White rappers come and go, but mostly they just go. Eminem is the exception that proves the rule on this side of the pond, and 'round merry olde England way there's a guy called Mike Skinner, AKA The Streets, who has Slim Shady's staying power sans some of the neuroses. He covers the usual white rapper trope of fame, hos, drugs and parental issues (with the bonus of Cockney Rhyming Slang), but he gets a little deeper.
While most pain in the hip-hop game is expressed through wounded, animal rage, Mike Skinner's hurt is more nuanced and possibly more relatable (he is British). His third studio album, The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living, deals with the trappings of fame and how it's skewed his view of dating and women in general. But his sophomore album, A Grand Don't Come For Free, focuses on love and gender misunderstandings.
If my opinion and the UK pop charts mean anything, this is easily his best effort. The record is a concept album (narrative in execution, cinematic in scope) and deals with a rough period in the rapper's life. It begins with him losing a thousand pound note (I think Prince Harry is on that one) and along the way to recovering the money, he meets a girl, moves in with her, breaks up, tries to drink, drug and fornicate the pain away, attempts one last shot at reconciliation, fails and eventually finds the thousand-pound note.
The reconciliation attempt, "Dry Your Eyes," is by far the most powerful song. It's up there with Ben Harper's "Walk Away" as one of those songs that takes you into a weird, uncomfortable but immediately recognizable place. On a personal note, I cannonballed this song with "Comfortably Numb" and Nine Inch Nails' "Every Day Is Exactly The Same" on a post-breakup, self-pity party. Read: The Bad Girl's Breakup Rx
While The Street's brand of garage rap may not be your cup of tea, it's impossible to argue that he doesn't have a unique, nuanced and worth-exploring view on the male-female condition. Any time I'm in a club and see a guy and a girl chatting I wonder two things: 1) Is he trying The Game; and 2) Does The Streets' line, "the reason girls flirt is to work out their worth, whereas men just hanker for the panky to happen," apply? Read: Learn To Flirt Like A Pro