Spose: “I’m Awesome”
I feel some sort of preordained duty to write about any song that is like this. That is, a popular song by a white rapper, particularly a white rapper openly fetishizing the other while clinging to antiquated notions of whiteness. Spose is from Welles, Maine, which is the whitest place in White World. His single, “I’m Awesome” is currently at no. 27 on iTunes Top 100 chart, arguably the clearest indicator of popular relevance. And he is a relatively unknown quantity. Rap is unlike other blog-centric genres; unlike, say, indie rock, rarely are ascendant rap artists so undercovered. But Spose, whose fast-rising song was released to iTunes three weeks ago, is an interesting outlier. I heard it for the first time just days ago, on a pop radio station in New York. Why not sooner? And how not sooner? Is this the first proper blog post about Spose? Are rap bloggers slipping? Or delineating content? Or ignoring popular tastes under the auspice of “real v. fake”?
Maybe it’s The Asher Roth Effect. Last year, when Roth’s stock soared quickly after the release of The Greenhouse Effect mixtape (stacked neatly with Don Cannon and DJ Drama and eventually New Music Cartel co-signs!) his competent, self-aware shtick and modest bona fides convinced several rap-thinkers he was something more than he was. I was definitely fooled at first, though a conversation with Roth, amiable but dull and without interesting goals, revealed maybe he wasn’t the evolutionary figured some had predicted.
Spose, who recently inked a deal with Universal Republic (home to recent bland chart-toppers Owl City, Jay Sean, and Colbie Caillat), is probably no different. On his MySpace you can find a song called “Drugs Girls Money Liquor,” which is a freestyle over the opening minute of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.” But it, as well as “I’m Awesome,” has the same sort of strangely functional, easily understood grasp of rap vernacular and feel as those early Asher songs. (Incidentally, Asher reemerged yesterday with a new mixtape, the painfully “I get it!”-titled Seared Foie Gras With Quince and Cranberry.)
When I first heard “I’m Awesome” I thought it was Fatlip’s “What’s Up Fatlip,” another self-deprecating punchline rap with twinkling production—the xylophone sound shares a similarly circus-like quality. Obviously pop radio programmers are not inserting “What’s Up Fatlip” into their drivetime playlists, but the confusion, I think, is notable. Spose, it seems, is a recent college graduate, which means he’s spent the better part of his life living with rap as the dominant form of popular music in America. It shows. Even if he did grow up in Maine. Not because he’s an important stylist—he’s more like Infinite-era Eminem meets a dumb-rock version of our old pal, Hot Karl. His lyrics range from infantile (“I got shit for brains like a blumpkin”) to inspired—at 3:28 he stops the song and gasps “I’m out of breath.” That’s a pretty smart construction! Definitely smarter than his lazy “sexier than John McCain” quip. Also, the cuts on this song—that’s right there are DJ cuts on a modern rap song—indicate an assumed credibility. Cuz, you know, DJs don’t just show up for suburban white boys. This week I’ve got a story in the Village Voice about Joke Rap and learning to cope with it. I wonder how I might have considered Spose then. Does he belong in the joke rap conversation? Maybe, but probably not. “I’m Awesome” is far closer to “The Real Slim Shady,” if we’re being honest. Spose presumably is not using “I’m Awesome” to compel people to buy a full-length product about wanting to murder his wife or his cultural identity crisis. But it’s early still. “I’m Awesome” seems important for that, at least.