Making it big in the hip-hop game when you start out small is incredibly difficult. So much of the genre’s lyricism, visual cues and lifestyle prerequisites are based in the foundations of success that accessing that upper echelon of living and consequently referencing that existence in your work inevitably become instances of faking it until you make it. What that means for the amateur hip-hopper can range from hiring Lamborghinis for video clip shoots to hiring attractive women for video clip shoots. Popping bottles of Cristal and Hennessy, snacking on caviar and riding around town with two Dominican girls and a Hublot on each arm are aspects of living not usually within the purview of your aspiring rapper. Such artists therefore face a dilemma. They might well take the pretence route and spend a hard-earned promotional budget on promoting a sham life, but just as many artists will succeed on this path as will fail – it becomes easy to detect a certain awkwardness associated with leaning on a car you patently don’t own. But attempting to subvert these conventions of the genre will just as soon see you labelled as ‘wack’ and destroy any burgeoning credibility you might have otherwise had.
For 22-year-old rapper Left Boy, a new Brooklyn local, the odds are stacked even more heavily against him. Left Boy, aka Ferdinand Sarnitz, faces myriad more challenges to establishing himself as a legitimate hip-hop enterprise then those outlined above. Most glaringly, Left Boy is white. Regardless of the inroads artists like Mac Miller, Asher Roth and Yelawolf have made, the genre is still lorded over by Eminem and no act has been able to attain the level of success Marshall Mathers has such that his ‘whiteness’ is no longer a real talking point. Additionally, Left Boy doesn’t even speak English as a first language. While the Swedes have proven that native English speech isn’t a requirement for turning out killer indie-pop, the contemporary hip-hop glossary is so punctuated with idiosyncrasies that a mastery of the basic language seems necessary. With ‘Healthy Ego’, the Viennese born Sarnitz proves that being white and being foreign don’t have to be obstacles to being good.
‘Healthy Ego’ has been on some of the highest rotation my much-abused bedroom speakers have been privy to for some time. Just as Left Boy as an artist skirts the precipice of traditional rap legitimacy, this track, ostensibly an introduction to the scrawny Austrian kid with a penchant for making his own zany pastiche videos, could have so easily fallen off the edge, swamped by a plethora of incongruous samples and a distinct pseudo-LMFAO ‘club-party’ sound. Instead, ‘Healthy Ego’, borrowing on steam-engine trains, orgasm sound effects and a Windows start-up theme sounds to me like boundaries being pushed which, so choked with its own egos and Rolls Royce Phantoms, the top end of town can’t usually manage to do. With the liberty to screw around, make mistakes and recover from them before he becomes a household name, Left Boy is doing just that, exploiting the nexus of dance and hip-hop until it explodes in a burst of looped vocals, warped synths and moans. He might not be typical hip-hop but when adventurism sounds as good as this, who wants typical?
Left Boy – Healthy Ego