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The rise of Chet Haze and a brief history of the Hollywood white rapper

January 13, 2011 | 12:42 pm

Mocking Caucasian rappers is like shooting whitefish in a barrel. The comical notion of the goofy guy with pale skin has been a hip-hop staple since "Rappin' Rodney." So it's trite to cast aspersions at Chet Haze (née Chester), the son of Tom Hanks, whose video for "White and Purple (Northwestern Remix)" went viral Wednesday. After all, his case is no different from that of the tens of thousands of frat boys with Pro Tools who are recording middling demos in basements all across America. 

What is different is that their fathers aren't the star of "Big," "Forrest Gump" and dozens of other memorable films. Nor do most of them describe themselves thus: "born and raised on the West Side of the Westside's main city LA, Chet grew up an enthusiast of the rap game....He is an up and coming MC with a flow that does California proud, partnered with lyrical intelligence that complements his attendance at Northwestern University. Living the college life, Chet's days consist of chilling with his boys, attending class, and taking care of business. However, his nights consist of absolutely murdering tracks, and living what he is really spitting."

Judging from his Northwestern-centric remix of Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow," what he's living is a life of getting “a call from the brothers in the frat house/ I'm with my girl, tryin' to get up under that blouse/ She a freshman/ She a freak though/ In the bed, but a lady in the street, yo." Presumably, being the son of the star of "Bosom Buddies" has to aid this situation. (Maybe that's a bad example.)

We'll spare the toothless jokes about Haze's skills or lack thereof. He's an upstart who obviously needs time in the booth before his music could ever begin to be taken seriously. That said, we live in a world in which a former "Degrassi: The Next Generation" child actor, Drake, is one of the biggest rappers going. It's not inconceivable that the young Chester Hanks could eventually have a career. Besides, he has plenty of company in the world of people with Hollywood ties who have attempted to make it in the hip-hop world.

David Faustino (D' Lil)

During the early '90s, David Faustino, better known to the world as Bud Bundy from "Married With Children," was a staple in the local club rap world. His love of hip-hop was unquestionable. To this day, he can still be spotted at underground hip-hop shows in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, his attempt at a rap career did little better than his character's alter-ego, Grandmaster B. Describing his aversion to "coochie hoochie groupies who only want [his] gravy," "I Told Ya," remains as a comic curio of the early '90s rap scene when everyone tried to rhyme like Das EFX. But hey, at least, the beat for "I Told Ya" knocks.

Brian Austin Green (Brian Green)

Dropping the Austin from his name, the "Beverly Hills, 90210" actor enlisted members of the Pharcyde to help him craft his first (and only) rap record, "One Stop Carnival." A staple of CD bargain bins from Pasadena to Pacoima, Green's debut was largely savaged by critics, eager to mock the erstwhile David Silver's hip-hop foray. In hindsight, his rhymes are surprisingly smooth and his beats glow with a laid-back jazz tint remniscent of early J Dilla. Granted, there's a generic nature to his music that makes it far from timeless, but really, this isn't bad at all. I mean, there has to be a reason why Megan Fox is with him.

Corin Nemec (THX)

A close confrere with Faustino and Green, Corin Nemec (a.k.a. Parker Lewis from "Parker Lewis Can't Lose") launched a brief rap career with a crew called Starship of Foolz. Sadly, a Google and YouTube search reveals no tangible document of their existence, but Nemec's group also featured Shane Mooney (son of Paul) and beats by Balthazar Getty. Though his rap career lasted longer than it took Kubiak to eat his lunch, Nemec did manage to kick a freestyle at former MTV VJ Ed Lover's birthday party, which inspired the star of "Who's the Man?" to claim that Nemec spit lyrics like "he came from the South Bronx." Unfortunately, the deal with KRS-One never emerged.

Simon Rex (Dirt Nasty)

The gold standard of all Hollywood actors turned white rappers, Nasty is the only one who has been able to carve out a legitimate career in the hip-hop world. The former "Felicity" and "Jack & Jill" star has been rapping and producing since the middle years of the last decade, first rising to fame alongside Mickey Avalon and Andre Legacy. Since then, he has staked out an identity of his own: that of a self-deprecating hedonist unable to dance but able to sleep with women of every stripe and size. He's collaborated with Too Short and 2 Live Crew, the Alchemist and Stretch Armstrong. Rex's skills are solid,  but they're certainly not of the Eminem or Yelawolf caliber. However, he understands something that no one else on the list gets: If you're going to do this, be funny. You're supposed to take your music seriously, not yourself. 

-- Jeff Weiss

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