Rap lyrics, at least among mainstream pop music are some of the most explicit in term of language and in actual content. So when a fan wants to express a love of a rap song and sing-a-long, some might feel a certain amount of trepidation in how to approach the lyrics. This is an issue can be left up to individual listeners because rap music unlike other genres traditionally doesn’t feature many rappers exactly covering other rapper’s work.
That is the problem faced by the duo Karmin, who have made a name for themselves doing acoustic covers of pop songs, ranging from Train to LMFAO, but their most popular songs were rap covers. I was introduced to Karmin in the most dismissive terms (“Ha, This Song is Fucking Terrible”, so I just avoided their music. I continued to see their name pop up, never listened, until one day I was watching MTV and saw their music video for “Brokenhearted”; thought it wasn’t a half bad pop song and figured I’d actually check out more of their work. To my surprise I really enjoyed “Hello” and even found the very awkward rapping and questionable singing of “Crash Your Party” goofy fun. But, it wasn’t their pop work that got people to be dismissive of this young couple, it was their rap covers.
The first Karmin cover I sought out was “6 Foot 7 Foot”, and after a minute or so, it finally hit me. Not that Karmin were terrible people who shouldn’t be allowed 50ft of a camera connected to YouTube; it hit me that they found a way to cover raps songs that was most comfortable for them. Lil Wayne’s original version of “6 Foot 7 Foot” is a weird pop (and rap) song with no real hook entirely composed of non-sequiturs. I’d bet Lil Wayne even at his weed and syrup highest couldn’t make sense of it; but as a rap song it’s just some basic unrestrained shit talking and Karmin’s version just finds another way to express that feeling.
In their covers, Amy Heidermann raps with a certain try-hardness that usually bothers me in rap music, but that forced earnestness works with their attempts at rap chest thumping. She not only edits out the cursing (yet for some reason “nigga” is replaced with “jigga”, which I really don’t understand); she also changes whole phrases to create a unique version of Lil Wayne’s hit. In her edit, “Life is the witch”, instead of “bitch”; the “fucking family picture”, turns into an “awkward” one, and bizarrely “fuck segregation” turns into “forget”. The surrealistic quality of Wayne’s original isn’t lost in the cover, as much as it’s cleaned up, while still remaining as nonsensical.
Karmin’s original work has turned into this well-manicured shit talking pop-rap. “Crash Your Party” is less Ke$ha, Jessie J, or Nicki Minaj, than it is the continuation of these cover Karmin’s been doing the past couple years. One might take issue with rap being reduced as a way to address one’s “haters”, but once again this shit talking and the unneeded defiance isn’t limited to the rapping sections but runs throughout songs like “Hello” or “Brokenhearted”.
Karmin’s Hello EP is kind of a dismissive of not only desperate guys, their new girlfriends, and generally anyone who Karmin wouldn’t accept a friend request from. It’s kind of hilarious not that isn’t acceptable to make songs about not liking the dudes who are interested in you (“Too Many Fish”) or not getting over that particular dude (“Brokenhearted”), but contrasted with multiple deliveries (singing and rapping) and various musical styles (2010s Pop this varied is actually pretty refreshing) it’s all a bit overly theatrical. But in “Brokenhearted”, Heidermann says “Business in the front, party in back, maybe I was wrong, was that outfit really wack” and Heidermann ends verses saying “Cheerio” in a weak British accent, so obviously their having fun here.
They’re having fun. That is such a terrible thing isn’t it (well it must be if they need a “Hater’s Guide”). I can defend their actions of covering rap songs and acknowledge I can see why their covers of rap songs might annoy and bother some people. But beyond that, I think their music is silly fun, so “Cheerio”.