Sharps & flats

Wigga wit attitude: Why white hip-hopper G. Love needs to ditch his "Amos 'n' Andy" routine.

Topics: Music,

Garrett Dutton still hasn’t figured out that he’s not as black as he wants to be. Which is very, very black. Problem is, Dutton, also known as blues singer cum rapper G. Love, is white. Snow White white. Al Gore white. Refrigerator white, to borrow a Nick Lowe line.

But G. Love doesn’t know that yet. Every syllable he utters on “Philadelphonic,” his fourth release, is a desperate effort to convince you that he is the original Soul Brother No. 1, that he’s street, that he’s keeping it real. The result is 54 minutes of cringe-inducing embarrassment, with Dutton almost Amos-’n'-Andying his attempts to sound black.

On a first album, such misguided cultural leapfrogging is forgivable; on a second it becomes tiresome; by the third, it’s inexcusable. On “Philadelphonic,” Dutton finds no black music style beyond his scope. He flits about between bogus quiet storm ballads such as “Relax,” and a mishmash of blues, D.C. go-go and old-school rap. On “Friday Night (Hundred Dollar Bill)” he steals his delivery directly from the Fresh Prince’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” There’s also a rather dubious attempt at a Jamaican patois on “Honor and Harmony.” Even as a black singer, it turns out, Dutton has an identity problem.

You Might Also Like

It takes only the briefest of bios to discover that Dutton is a cultural interloper of the most obnoxious kind. He may be from that meanest of East Coast cities, but two professional parents, a Society Hill address and an elite private school education do not a Philly street-tough make. Dutton harbors, consciously or unconsciously, a misapprehension that cultural, racial and class differences are superficial and can be bridged with good-natured bonhomie and a few shout-outs. His affection for black music and culture may be sincere, but his attempts to replicate it, no, to be it, reflect a witless paternalism endemic to upper middle-class ghetto wannabes.

Of course no music style should be the exclusive domain of whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians or any racial or ethnic group. Pop music especially is filled with brilliant examples of the genius of borrowing, stealing and melding musical forms (from the Beasties to King Sunny Ade, from Elvis to P-Funk). But any style of music demands more than dead-on imitation. If that is all that’s offered, the art disappears. Imitations flatter, but they rarely inspire, and though Dutton does a fair enough job at replicating the sounds of his favorite music, his efforts are ultimately false, ill-conceived and inconsequential.

The song “Rodeo Clowns” opens with a typical Dutton voiceover: “Yo wassup, this is G. Love comin’ at you live out here from Califawnya even though I’m Philly born and bred and I got my man Jack Johnson in the studio today … my man Jack tell ‘em what time it is.”

Time for you to step off, G.

Joe Heim is a frequent contributor to Salon. He lives in Washington.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>