburbs who listen to hardcore gangster rap. (I’m not knockin anyone, just that characterization genuinely suprised me)

    I listen to mostly backpack rap because I like it the best. I don’t know why, I just do. To those who don’t like it, to each his own. I don’t understand the need to start throwin insults around and attempt to objectify something that is completely subjective.

  • Mokona

    Look, theres wack @ss backpack ish and wack mainstream ish and good stuff in both. stupid white kids indulged in EITHER form actin holier-than thou is gay. but white kids who live and love the culture should be able to have there say as well as us black people of the culture. if someone thinks something is weak, than thats what they think. u dont have to respect all the mainstream heroes” to be “real hip hop” nor do u have to only listen to backpack ish to be “real hip hop” how da f— can u know what sounds good to someone, just let em be. unless it sucks, in which cae they are gay…there is eveeryone here equally offended now

  • massa

    i dont like ppl sittin in front of pcs the hole day n feelin like they were the biggest gangsta-bosses out there.

    i`m 16 from germany (and white..) and i like what they lifestyle of backpackrappers.

    of course germans have to learn about the way it is done in america…
    america is about 5 years earlier in time then european counteris (i heard that in tv and i think its true, cuz most americans do PM n stuff, but only young ppl in germany do). and i think if there was a country beeing 5 times before america, americans `d try to imitate that countrys lifestyle as well as we r actually trying to.

    but … backpackrappers arent like “look i got blingbling here n bitches there” n i dont like these ppl, too. so thats what connects backpackrap with me.

    i think everybody hs to decide what he likes for hisself. it is ok to me if someone listens to gangsta-rap but…
    i was going home by bus yesterday and there were like 4 or 5 wannabe-gangstas and they had music-boxes. they were turning em real loud and noone wanted to hear their cuz it was just bout having sex the hole day and taking drugs n big cars n stuff…ah …fuck it i dont wanna talk bout that no more cuz its to difficult to express what i wanna say …im not good at talkin english..and although you wont read this till the end and if you did your done right now..

    as u can see i m not writing every word complete but this is more cuz im lazy.
    im sorry for my worse english.

  • dubz

    come on the underground rap has a lot of good rappers and a lot of shitty rappers the same goes for mainstream rap

    and why is anyone listning to some white chick

    chicks in a sense are distroying hip hop almost every hip hop song realeased now is a club banger

    what about appealing to the guys who actually listne to the lyrics and dont just like the song because the beat sounds hot and you can dance to it

  • libera

    i’am really impressed!!

  • formula 1

    Chi ha fatto questo? E un buon posto per trovare le informazioni importanti!:)

  • Patrick

    This has got to be the silliest argument I’ve seen in a while. Hypocrisy is alive and well at double XL! How can you make grotesque generalizations about people who make grotesque generalizaitons? Your entire article is self- defeating. I’m white, I’m 23, I come from an upper middle-class family, I wear a tie to my cushy graphic desgin job. You know why I don’t listen to that “gangsta shit” or artists like Jay-Z? I’m no purist, I just can’t relate to it. I was never a gangbanger, and I’m sure as hell not “rollin on dubs.” I don’t particulary enjoy hiphop with lyrics I can’t identify with. It’s that simple. But when someone speaks of falling in or out of love, the human condition, or their inner conflicts with addiction, inspiration, motivation and success…these are things I can understand…which is why when I take my happy white ass to best buy, K-os, Atmosphere, Heiruspecs, these are the artists I want to hear. Does that make me one of your “backpackers?” Frankly I don’t give two shits.

  • Ray Contour

    This age old debate really comes down to a simple fact. In the history art there’s gonna be conflict in style and content. its the war of style vs. content. not only that, various camps have their set of style and contents, and wage war against eachother. this is in general good for the music and the culture. the thuggy stuff and the underground stuff and the crunk stuff all work off and for eachother. they destroy and create in the artists work.
    peep how kanye brought a lot of stuff up as he broke through. the “game” as you call it is constantly evolving against itself. the content is being listened to by the beholden audience. so it goes both ways, and both sides win.

    the underground, or as they like to think of themselves, specialized, listeners, will seek out an alternative to the well funded popular stuff. art for the masses. and so it goes on. its a cycle. the underground will fire new artists into the mega stardom. the underground will retain certain artists that’ll never go big. this is all normal, and good. welcome to human culture.

  • bong slappa

    who cares about this shit? There’s a war going on. Rap is music. If the chick who wrote this article was listening to rap music before 1993 my name is Grandmaster Caz. The shittiest thing that happened to rap is when it got into the mass media and trust fund hipster chicks like Tara Hensley who were probably listening to Nirvana or Cindy Lauper before rap became cool suddenly feel like they can write about this shit. and for that matter, F Adam Mansbach, the hip hop version of Kenny G who misses the point of rap so badly its sad. Whats up with these rich educated urban enlite yuppies not understanding certain shit just doesn’t involve them? Who cares about backpack rap or what Jay Z does or whatever? Go volunteer in a soup kitchen or organize a rent strike or do something that’s important. Rap in any form is capitalist get over it. If something on the radio is hot, so be it. If its underground so be it. It doesn’t matter. Are you really gonna listen to some Non-Phixion album 1o years from now because they’re “real” hip hop? that music is bullshit. And rap is conservative is hell, you can’t take chances, you try to get down with the game and not change the rules. Fuck this shit, hip hop has been dead for a long time. tara, write about something you know and that matters.

  • T From ATL

    True Words, OP. Elitist backpacker snobs get on my last nerve. I’ve actually been turned off by some underground rappers because of the unrelenting elitist attitude of their fans.

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  • Therm

    “Are you really gonna listen to some Non-Phixion album 1o years from now because they’re “real” hip hop? that music is bullshit”

    Manye, it’s 2009 and “I Shot Reagan” is still my jam.

  • Colby

    Wow. This is beautiful. I love this. Thank You. Seriously.

  • Anonymous

    You fail to see the point…90% of mainstream rap is wack, and that’s why it gets hated on. Major labels are known for fucking over lyrical emcees and not letting them have creative control. THAT’S why people hate on it.

    You’re a white Canadian posting a review on the internet criticizing white people who hate on mainstream rap through the internet. How much more hypocritical can you get??

    I used to love XXL, but I’ve grown sick of it. This article just broke the camel’s back.

  • Anonymous

    People enjoy what they can relate to. i know a lot of suburban white boys who are in to the gucci mane, soulja boy, jeezy, drugs, guns, hoes music when they cant relate to that lifestyle. I think your post was an attempt to be open minded but ended up being very hypocritical. I feel as if the backpack subgenre gives another perspective on life that people who enjoy hip hop can appreciate. I would say that 90% of the artists i listen to are backpackers but its because I have a love for hip hop and can relate to that more than a gangster lifestyle. I would agree that anyone who says that’s the ONLY REAL hip hop is very close minded, but i would also say anyone who would says it ISNT REAL hip hop is just as close minded. As long as artists are true to themselves and posses the skill and musical ability i would say they deserve mutual respect. Most mainstream rap i feel either lacks emotion or lacks the ability to relate. I dont feel as if i can relate to having a ton of money and poppin champaigne in the club with my chain and my pistol but if you enjoy that type of hip hop or can relate then more power to you and I respect that.

  • Austin Plow her

    1st of all! do i make you randy baby!! yeah!!

    2nd i hate it when people (back pac rap fans, trap fans, mainstrem, underground, all rap fans) say oh i hate this rapper cause he only talks about money thats not real rap or say oh waka flocka flame he go hard in the paint blah blah oh let do it..letgooooo….hip-hop is diversity all diffrent types and i myself like all diffrent rappers i never put a genre above the other either and you stupid lame fucks who say this or that is not real rap.. then i guess you look stupid cause hip hop comes in diffrent forms….

    Fav Trap star- yo gotti
    Fav Back pac rapper – XV
    Fav Mainstrem- Eminem
    Fav Indi- Tech N9ne
    i like all hip hop

    except plies… cant listen to him he annoys me but atleast he got fans

  • P

    Word man, you made some interesting points, I just thought they were just one-sided. I think the so-called backpack rap boys have it right in that all this materialism, greed, ego, and overall insincerity is killing hip hop; but that’s on both sides of the fence. I thought Fort Minor was dope, they’re mainstream. I still think Sage Francis and Aesop Rock are whack. I don’t like Jay-Z just cause dudes full of himself and isn’t uplifting, thought provoking to me, or do I relate with him – granted I haven’t heard his whole catalog, just based off what I have heard. I’m not going to waste my time getting a wider-scope on something I don’t like to begin with. I love Nas though. Just because I didn’t live in the certain parameters of time an event happened though, doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced the same thing or can’t relate to it. Edgar Allen Poe was born hundreds of years before me, but I still connect with him and am drawn to him because of mutual experiences and emotions. I don’t have to have had existed or been apart of the Golden Era to connect with it, to agree with the same ideology. That’s one of the things that makes music great in the first place; the fact that it can connect such a diverse group of people together. Self-righteous? Oh yeah, I forgot how humble Lil’ Wayne and Jay-Z are.

  • boog powell

    good ass job

  • steamboat

    I love backpackers…such great music, small venues for people who love real hip hop

  • aquarian1978

    you would expect an intelligent unconditioned person who is honestly himself about liking a song to not wonder what category it falls under, and how he would be judged by others for liking it. Or have ppl forgotten that.
    I’ve been listening to hip hop since 91 and i can see where the backpacker mentality came from. People need to understand this is a normal reaction to how hiphop became such a huge industry and all it entails. On the flipside, as pointed out, there is a negative side to this reaction (judgementalism, ignorance, arrogance, fanaticism, etc). Just stay balanced and observe how ppl act. Its quite funny sometimes, yet more and more self-destructive also…It makes one wonder if ppl have at all understood what their ego makes them do…


    Maybe you’re just not smrt enough to understand…
    These dudes (‘cuz its always doods) are !HARD.CORE

  • alex

    is this your way of justifying your listening to shitty music? bashing those who have the presence of mind to look past the bullshit that we’re force fed? Your article sucks; try again.

    • Muhammad

      I agree completely

  • Muhammad

    Here’s the thing: mainstream rap sucks these days. No two ways about it.

  • John Marston

    You do realize that the majority of any music fans are teenage suburban white boys right? they’re the ones who spend time on their computers looking up music, and when they get tired of all the same repetitive crap, they look up more intelligent, fresh music. lol i know this is 6 years old, but literally this is the most hilarious article i’ve ever seen. I wouldnt be surprised to hear that you’re a suburban white boy too

  • BenjaminFlocka

    Your fuggin stupid. pop culture is more evil than I ever could have imagined and I have not spent one moment in the industry… anyone can learn shit now a a days if you hop on the internet. This article is old af… but by your definition Kendrick is a backpack rapper ya??? Well Kendrick is Hip Hops fuggin savior! …and he would be classified as backpack rap. Fashawn, Macklemore, Logic, School Boy Q, Ab Soul… these dudes are saving rap. Yes I am a young white kid… but I actually give a fuck about the world i live in. So maybe you should be promoting “white backpack fans” bc we actually give two shits about the planet. I also love 50… so fuck off.

  • Kizzahxoxo

    I agree with Stoned Buggs! This article was a major laugh, almost 7
    years old now! But it’s obviously still being dug up so why not. I think
    it serves a purpose of sparking conversation, maybe for XXL to better
    understand or research trends, who knows. Either way without this
    article, a lot of the folks here I saw would not of had such a fine
    forum to go off on each other over.

    Now my actual comments on the article.

    they’re still mad about their culture being exploited, chewed up and
    spit out. Also maybe mad by people calling it “Black Culture”. Your a
    good writer my brother, and I get annoyed by quite a few of the same
    things. I also know this is your job, so no stab at the author. I mean,
    “hip-hop” in definition he used correctly, as Rap music product and it’s
    mainstream activities, and not Hiphop or Hip Hop.

    Now a lot of
    people touching on how the Mainstream f’s people over. Take a look at
    what it’s accomplishing. Keep blacks from learning to read and write,
    and they have no power right? So why not feed it with the music. The
    more unintelligent the radio plays have gotten over the years, the more
    and more unintelligent both black and white youth are becoming. Make it
    cool to be dumb. It really works!

    I was there. When the whole
    glorifying gang’s thing started. I saw the change in my friends, and
    even myself for a very short time got caught up in that. Young brothers,
    Black and White and Latino are deteriating.

    Hiphop and Hip Hop, killed the gangs, inspired education, peace, love and unity, good neighborliness.

    what was the response? Flood the exact opposite into the streets.
    Trust, it’s been this way from day one that the Sugar Hill crap

  • Save The Hip Hop Culture

    I grew up in the late 80′s and mid 90′s and I am a big fan of the era. I do recall taking on the backpack fashion but that was because I really did have my cans and tips along with tapes and flyers in it.

  • Save The Hip Hop Culture

    there is a reason why we growl at a 50 joint or any other radio club hit for that matter. It is because hip hop is garbage now a days. it has no meaning like it did in the past. No soul, no heart. It is just one wack rapper sounding like the next wack rapper