Why Doesn't UK Rap Crossover to the US?
Rock bands and pop artists from the UK have never had a problem crossing over to the US and experiencing tremendous popularity—look at The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Adele, Coldplay, Queen, Amy Winehouse -- just to barely scratch the surface. So, why can’t the same be said for UK rappers? Rap seems to be the one genre that cannot handle the jump to the American stage. For a society that typically idolizes anything Anglo (Royal Wedding Fever, for example) we have not yet embraced the UK rapper. Could it be the accents? Do we not understand their pop culture references? Or is it merely a case of Americans being satisfied with what we already have?
There is an old saying that The United Kingdom and The United States are two nations divided by a common language. This becomes even more apparent in the international hip-hop community due to the genre’s heavy reliance on slang and colloquialisms. It could be argued that it is easier for our friends across the pond to embrace our rap because they are already accustomed to our slang and speech patterns. Many American television shows and movies are popular over there, giving them a leg up on catching subtle references in songs. Outside of Hugh Grant movies and the Harry Potter franchise, British films and TV shows do not have the same impact over here. Instead, we take great British sitcoms and put an American twist on them, look at The Office and The Inbetweeners for example, further depriving us of an opportunity to gain insight into the British culture.
Their accents could also be to blame when it comes to their lack of fame in the US. For a country that is smaller than eleven different states they have much stronger variations in accents than we do. In most cases, Americans love British accents, ladies think they are charming and guys get a kick out of their pronunciation of words like penalize and the fact that rubbers are erasers. However, when you couple their accents with music and increase the speed that they are talking, all of a sudden the bloke you were having a chinwag with has become unintelligible to American ears.
Since hip-hop’s roots can be traced back to American soil it could simply be a case of Americans not being open to new interpretations of it just yet, i.e. grime. Compared to other genres hip-hop is still relatively young and even younger abroad, maybe in 5 or 10 years these points will all be moot. In the meantime, while you may have heard of Dizzee Rascal, there is so much more great music coming from the other side of the Atlantic that you should check out, so read on and get familiar.