Chart Peak: UK 1
Three tracks in and this is the first one not to have appeared on a UK Now (well, not in the main series anyway, it's on several spin-off releases like the recent Now That's What I Call 30 Years) so this is my only opportunity to write about it in this form.
It's tempting to make the obvious comment about a white rapper appearing on a South African album but of course the first few rap singles to top the UK chart were disproportionately Caucasian as well: Partners In Kryme, Vanilla Ice, The Simpsons (stretching a point a bit maybe?). I admit I'm pretty ill-informed as to the arrival of rap music in the mainstream in South Africa but I'd imagine it was not dissimilar to here; I do know that rap music caught on in the black townships but I don't suppose that would have translated to sales.
Robert Van Winkle always cut a rather ridiculous figure, and not only because of his ethnicity and posh background. He's not totally incompetent as a rapper but even in a profession where modesty isn't considered an advantage he seemed immensely fond of himself. It's perfectly standard to rap about how good you are at rapping of course but he doesn't match up to the wit or spontaneity of the great freestylers, and his attempts to adopt street slang are just cringe-inducing. And it's not welcome when he drifts into recounting a shooting in the middle of the song, especially as his story mainly seems to be about running away. That said, there's something to be said for rendering the music accessible to a wider audience and the production of the track's not bad. Of course, it's the second track in a row to have been involved in a lawsuit with Queen (and David Bowie) understandably wanting a cut of the royalties for the 'Under Pressure' bassline. It's tempting to sneer and not totally wrong to do so, but I have to admit there's a reason this was successful, and a reason he's never matched the success.
Available on: To The Extreme
Charting 1997: 27th December
5 years ago