Music writing can be illuminating and incisive, or it can be obnoxious and pretentiously in-jokey, or it can just be dumb. But it’s usually pretty self-serious: it exists because someone privileged their own opinion enough to write it down and share with others. It is rarely humorous, except in a second-order, wow-Ian-Cohen-is-a-douche sort of way.
All of which makes Big Ghost, a.k.a. Cocaine Biceps, Phantom Raviolis or Hands of Zeus, so exceptionally awesome. His blog, Big Ghost Chronicles, is to rap circa 2011 what Hipster Runoff was to scare quotes in 2009, except better—straight-faced criticism from a patently absurd perspective.
The Ghost persona—the author remains anonymous—is the embodiment of hip-hop purism, and his raison d’etre is a crusade against softness in all forms in hip-hop. Unsurprisingly, Big Ghost Chronicles takes a pretty hard line on Drake, whom he refers to variously as “the Kitten Whisperer,” “Young Garnier Fructis,” and “the human croissant.” And he’s actually at his best when pantomiming lyrics from other rappers; in a post that claimed to have unearthed the lyrics to a secret Lil Wayne joint, he wrote, “I am a a-li-en, maybe I’m a cybawrg/See me on my motorbike with b*****s in my sidecar,” absolutely nailing Weezy’s codeine-overdose affect as well as his recent penchant for lazily absurd and absurdly lazy wordplay.
Ghost shares many of my predilections about rap music, but he’s much funnier about them than I am—profane, ingenious, with a knack for providing appropriate captions for pictures of Aubrey Graham in less-than-intimidating poses. So here’s the rub about all this—what if the real Ghost is white?
It’s certainly not impossible. Hip-hop glossy Source was founded by a couple of lily-white Harvard bros, and they weren’t even trying to remain anonymous. There’s no evidence to suggest that Ghost is white, of course, but there’s also nothing (beyond the impropriety of a white guy using the African-American slurs so liberally, which, under the guise of an obviously exaggerated Internet avatar, would be highly offensive but not particularly shocking) to suggest he isn’t white.
If Ghost is like, actually white, I think the whole thing would be ruined for me—I simply wouldn’t be able to read the words with the same enthusiasm. In and of itself, that’s revelatory of a remarkably close-minded and contradictory approach to hip-hop. On the one hand, I love rap music; on the other, I hate—hate—to be one of those white dudes who loves rap music.
I don’t think this is caused by an adverse reaction to the American tradition of white people co-opting black art forms. I like the Rolling Stones now, and probably would have liked them even more in their heyday, when they were basically doing their Eminem thing on the B.B. King catalog. It has more to do with the disconnect between the world of rap music and the world I actually live in; bridging that gap is like somewhere between “trying way too hard” and “straight-up ignorant fakery.”
A friend of mine (also white, but I have black friends too, I swear) recently told me he was recording eight bars for J. Bully’s hip-hop appreciation class. “I wanna rap, too!” was my first thought, closely followed by, “Man, I don’t wanna be a white rapper.” It may be ignorant, but my perception of hip-hop is so bound up in race that I’ll always be more of a spectator than an active participant—Sideline Story, I guess.