CHARGE AGAINST: Shiny-suited white interloper hell-bent on watering down and commercializing the greatest African-American invention since peanut butter.
CASE FILES: For a while it seemed like dude would do anything to cross over: Lying about where he grew up, clumsily parroting hip-hop slang, borrowing African American fraternity chants for his hooks, trying to pass off a one-note difference in a sample as thrilling and unique songcraft, and of course, dancing around in a sequined American flag suit. It clearly worked, as To the Extreme ended up selling 15 million copies worldwide, but the hip-hop nation was not exactly excited to be represented by Pat Boone in a streaked pompadour. Some choice disses came from Del (“Dance all day, while I’m pissin’ on your steps”); Tim Dog (“Rap is nothing you can put in a movie with a bunch of turtles!”); Kid ‘N Play (“The brothers always boo you, and we know it hurts”), and even fellow honkies 3rd Bass, who performed a baseball-bat beatdown on a Vanilla imposter (played by Henry Rollins) in their “Pop Goes the Weasel” video.
THE DEFENSE: After his weird VHS-smashing quasi-meltdown on MTV’s 25 Lame in 1999, Vanilla has maintained a pretty decent sense of humor about everything: appearing in viral videos playing indie-rock covers and clowning around on countless reality TV shows (including Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge). Also, as sample-ganking pop-rap goes, we’ll take “Ice Ice Baby” over anything Flo Rida does. C.W.
INSANE CLOWN POSSE
CHARGE AGAINST: A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down society’s pants
CASE FILES: They call themselves the “Most Hated Band in the World,” and it ain’t for nothing: As of last year, the FBI officially considers their fanbase a “gang” worth monitoring. In 1998, a notorious SPIN comic strip compared their act to blackface minstrelsy. Blender dubbed them the “Worst Artists in Music History” while also describing them as “two trailer-trash types,” personifying a pervasive and unconcealed classism that haunts almost all criticism of the group. Their “Miracles” video was a laugh-and-point Internet meme, and The Guardian called them “a magnet for ignorance.” Okay, guys, we get it, you went to college.
THE DEFENSE: Recent collaborator Jack White knows what’s up: If you can’t laugh and bounce along to high-spirited knuckleheadery like “Fuck the World,” you have an enormous stick up your ass. Their music gets more irresistible as it gets more melodic; 2009’s soda-sweet popfest Bang! Pow! Boom! was easily their career best. Plus, these dudes are serious rap heads who are constantly giving pioneers paychecks to perform at their annual Gathering: E-40, DJ Quik, Paris, Scarface, Above the Law, Kurupt, Digital Underground, and Dayton Family have all made the trek into the craggy woods of Illinois. Stroke your goatee to the Shins at Bonnaroo; we’ll be lighting fireworks and spraying Faygo in the forest. Whoop whoop! C.W.