In a new interview with the British rock magazine Clash, Jack White talks a lot about the value of artists keeping an intriguing distance from their audiences. He’s struck a similarly mysterious pose throughout his career as a solo artist and in the White Stripes, but that hasn’t stopped him from being extremely opinionated in public about the state of rock’n’roll and the rest of the world over the years: ProTools is bad, but now it’s good; the Black Keys are posers; audiences shouldn’t have cell phones at shows, and so on.
Lately, White has been dipping his toes into rap music. His label Third Man signed a rapper named SHIRT, and he recruited a cast of touring musicians for the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne to play on his hip-hop inflected new album Boarding House Reach. Naturally, that means he’s now comfortable holding forth about that genre as well. In the same Clash interview, he offered up the not-exactly-novel idea that the current wave of young rappers with colorful hairstyles and blown-out DIY sonics represent “the new punk rock.” Try to imagine White saying “Tekashi69” and “Trippie Redd” out loud:
Searching for that sensation in hip-hop, he soon discovered the exhilarating parallels between the contemporary scene and those of other genres from the past. “In a lot of ways, it is the new punk rock,” he offers. “They’re doing the dangerous things – whether it’s Trippie Redd or Tekashi69; these are a very punk, dangerous side of music.”
“[If] you listen to Nicki Minaj’s ‘Only’,” he continues. “I mean, some of those lyrics are like, ‘Holy shit!’ I, as an adult, listening to that by myself, am shocked at some of the words that I’m hearing. But it’s brilliant! It’s brilliant to be able to say that, to be able to say whatever you want. I couldn’t get away with saying half of those things that Nicki Minaj says in that song. It’s just brilliant to see how far things have gone in that sense, and how cool it is for people to talk about these moments and say, ‘Wow, check this out.’”
Finally, he added that he’s currently listening to a lot of “’80s and ’90s hip-hop specifically,” which makes sense for a guy who’s as obsessed with tradition as he is. We applaud Jack White for expanding his musical horizons, and look forward to hearing his thoughts about Tupac vs. Biggie, the relative merits of each Kanye album, and where exactly Big L sits in his GOAT standings.