Listomania – When Rap Goes Wrong

Why does everyone think they can rap?

Maybe that’s too big a question, at 5pm on a dark Monday in a world that’s currently celebrating Adam Lambert’s appearance with Queen at the weekend. Whatever the reason, it’s one of those things – like breakdancing – that we all can’t help but indulge in once in a while.

Pop perineum Justin Bieber is the latest perp, so in honour of the newly-adult testicular JB and his red-faced, not at all rehearsed over and over and over and over, 10,000 dislike-garnering attempt at outshining Kanye (in both the rap and comedy categories) on some American radio show last week, we’ve been looking at some real bad raps of late.


We’re not talking about bad rappers, though – that’s a whole new topic altogether. Rather when indie types, actors, celebs or pop musos take a digression into hip hop and it all goes spectacularly wrong.

Perhaps controversially, I’m not including Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ in this. Partly because it’s not actually that bad a rap, but also because slotted back into context – in 1981, as the first chart-topping rap track – it’s a pretty successful or at least admirable attempt at crossover. ‘Black Or White’ is also excluded, mostly because I learnt all the words in the early 90s and felt like MC Hammer cruising round town in the back of my mum’s Fiat Panda. Should Mr John Barnes be in here? You can be the judges of that.

Robbie Williams, ‘Rudebox’
Why is this such a bad song? It’s not (just) the opening couplet: ”Ok then back to basics, grab your shell toes and your fat laces. A little hand clap for some funk faces and make your body move in the following places“.

It’s not only the following lines, which mock disabled people (“dance like you just won at the special Olympics”) and the war wounded (“make your body shape like you’re stood on a landmine”) or the imagery of Robbie on Mandrex shaking his ample rudebox in your face. It’s not even that Williams himself calls it a “ginger stepchild”.

I think what makes you most want to slice off your ears, leave them to dry in the sun sprinkled with a herby rub until they’re hard and serve them to your dog, is that it took eight writers to come up with this. The video didn’t help either.

Madonna, ‘American Life’
Want to know what Auntie Madge sounds like after “drinking a soy latte…a double shotty” and taking up rapping? Nicki Minaj having a heart attack. Doctor, bring on the CPR machine – she’s got lots to say about yoga, pilates, nannies and metaphysics shit and not nearly enough air in her withered lungs to say it.

Brian Wilson, ‘Smart Girls’
Never before has the phrase ‘all kinds of wrong’ been needed more. ”My name is Brian, and I’m the man” he begins, like the Fresh Prince lost down Sesame Street on enough of Robbie’s Mandrex to turn a horse Tory, before it goes from bad to mental. An underfunded and run-down rural asylum of bad ideas.

Snow Patrol, ‘Crazy In Love’
I had no idea you could turn that all-guns-blazing opening into a dirge, but it seems possible. Of course, the highlight of this tune comes in around two minutes in.

The View, ‘One Off Pretender’
Personally, I don’t mind The View’s cheery and probably literal spitting about “living on them pills lying in squalor / That’s the life of the late night bar crawler”. It’s a jaunty kind of rap and they don’t waste it for an interlude – it runs throughout the track. However, an office favourite so it’s in the Ten.

R.E.M., ‘Radio Song’
When I got to the show – yo, oh oh – I could tell she had been crying, crying / The same same song, the DJ sucks” This little foray into rap is more lazy than truly terrible, and it least it had a real rapper (KRS-One) in the background.

Duran Duran, ‘White Lines’
We asked Twitter for some suggestions for this list and I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard this song until today. Thanks Twitter. Thanks for nothing.

Pete Doherty covers Derek B
Just to hear Zane Lowe use the phrase Grime Minister (although sadly not in reference to Pete D).

Mr T, ‘Treat Your Mother Right’
Admirable sentiment, and it’s pretty slick how he pulls the microphone from his buttocks in the clip below. But beyond that, and maybe the camouflage hotpants, this is all manner of no, no, no. A beat that sounds tapped out on a hobo’s cardboard house, sound effects that would embarrass a ZX Spectrum, three frumpy backing singers seemingly air-lifted from the WI and a frontman, T, who looks as convincing as a rapper as Berlusconi does as a leader.

Ron Jeremy, ‘Freak Of The Week’
Kobe or K-Fed could equally take this final spot, but neither of them made a video like this.

So, which crap rap tracks do you think sound like limp soggy bizkits? Whose constipated flow makes fake rapper Joaquin look like Jay-Z? Answers below.