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While traveling to my classes via ride sharing services; my driver brought up her opinions on the rappers of the current day. Like many people who grew up in the old school era of rap and R&B, she didn't understand the success of rappers like Lil Pump, DJ Khalid, or Lil Yachty. She wondered what about them made this new generation flock to them or why her little brother kept singing about a gang of Gucci.
This made me realize something; these rappers are the Flava Flavs of our generation. They are the hype men that have become something more than when they started.
For those of you that are not familiar with the old school, let me explain what a hype man is. A hype man is someone that is responsible for making the main rapper look good. The main way that the hype man makes the rapper look good is by, as in the name, hyping the crowd up. They can do this by repeating words of the rap, making random sounds, or just shouting words of encouragement. The hype man is mostly used during concerts or live shows; however you can occasionally find them on tracks in the background.
That was Flava Flav when he was with the well known group Public Enemy. As you can see in the video, he was very good at his role as hype man.
For those of you that grew up after the nineties or were a little too young to remember rap groups like this, you might not know Flava Flav from his time as a hype man. You may instead know him from his run of the reality television circuit on shows like Surreal Life and Strange Love. You may also know him, like me, from his show Flavor of Love. The show was about 20 women that would compete against each other for the affection of the main star, Flava Flav.
While the show only ran for about three seasons, it gained mass popularity and a moderately large fan base. The show had several moments that drew fans and casual viewers alike, such as the incident with the chicken in the microwave.
You might also know him from the headlines that spoke of the failure of his chicken franchise or how his relationship with Brigitte Nielsen ended. He has always found a way to get the media's attention.
So how do they get so popular in the first place? I have a theory of how this happens. These new rappers are the muses for memes and funny videos that just work to spread their name around. Their wacky behavior and personalities only fuel this cycle. For example, Lil Pump with his infamous song "Gucci Gang" or the music video "I Like It" ft. Kanye West. If you don't expect to see a block shaped costume worn by your younger brother this Halloween then you are going to be in for quite the surprise.
Of course it should be said that both Lil Pump and Lil Yachty did not get their starts as hype men for others, however their personalities are very similar to famous hype men that we all know. DJ Khalid being the most famous currently, is a hype man. While he doesn't do hype man work for other groups, he does do it for himself.
Networking and collabs also help build popularity for the hype men and makes their names more well known. Lil Pump's collab with Kanye West, DJ Khaled's collab with just about every artist in the mainstream have helped build their fame.
Then there is also the older but still widely famous hype men that have made names for themselves in the mainstream. Lil Jon, Master P, and Sean Combs are just a couple to name a few. These people have taken notes from what Flava Flav did and used these ways to make themselves more noted in the mainstream.
Lil Jon did collab on tracks with other famous artists such as LMFAO with "Shots" or DJ Snake with the popular song "Turn Down for What," which was also turned into a meme for a while after its' debut. As well as the sketch he did with comedian Dave Chappelle on Chappelle's Show.
I'm not trying to deny the success of these new rappers or downplay the cultural impact that Flava Flav has had on previous generations. There is no question that they are successful and have earned their success. I just was curious how this fame and success has happened.