10 Rappers and Their Indie Rock Counterparts


Sometimes, dear readers, an article comes around that is so irksome, so bothersome, so flat out wrong that we feel compelled to offer a correction. Such was the case this week when MTV Clutch released their “Indie Rock Guide to Rap,” a list that compared figures in the rap world to popular indie rock bands, presumably because there’s no way you might have both Wiz Khalifa and the Arcade Fire on your iPod. It confused us from the get-go, since rap is all about swagger, lyricism, and showmanship and indie rock centers around DIY lo-fi scuzz. But what really sent it over the edge was that many of the comparisons — we’re looking at you, Lady Gaga — aren’t even remotely indie. And so, without further ranting, our corrected version of rappers to indie rockers. Disagree? Leave your corrections in the comments.

Wu-Tang Clan = Animal Collective

Both the Wu and Animal Collective made their name with a kind of whimsical fantasy life that they translated into their respective genres — Wu-Tang have Shao-Lin, Animal Collective have the wilds of Baltimore and now Brooklyn. Both grew out of groups of high school friends obsessed with certain films (for the Wu, it was kung-fu films; for Animal Collective it was b-movie horror), and each have a myriad of spin-offs and associated artists that went on to fame in their own right, not to mention interesting, thematic pseudonyms that hold inside and outside the band.

Jay-Z = Beck

Jay-Z and Beck occupy roughly the same position in the rap world and the indie rock world, respectively. If you haven’t heard of them, you probably haven’t listened to pop music in a while. In the fast-moving life-cycle of both genres, they’ve prevailed amongst the youngsters that keep cropping up every week to earn the status as a sort of respected elder — but one whose new record you feel compelled to check out. Both Hova and Beck now have a number of musical proteges that they collaborate with and promote, and both began their careers with songs that had an element of social criticism. But let’s be honest: lovely as she is, Beck’s wife Marissa Ribisi is no Beyoncé.

Lil Wayne = Guided by Voices

Though Weezy is hard to beat in terms of sheer numbers, he and GBV frontman Robert Pollard both churn out an absurd number of songs regularly, most of which are hit or miss. They both have a fanatical, cult-like following, and both Lil Wayne and Pollard have had their share of problems with drugs.

Mos Def = The Pixies

Godfathers of the indie scene The Pixies and Mos Def were both major influences in the 1990s (though the Pixies started a little before Def), and both have had comebacks in the past few years. Not to mention that Black Francis would really appreciate Mod Def’s obsession with the word “black” (Black Star, Blakroc).

Chuck D. = Henry Rollins

Outspoken, politically active, beloved by fight-the-man high schoolers everywhere, Chuck D. and Henry Rollins are known for their aggressive temperaments and somewhat terrifying stage presence. Both were also part of seminal groups in the 1980s — Public Enemy and Black Flag, respectively — before breaking out on their own. We’re guessing they would get along at a cocktail party. Before they smash the place up.

Kanye West = Steve Albini

Both Kanye West and Steve Albini are egos with legs, and they get away with it because they happen to be pretty damn good at their jobs. Kanye West’s continuous foot-in-mouth smack-talking mimics Albini’s famous hatred of, well, pretty much anything he didn’t make.

Drake = The National

If you’ve stepped into a frat house lately, you’re about equally likely to hear Drake and The National, both of whom make solid songs without much controversial about them. Dad rock, meet dad hip hop. We could see each group fitting right in at Bonnaroo.

Outkast = The Flaming Lips

In terms of putting on a great, crazy, confetti-showered show, neither Outkast nor The Flaming Lips can be beat for experience. They’ve both got great senses of style, not to mention a penchant for outlandish on-stage fun and experimental pop songs

Nicki Minaj = Björk

Nicki Minaj’s aesthetic might be Barbie while Björk’s might be… crazy Icelandic nymph? But both are colorful, wacky, and willfully weird, as well as producing legions of look-alike fans. They also both took their time before going solo — Minaj with a slew of guest appearances and mixtapes and Björk with the Sugarcubes.

Odd Future = Nick Cave

It remains to be seen whether Tyler, the Creator and his posse will have as long and varied a career as Nick Cave and his various awesome, bizarre bands, but they both have an obsession with the scatological and the graphically sexual that’s sufficient to scare most parents.