Katy Perry raps ‘N****s in Paris,’ awkwardly
Is there any genre of music more annoying than white people ironically rapping? The reedy voices, the smug grins, the ridiculous hand motions — yes, we all get it. As a white person, you are not “hard,” and yet, you are rapping anyway!
Our distaste for this kind of music was aptly summed up by Maura Johnston in the Village Voice this past December:
Yes; even though it’s been some 27 years since “Rappin’ Duke,” the “white people turn urban-radio tropes into something more similar to what they might listen to, with hilarity possibly ensuing” tack is still guaranteed to hit pay dirt among certain subgroups of people who consider themselves both musical aesthetes and “geeks.” Whether they’re cowed by the technologically forward production (irony alert!), unsure of which Urban Dictionary definition to use when figuring out just what the lyrics might mean, or just trying to fight the man, man (never mind that their computers were made by multinational conglomerates), these sorts of covers still get eaten up by YouTube viewers like they’re ice-cream sundaes made by dairy geniuses. And thanks to the increased importance of “virality” in 2011, artists who took this tack were often rewarded by showers of likes, buckets of retweets, and hordes of people delighting in the knowledge that there were a lot of people out there whose noses were all upturned at exactly the same angle—which meant that they could only multiply.
Katy Perry’s cover of Kanye West and Jay Z’s “N****s in Paris” (No, we’re not going to say it, feel free to call us hypocrites) is marginally less toxic than previous attempts — she doesn’t go folk, thank the Lord — but the same grating self-consciousness is still there in heaps. “Look at me playing dress up, isn’t it cute?” Perry asks us. “Don’t worry, I’ll censor all the bad words!”
Seriously, what does an artist hope to get out of this?