Since99 Won’t End Racism, But He’s Hard

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Since99 No Go
(Jack Rottier/YouTube)

There’s something special about a White boy who looks like this

and can rap something like:

You wearin’ them tight-ass Amiris in hot-ass weather/

Bitch I’m wearin’ shorts and I’m feelin’ so better

Old News” (2020)

These bars aren’t special from a skill standpoint. Since99’s technical strengths like the staggered DMV/Splurge-like flow and his above-average cultural references aren’t featured here. Instead, they tell the bigger truth about why Since99 is so fun to listen to.

The lyrics above are the sentiment of a suburban White dad—something Since99 aspires to be—coded into Soundcloud rapper talk and magically turned into a flex. While I’m sure there isn’t a mainstream rapper sensitive enough to find out about this song and get upset, they damn sure love their Amiri jeans. And here comes this kid with an accountant dialect clowning them without being corny or subtly racist about it.

Since99 is what the typical Bleacher Report IG comment troll aspires to be. As acknowledged by his mixtape title Easily Influenced, 99 has a clear grasp on Gen Z hip-hop, sports trivia, and mainstream culture that he deftly channels into his raps.

But anyone can learn to play the part of a rapper. Why invest in this White kid’s work?

99 shares a lot with the current field of young rappers. His flows, subject matter, and beat choices are nothing new (“New Pastel” is an interesting exception). And while he gets points for his uniquely obscure sports and culture references—find someone else referencing NY Jets running back coach Jim Bob Cooter in their bars—hundreds of rappers before and after him have and will continue to spit “calling a play” and “running a route” lines.

The kid is just 20, so the directions he can go with his craft are countless. But the thing that makes Since99 such a captivating listen isn’t innovation or next-level rapping. It’s his honesty.

Notable White rappers past and present generally fall into two categories of self-presentation:

1. I’m White, and I know it, so I’ll compensate with my technique and rap only what I know.

(e.g. Eminem, Jack Harlow, Lil Dicky, quality aside)

2. I’m White, but I grew up around Black folk, so as long as I don’t say “nigga” I’ll just rap like them.

(e.g. G Eazy, Paul Wall, Bhad Bhabie, again, wildly different in terms of quality).

While rapping is the most democratic form of popular music in the world, anyone good at rapping owes some of their technique to Black Americans. As a rule, even the most original White acts in hip-hop borrow slang, lyric structure, dialect and other elements from Black rappers. But while many non-Black rappers at least try to perform with a dialect and vocal timbre different from their normal speech patterns, Since99 has simply said “Fuck it.”

It is his unfiltered, unmistakable “Times New Roman” voice as described by YouTube commenters that takes Since99 from decent SoundCloud rapper into a completely different realm.

What makes 99’s choice to use his plain Jane State Farm agent voice so bold is that he conforms to every other 2020 rap standard: he talks about drugs, guns, and sex, uses Black slang terms, rides contemporary beats and flows, and has a syntax that feels like he should be using a “Blacker” dialect to pull it off.

Instead, when Since99 says something like, “He’s serving that pack at a very low rate” in breakout hit “Immaculate,” his enunciation level is over 9000. He sounds like a mortgage broker rather than a street-level dealer, and that’s what makes him raw.

When the stacked triplet flows, anti-mumble White voice, acned face, surprisingly hard punchlines and confidence are all put together, you get a very entertaining rapper with potential who can already carry a project.

From a technical standpoint, it’s novel to see someone take zero shortcuts on syllables and still deliver moderate to fast-paced flows that sound good. In “No Go,” a good chunk of 99’s bars are 10+ syllables yet it sounds effortless:

From a cultural standpoint, Since99 makes up for the dubious authenticity of his raps—unless you believe every word of “shootin’ shit like I’m Gilbert in his prime”—with an unflinching acceptance of his Whiteness.

In making the choice to sound like middle management at US Bank, Since99 is saying, “I know the game, and I don’t have to hide that I’m White as snow to play it.” This is commendable since in reality, a huge chunk of hip-hop fans, perhaps the majority, are just like him: removed from the realities most of their favorite Black rappers live, but dedicated consumers of their content. This Easily Influenced consumer just had enough confidence to do his thing on the mic.

Clearly, Since99 is aware of how invasive his look and sound is in the rap world. His awareness or lack thereof would not change the quality of his music, but it’s a good sign for him down the road. If he can already toe the line between genuinely goofy outsider and standard Gen-Z rapper, the chances of him growing as an artist without relying too much on this shtick are higher.

I also think Since99’s rise will encourage a spike in White rappers using their status quo dialects to their advantage, for better and for worse. If anything, I believe it will be progress for hip-hop since people like 99 already participate in our culture. If more next-gen White kids step under the microscope as creators in hip-hop, perhaps their understanding of how race and social class factor into the culture will accelerate. In an indirect way, Since99’s success could open the door to more knowledgeable and invested White allies in the fight for racial justice.

No, I’m still not saying Since99’s rise will end racism. But he’s hard.

UPDATE 6/25/2020: Edited for formatting

2 COMMENTS

  1. Your pen game is strong man. I’m an OG blogger from the millennial generation and avid historian in the change in sound amongst. You did a great job describing 99’s flow and what makes it so unique and special. Keep doing your thing man, you gained an avid reader today.

    • Cass,

      Thanks for the comment! It means a lot. We’ll be back strong next week with some more hip-hop writing and a content partnership with a great platform for Black creatives.

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