Deeper Shades of Pale

Paul Barman and Mike Skinner show that white rappers come in a variety of lyrical hues

During a recent appearance on Black Entertainment Television, Justin Timberlake underwent a curious vocal transformation. An interviewer asked Timberlake if he was excited to be releasing a solo album. He responded, "Is soooo excitahn'. Fuh me, music is Marvin Gaye an' Stevie Wunda. Thas mah music!"

When white performers work in a traditionally black medium--R. and B., in Timberlake's case--they sometimes presume they've got to put on a kind of blackface, thereby turning themselves into insulting caricatures of what they're trying to emulate. But not everyone plays the game that way. Ivy Leaguer MC Paul Barman and British prodigy Mike Skinner,...

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