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Rap Game Elementary School: The Space Migration Tour's Rising Stars Want Your Lunch Money 

Wednesday, Jul 31 2013

Personalities rarely change. You're born, you fight your innate nature for a handful of decades, then you give in, and then you die. That's why kids have so much fun, because they haven't yet realized that their purpose on Earth is to suppress their instincts at all costs. So, in an attempt to prepare you for the highly buzzed-about traveling circus of hip-hop personalities that is the Space Migration Tour, we're taking you back to the early days, and profiling them in terms of a milieu we're all familiar with: elementary school.

Chance the Rapper: The Class Clown

Maybe he's torn up inside and found humor as his outlet; maybe he's been incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD and he's just loopy from the Ritalin; or maybe he's just incredibly smart. Chance, the current rising star of Chicago independent rap, is that kid who's constantly making noise, the kid who'd tape his own mouth shut just to be ironic. With a sputtering, excitable intellect, and a curious spoken-word influence, he rarely stays in the same style from verse to verse, trying on hats like the Kentucky Derby cleanup crew. This is definitely the kid you want to align yourself with.

Action Bronson: The Freaky Lunch Lady

There was always that one member of the school lunch staff: Unkempt, patches of hair growing in places you'd never seen, and missing in others. Maybe sanitary gloves, maybe not. Caustic and resentful, but you kinda liked that about them. And they loved food.

Somewhere we went from talking about that one lunch lady to Action Bronson. He is a rotund New Yorker of Albanian descent, who keeps his hair close scropped on top and wears a big red beard beneath, and who puts out vivid, hedonistic, and wildly fascinating rap music. Like the lunch lady, he takes himself just seriously enough to be respected, but he's also not afraid to admit that he's kind of a hilarious mess.

Between recording and touring, Action always finds time for food. Originally a gourmet chef himself, Bronson has his second cooking show in development, which, if it's anything like his first one, should be a hit. Assuming he stays in good health, makes the right business decisions, and keeps up what is already a pretty good record of race relations, he may soon sit in Paula Deen's vacant throne.

Mac Miller: The "Gimme That" Kid

You're playing with green plastic army men. He's already got the rifle guy, so you dig up the hand-grenade guy from the bottom of the bin. Pow-pow. When he sees you found the bomber guy, his eyes get all fiery and the familiar words tumble out of his mouth: "Gimme that!"

So you get out your blocks, and begin work on your next architectural breakthrough. He comes over, sees how tall it's getting, and suddenly he's trying to snake your government contract. You relinquish your construction project to him and grab a lump of Play-Doh and stick it to the wall. But he pops up out of nowhere, tears off a piece, and puts it in his mouth.

Granted, freedom can be can difficult for such "gimme that" kids, as well as for the more inventive peers from whom they're always filching. But the "gimme that" crowd can also grow up to become — if not truly creative — at least passionate facilitators. Likewise, Malcolm McCormick, born in 1992, is just a kid searching for his place in the class. He hit indie rap paydirt with 2011's Blue Slide Park, which was the first independent album to debut at Billboard's No. 1 spot since 1995. But even after nearly half a million sales, he was bored. Maybe his audience was too young, naive, or white for his taste. Unsatisfied, he moved from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, and sought out some new friends, namely the cutting-edge weirdos of Odd Future.

Mac's new interests forced a career image shift, which is part of the marketing subtext of the Space Migration Tour. Nowadays he's got everything he grabbed for: an MTV reality show, full-sleeve tattoos, a Flying Lotus beat. Above all, June's Watching Movies with the Sound Off showed everyone a purported "dark side" to the previously carefree frat-rap star. Critically, he got some of his pitiless detractors to flip-flop, inspiring some of the most self-conscious conversions and awkward backtracking ever in this hurried era of the Internet rap. Unironic headlines broadcast the cultural memo: Mac Miller finally meets our maxim of cool.

The thing is, whether he admits it or not, Mac Miller has been getting everything he wanted since day one. Boredom and disquiet are bigger weaknesses for him than his actual skills, which continue to serve him well. And even when the "right" people decide he's not fresh anymore, he'll probably still be okay. "Gimme that" kids usually are.

About The Author

Will Butler

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