Vanilla Ice and the birth of inauthentic hip hop

One of the common critiques that lapsed rap fans will employ when explaining their current distance from the genre is that rap has lost its edge. With the plethora of suburban-born MCs and rainbow-haired studio gangsters that comprise hip hops active roster, it may seem that the once hardened genre has grown soft. I believe that's false. Hip hop hasn't grown soft; it's just grown. Before it mutated into the gangster monolith that it became the 90s and 00s, hip hop was fun party music that occasionally ventured into the realm of topical with songs like The message from Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. However, even in those days, authenticity- or the perception of it- was vital.

Today, authenticity in hip hop is a fluid concept. Drake is one of the most successful artists ever to grace the genre because of his ability to connect with the suburban demographic from which he emerged. This would've disqualified him from rap's inner street-based sanctum in previous eras. Despite his cushy background, Drake can retain his authenticity by flaunting his lack of street cred as opposed to hiding it. In opposition, rappers "born in the trenches" are expected to exaggerate their criminal histories and affiliations as a marker of their "authenticity." On either side, the industry is a far cry from the era of Vanilla Ice, who suffered due to his plasticine personality.

In the video linked above, the YouTube channel HipHop Madness breaks down how innovative Vanilla Ice actually is in contemporary hip hop. With the massive corporate influences that control every avenue of the genre, Vanilla Ice might be one of the most influential figures in rap history. I don't mean that in terms of lyrics, flow, or style, but rather that he was the prototype for scores of corporately created artists that currently rule rap with an iron fist.