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The Trouble With Macklemore

The Trouble With Macklemore

macklemore-bw

[Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on 206up.com and Chul asked us to share it here, too, so we did!]

The white rapper with the crazy red fringe game and un-Googleable hairstyle danced acrossSaturday Night Live’s venerable stage two weekends ago like it was his last performance on earth. At first glance, the “blandly handsome” Macklemore (as Grantland’s Steven Hyden put it) didn’t look much like a rap music harbinger of doom, but for a concerned segment of hip-hop’s literati that’s what he closely resembles.

If you were a viewer watching at home, or maybe even in the studio audience, your reaction was likely one of either intense bewilderment, extreme delight, or furrowed disdain. Macklemore’s number one hit single “Thrift Shop” has very humble origins and the story of its rise to fame contains the standard tropes now associated with meme-powered feats of acclivity. But while sectarianism as it concerns bubblegum acts like Carly Rae Jepsen and petri dish experiments like Lana Del Rey can be reduced essentially to matters of taste, Macklemore’s ascent is complicated by the genre he practices in and the resultant untidiness endured by racial semantics.

A few months ago I saw author Dan Charnas (The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop) deliver a short lecture on the intersection of race and hip-hop culture, specifically as it pertained to the rise of white rappers both inside the genre and in mainstream pop culture in general. The lecture was part of a larger symposium about 1990s multiculturalism and Charnas’ part was too broad and abbreviated to be of much use. But the author did say something interesting at the end of his lesson; a sort of big, gooey mozzarella ball that lodged itself in the long-ago atrophied academic section of my brain. He said that hip-hop has been unable to generate transcendent, white superstar MCs because white American culture “is not strong enough to support them.” The kicker was delivered as the closing line to his speech, a sort of “Oh shit!” head-cocker for the race and culture nerds in the room before Mr. Charnas exited stage right.

At the time I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, but after reading interviews with Charnas, I think I understand now. Here is Charnas discussing  the continuity of rap music after it was initially dismissed as a fad (via the website Roots Forward):

…there had to be a culture worth spreading. Genres and styles are more likely to end up as fads or crazes when the culture behind it isn’t strong or complex enough. Hip-hop had a multifaceted culture (music, verse, dance, visual art, and style) by the time the first records surfaced.

Makes sense, yes? White American culture is flimsy because everything contained within it is stolen from other cultures. Thus, according to Charnas, constructing the Great White Rapper narrative upon hip-hop’s existing cultural bedrock is like the foolish man who heard God command that he put down his home on solid ground but instead decided to build his crib on the sand anyway. By the time societal and music industry machinations (both holy and otherwise) allowed for an entry point for white MCs, hip-hop culture was already an impenetrable monolith. White rappers, in other words, never stood a chance.

None of this is to say hip-hop hasn’t reached a level of democratization that allows for widespread participation. We have Eminem, for example. We have Mac Miller. We have Yelawolf (jokes!). And, yes, now we have Macklemore. And, as past history has shown, entry into hip-hop culture for the man born Ben Haggerty has proven to be bumpy. Of course if you’re basing the rapper’s recent success strictly on Billboard charting, YouTube views, and invitations to perform on late-night network television shows his landing appears much smoother, but that’s because the segment of the consumer public most responsible for Macklemore’s commercial rise is one not overly concerned with the health of hip-hop culture as a whole. I’ve stood outside the sold-out concert venues in Seattle and New York City and I can assure you these are the blind faithful: mostly high school or college-aged kids reared in a hailstorm of online media which has, for better or worse, converted hip-hop into a public domain. To them, it seems, this rap shit belongs to everybody.

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65 Comments

  1. CG
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 14:37:00

    It sounds like you have more of an issue with how the opinion is being expressed, and less with the article’s subject matter in general. In my view, race is a worthy topic of being intellectualized, but it doesn’t seem like you feel that way.

  2. sky rat
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 10:35:00

    It’s not really that they aren’t valid because you make some good points, I suppose I was a little grumpy it just seems unnecessarily wordy. Like do you consider yourself “among the hip-hop cognoscenti”? Is “progenitor” a baser term? We’re talking about rap music.

  3. CG
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 14:54:00

    What does “someone who writes like this” mean? You’re saying because I have a fairly decent vocabulary that my opinions on hip-hop aren’t valid? What should my writing look like in order for me to be qualified to speak on this?

  4. sky rat
    Apr 08, 2013 @ 12:37:00

    I’ve been following macklemore’s career for the past 5 years or so and I did like some of his earlier stuff at one point, not really a fan these days but I still think he’s respectable. It’s tough to be corny in hip hop and still make it work, and I feel like he does that. I really kind of question the writer of this article, while I am pretty well-educated I could not understand everything without a dictionary on hand – this may be an insult to myself but so be it, I just don’t trust someone who writes like this to be a judge what is and isn’t good for hip hop.

  5. CG
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 13:38:00

    So on what grounds exactly are we supposed to “judge what we hear?” Seems like you’re suggesting we should try to exist in some sort of cultural vacuum where history doesn’t influence the present.

  6. Chamberlain Drive
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 12:30:00

    time to get over your racism people. it’s 2013.

    who invented hip hop? who invented the microphone? Who invented rock n roll? who invented the guitar?

    It’s not black and white. It’s not color. None of these things would exist today without white people. None of these things would exist today without black people. etc. etc.

    Music is for listening. Judge what you hear not what you see.

  7. CG
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 23:08:00

    Exceptions always exist. Two commercially successful acts in the 40 year history of hip-hop don’t disprove the theory that rap music isn’t exactly known for propping up white culture. It if were true, these conversations wouldn’t be happening so frequently.

    But yes, if you want to resort to your simple logic, I suppose you could say Charnas’ conceit is false. But I think we all know it’s not that clean of an argument.

  8. Acrophonous
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 16:52:00

    Well if you say white America isn’t strong enough to support white superstar MCs, but two of the biggest acts in the last 20 years (beastie boys and Eminem) have been white, then it seems like the first thing you said was false.

  9. CG
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 12:10:00

    So you’re saying because there has been one — okay, two if you count Em — hugely successful white hip-hop acts in the entire history of the genre, that Charnas is wrong? You must also be one of those post-racial flag-wavers.

  10. Acrophonous
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 14:40:00

    He said that hip-hop has been unable to generate transcendent, white superstar MCs because white American culture “is not strong enough to support them.”

    Beastie Boys.

    And we’re done.

  11. white privilege is enforced
    Mar 25, 2013 @ 12:56:00

    you mean like how we don’t refer to bush, clinton, reagan, or any other president as “white presidents”?

  12. LLCoolJeans
    Mar 22, 2013 @ 13:25:00

    Can’t say I read all of this cause my eyes suck and it’s hard to read large blocks of text…BUT

    Isn’t Hip-hop founded on cultural misappropriation? Sampling other peoples records to make your own in a different style…I understand it’s mainly black musicians being sampled, at least in the early days, but not exclusively, and a lot of them didn’t appreciate being sampled. Also, writing your name on subway cars and trucks, to me, is a misappropriation of white/corporate culture.

    I get why cats get bummed on the Harlem Shake and shit, but culture is always gonna move and we can’t live in bubbles…It’s not possible.

    That said, don’t be a racist dick.

    -Your boy

  13. CG
    Mar 21, 2013 @ 11:57:00

    People criticizing Macklemore directly for appealing to hipsters might be slightly unfair. Then again, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are the ones who decided to use “Thrift Shop” as their primary entry into the pop music mainstream. Wouldn’t that mean they’re ultimately to blame?

  14. CG
    Mar 21, 2013 @ 11:52:00

    LOL @ “wack sauce”. Last time I used that phrase was in like 9th grade. Also, I liked MC Serch…

  15. CG
    Mar 21, 2013 @ 11:50:00

    Is there any passage in the piece where it says “Macklemore shouldn’t be allowed to be a rapper?” I think you’re projecting. If you feel like that’s the point of the piece then you either entirely missed the actual point, or I did a shitty job of writing. (Not saying the latter isn’t possible!)

  16. CG
    Mar 21, 2013 @ 11:45:00

    A rapper is considered Black when he or she is… BLACK. There is no such thing as synonymous white and Black lives in America. One race is hierarchically treated inferior to the other. There is no true equality.

  17. CG
    Mar 21, 2013 @ 11:38:00

    That’s an important point. A reader who had commented on the piece when it first ran on 206UP.COM brought that up. White rappers who have seen much success in the underground (Bronson, El-P, Aesop, Slug, etc.) aren’t judged on the same criteria as mainstream stars. The reader who commented suggested that it’s probably because these underground artists adhere more closely to rap’s “center” (what Jon Caramanica references in his NY Times piece). Therefore there is less of a perceived “danger” to hip-hop.

  18. CG
    Mar 21, 2013 @ 11:33:00

    A lot of times there’s no evil to gentrification either, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t collateral damage.

  19. CG
    Mar 21, 2013 @ 11:31:00

    Three things…

    White people spending their money on rap music is not in harmony with what I was saying in the piece. In fact, it’s probably been the single most destructive force to hip-hop culture of all. The “support” I describe was not meant to reference rap’s place in the “driving economic engine of our country.” Nice job on missing the point.

    Calling reverse-racism is on some FOX News shit, man. Racism doesn’t work that way. You should learn more about it.

    I also never stated that Macklemore’s music isn’t meaningful from a values standpoint. Matter of fact, I pretty much agree with everything the rapper has ever said. This critique has almost nothing to do with the man as a rapper and everything to do with America’s reaction to him.

  20. actuallytho
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 22:48:00

    Do we really have more of a problem with his skin tone than the fact that he’s a shitty lyricist?

  21. LLCoolJeans
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 12:53:00

    Word, haven’t listened to this track. Reminds me of American Tune by Andrew Jackson Jihad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLg5POTvVzs

    “I’m a straight while male in America I got all the luck I need”

  22. Will
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 10:20:00

    What a crock of sh-t. No race “owns” music anymore than a tree owns the sky. Its roots may be deeply anchored in a particular place but it grows up and out because it needs sunlight and rain to survive. Your Dr. Charnas gets it wrong btw. The “American white” culture IS strong enough to support rap — because that culture is EXACTLY what has kept hip hop “alive.” If it wasn’t for its adoption by white middle class suburban high schoolers hip hop would’ve gone the way of disco. Rejected and entombed away from the driving economic engine of our country – the generous and fad focused discretionary income of America’s white youth. Your attempt to undermine an artist as important as Macklemore by placing him on the outside of territory YOU claim as your own is not only racist but, by all accounts according to the ascending path of his music’s popularity and his future, an ill-informed and deedless land-grab which WE as a culture have already rejected. Wise up. “Same Love” doesn’t need just apply to homosexuality. You should start thinking of its message as relating to ALL music.

  23. Slappy Vondo
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 20:17:00

    The reason this dude is wack sauce is that he is uninteresting and riding on the backs of people, even white rap dudes, who came before him to his milky version of rap. It feels like he bit a Sage Francis freestyle and been duplicating it forever. His stuff appeals to blahzay white folks the way Eminem catered to the angry white boys of the world and even when they are honest, it comes off as manufactured for a target audience. He’ll get his money and disappear like every Miilkbone and MC Serch before him.

  24. Keyan
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 19:01:00

    Bottom line is 14 year old white girls buy music and they loved Thrift Shop not to mention Macklemore looks “safe” to parents….. Meek Mills dream chasers tape had over 3 million downloads in a week but his album struggles to go gold… I think this solidifies who buys music right there.

  25. Joey Trust
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 16:29:00

    The first issue that I have with conversations such as this one, is that we refer to white rappers as just that, white rappers. We don’t refer to Immortal Technique as a “brown rapper” or MF Doom as a “black rapper.” We refer to all rappers, other than white rappers, as just rappers. We don’t include any of their racial makeup with their title. This alone is a cause for concern. Also, not everyone in the “ivory towers” of the world are white. The biggest issue in the world is classism, not racism. This is why the Hip Hop community rejects those who are wealthy or established. They haven’t gone trough the same struggles as the middle class. I can relate to this. I see nothing wrong with this. The issue that I do have is that the minorities of the Hip Hop community seem to believe that if you are white you were just born with a gold brick in your hand. So, in turn, they try to discredit every white rapper on the planet who attempts to rap about their struggles. People confuse classism with racism. The government wants to keep the middle class white man down as much as the middle class black man. Also, not every black rapper spends his musical talent on raising awareness about issues in the slums of this country. As a matter of fact, most rappers spend their time objectifying women and bashing gays. That seems a little oppressive to me. It’s hypocritical to give this “white rapper” from Seattle, WA a hard time when he promotes gay rights in songs like “Same Love.” If this man wasn’t white we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Apparently it’s only okay for a black man to exploit rap music. This isn’t to say a white man should also have the right. I don’t think anyone should exploit anything.

  26. bwood
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 13:15:00

    It’s apparent Macklemore has a great deal of love & respect for the art of hip hop. Far more than any 2chainz, waka, soulja boy, etc.. As far as the article’s perspective, black rappers polluting their own culture should be more up for discussion. But that’s not the case, in my opinion. Because then you could go into the debate of what really makes a black rapper, well.. black. There are plenty blacks whose lives are synonymous with whites, & vice versa. Which is why i do not see the importance of race in hip hop. WE’RE ALL IN THE STRUGGLE. Also, as time passes, there are going to be less people (including blacks) who identify with the founding components of hip hop. What would America be today, should we continue to uphold the grounds it was founded on? And, why does that not translate to hip hop? Just a thought….

  27. Snoopy
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 07:41:00

    The way I view Macklemore is this… when looking at the intersection of ethnicity and class in America the plurality is and will continue to be for a good long while, lower and middle class whites (don’t know precisely because the stats are rarely looked at this way, but we’re talking probably 30-40% of the country falling into this category). Richness and “whiteness” are not synonymous, and in many ways they never were, never in American history. It only appears that way now.

    Whether Italian, Irish, Jewish, Ukrainian or Polish, etc. there have always been groups of “whites” who were discriminated against, and only recently with the rise of a mass consumer culture did this group become the monolithic White that we now recognize as such. What was this demographic’s main style of music before “Pop Music” – probably folk and bluegrass music to begin with, turned blues, turned rock, turned jazz, turned synth and electro. Like Elvis was to Little Richard’s rock, we should recognize that the Macklemore persona (the affable middle class white rapper) has been a long time in the making and is actually a perfect class/ethnic embodiment of the times. He raps about his struggles with drugs and a demoralizing American consumerism, things that are easy to relate to for his white, mostly rural, increasingly rap-familiar audience, if not anyone of the multi-ethnic 99% who feels they have been marginalized by a greedy corporate elite. Add to this powerful mix, an ever-evolving economic recession, and we have a white rapper who not only looks the part, but one who has gone the extra distance gaining widespread attention by adding a lyrical, content-rich, almost folk-like quality to his music. No doubt this is because he emerged from and continues to call home to one of the most diverse and folkloric hiphop scenes in the country.

    All of this is of course an oversimplification for the sake of keeping this comment short, but I think you get the picture. If rap music had been around in the times of Grapes of Wrath, I’m sure we would have seen a Macklemore even sooner. Fortunately for us now, we get to watch who Macklemore is evolve in real time under the pop spotlight, and unlike the 8-Mile amplified myth of Eminem, Macklemore is in control of his own image, not a bunch of Interscope stooges trying to dress him in a white undershirt. One thing is for sure, It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. All I hope is that Macklemore maintains his artistic integrity, uses this time to keep pushing the envelope musically and lyrically, and it would also be nice if he eventually reinvested some of that 5 million in “Thrift Shop” download sales to the Seattle Scene which raised him and graciously passed him the torch.

    Go Mack! Keep puttin on for the town and do well to represent the little guy whether s/he be black, white, or brown, gay or straight, during these trying times of global class struggle.

  28. Scotty Vincent
    Mar 17, 2013 @ 16:25:00

    I guess I should have been a little more specific; I figured we were going to be discussing how things are now.

    Kanye was fantastic when we released College Dropout…almost a decade ago. I could even hear out an argument for his Late Registration album, but everything after that has been nothing but profit-driven, cookie-cutter, big-label bullshit.

    Just because someone HAS released quality music does not mean they are somehow exempt from public scrutiny for the rest of their career.

  29. Daman Bahner
    Mar 17, 2013 @ 03:01:00

    They definitely have. I suppose it’s actually a double edged sword, I love having them on there, and have no hate for Jimmy or the Roots. I initially just thought it was a step backward, but on the other hand, steady gigs pay the bills.

  30. Afna
    Mar 17, 2013 @ 01:38:00

    Yeah but when was the last time kanye released a college dropout. I think people should tell it how it is. Kanye west makes wack hip hop. The dudes first 3 albums were great but since then he became a sell out. That’s the truth. What happened to the kanye who rolled with Talib kweli, pharoahe monch, common, black thought, wasnt that supposed to be a super group calle d the fantastic four produced by kanye west? Where’s mos def etc. that’s when kanye was cool. Now he rolls with lil Wayne and drake and big Sean, 2 chains etc.
    All four artists who are wack. Why not concentrate on common, q tip and pusha t ? This ain’t the same dude who made Jesus walks. He would never make that song now.

  31. codered®
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 19:32:00

    Peace, Love, UNITY, and Havin’ Fun. That’s HipHop. Nobody said if you didn’t come from the ghetto you’re not allowed to be successful. Everyone’s got their own story. Everyone’s got their own hits and misses. It’s life, just be real.

  32. CG
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 14:10:00

  33. Doors
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 13:53:00

    Smfh. Yeah because The Roots haven’t released great albums since being on Jimmy Fallon’s show right?

  34. Đ℞ΞV/
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 10:54:00

    I just don’t get the animosity toward this dude. It seems to me like 8 months ago people would have liked his shit and we saw his music posted on these sites and people dig them or ignored them. Now he is famous and suddenly his whole career and success is worthy of debate, whether or not it is worthy of respect or “hip hop”

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t really know the guys music outside this past album. I only hear that he has a respectable catalog and am familiar that those who are familiar with him can vouch for his realness and art.

    I just feel like in the hip-hop world that these heads don’t like him cause he is popular with a demographic that is deemed “whack”.

    Granted. I respect everyone’s opinion and I do recognize that there is something about Macklemore that basically makes him fall outside the realm of hiphop-ism (the scope of what is seen as related to the culture of hiphop).

    Yet. I feel like there is something about the fact that a new white rapper on the radio makes people uneasy. More so there is something people find discomforting or annoying by songs that reach popular meme status and trendy hype.

  35. Daman Bahner
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 05:46:00

    If he goes wack and loses authenticity, my disappointment wouldn’t even approach what I felt when B.E.P. took a left turn after Bridge the Gap and signed Fergie. Oh wait, add in The Roots being Jimmy Fallon’s house band in the bucket of shitty turns of event.

  36. WWW
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 04:35:00

    There are not only 2 subject matters. It’s only the ghettos and the luxuries you can rap about.

  37. Oz
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 00:07:00

    End of the day, I do not see a difference between Macklemore bragging about copping clothes at a thrift store vs Kanye bragging copping clothes from LV. Still bragging if you ask me. Apples and oranges, still fruits tho.

  38. Afna
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 23:09:00

    I meant to say at the end that macklemore is interesting because he has an authentic hip hop feel and subject matter unlike yellow wolf MGk, and other white commercial artists. But if he was black the song wouldnt have been a success. But good luck to him. You can only play the cards you are dealt. Aslong as someone respects the culture then they got my respect. In the next 10 years a new genre of black music will arise and in 20 years white people will dominate it and so on the progression of black music will go. I’m just interested in seeing what’s next.

  39. Afna
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 23:01:00

    Jazz, blues, rock n roll, reggae, soul, rnb, funk, calypso, house, disco, hip hop, new jack swing, garage etc black people created all of these music genres. It’s only inevitable white people will jump on it and become more successful then there counterparts. Elvis in rockn roll, bee bees in disco, eminem in hip hop. White people love black music but what they love more is white people who are good at it. Because of racial problems throughout American history alot of white people find it easier to like or relate to black culture when one of there own is great at it. So usually what happens is that in large numbers white peope will buy those artists records. Elvis became the biggest, beegees became the biggest and finally eminem became the biggest. None of those artists are the best in there genres. Eminem aint the best rapper of all time but he is portrayed to be. Artists like Az, big l, big pun, biggie, jay z, nas, ll cool j, krs one, Rakim, Kool g rap, gza, masta ace, slick rick, black thought, redman, guru, 2pac, jeru the damaja etc are all better emcees but besides 2pac mainstream white America fail to acknowledge a black artist over a white artist that does black music so well. Elvis is no chuck berry or little Richard while beegees is no earth wind and fire or Donna summer. But because these guys are really good at what they do they are portrayed bigger and better. Macklemore are interesting because they have authentic hip hop feel to there music unlike a yellow wolf or mgk

  40. Doors
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 21:29:00

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condemn the luxury rap at all. I actually enjoy it. Its just dope to hear a song on the radio that is different from the status quo. The point I was trying to make is that people are quick to label Thrift Shop corny, hipster and lame. But if you really do got holes in your sneakers, you’re probably not rockin the expensive brands and chains that you hear about in a lot of rap today. I’m not hating on the rappers that do tho

  41. Oz
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 20:20:00

    My problem with people telling rappers not to rap about luxuries or mad that rappers rap about luxuries… for someone who grew up with nothing and now has excessive amounts of money, they just want to celebrate. Do you want them to celebrate that or continue talking about the harsh reality of the ghettos? Sounds like you’d like to hear more about a struggle you may or may have not been through. And for a kid with nothing but holes in his sneakers hearing these men talk about their new found success when they were in a similar position… that shit is inspiring.

  42. Oz
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 20:16:00

    Get the fuck outta here with Kanye misappropriating hip hop. Take a listen to College Dropout and tell me if your comments still ring true.

  43. tjh
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 17:55:00

    While Macklemore is not my favorite I do appreciate his music. Songs like same love are rarely seen in hip hop, he may be commercial but he does what he has to do. i 100% disagree with people that say Macklemore is ruining Hip Hop, Macklemore is just different. Instead always predicting the demise of Hip Hop we should all notice how more conscious, smart, artistic rap is coming out and how maybe Black Hippy and the Beast Coast movement will bring real hip hop back. Hip Hop is getting better not worse!

  44. WWW
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 17:27:00

    Yup, it is kinda funny. If black people act like idiots and spill ignorant shit all over the place, it’s just ok. People are like “c’mon dude, they are black, don’t be ignorant, you don’t understand their life”….and shit.

  45. WWW
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 17:25:00

    Not a huge fan of his last album, but I really can’t hate on him. He can be really corny, but he is still a good MC. Has a nice flow and sometimes offers some interesting subject matters.
    The hip-hop made by blacks is way more cornier and dumbed down than most of Macklemore’s stuff…even Thrift Shop. It’s ok for a black dude to talk about absolutely nothing – a.k.a. swag/being trill/being the best/most famous dude, but if a white dude gets famous, suddenly everybody starts questioning his race and all that.

    Also, Mackelmore’s corny pop music>Lil Wayne, 2Chainz, Asap Rocky and YES, even some Kanye stuff.

  46. vry cool person
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 15:46:00

    Did you read it? It was really more of an examination of that perspective, wasn’t written from that perspective.

  47. Doors
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 15:43:00

    This article raises many great points about race and hip-hop, particularly Caucasians, and I agree with most of them. However, the fact that Macklemore himself has already addressed this issue on the song “White Privilege” makes me respect him so much more as an musician and a person.
    Sample lines:
    “I give everything I have when I rhyme,
    But that doesn’t change the fact that this culture isn’t mine”

    “Hip-hop started on a block that I’ve never been to
    To counter act a struggle that I’ve never been through”

    “Now I don’t rap about guns so they label me conscious
    But I don’t rap about guns cause I wasn’t forced into the projects”

    “I’m gonna be me so please be who you are
    But we still owe ’em 40 acres and now we’ve stolen their 16 bars”

    People that bash on him don’t seem to have listened to anything besides Thrift Shop & The Heist. Dude has been making music for almost 10+ years. My only question is would it make people feel better if he was still underground and not all over the airwaves? And on a side note, I think Thrift Shop is a dope song. We seem to be more accepting towards songs that glorify being “iced out” and having our wrists on “froze.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that but to be honest, most of us can’t even afford any of that shit. Just an observation

  48. Andrew Martin
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 15:38:00

    Sorry I didn’t mean to come off snarky, it’s just that Em did that and I think it was more EVERYONE was freaked out by dude. Being white definitely helped him, as he and others will admit.

    I get what you’re saying, but no one is as outwardly and overwhelming in our face as Em was. And did still sells millions, controversy or not.

  49. CG
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 15:33:00

    Projecting.

  50. AA
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 15:26:00

    My question is, where does a dude like action Bronson fit in with this argument?

  51. dennisreuyonlds
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 15:20:00

    Macklemore is white and middle class and hence should not be allowed to be a successful rapper. Kind of feels like the point of the article. I’m no fan but I don’t really get it, there are far bigger threats to “hip hop culture”

  52. Daniel Harris
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 15:02:00

    This is a great read.

  53. Marlo
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 14:51:00

    Exactly what this dude said.

  54. Scotty Vincent
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 14:46:00

    Great review; I appreciate your perspective and thoughtfulness. I thoroughly enjoy a great deal of Macklemore’s music (most of which is from his albums PRIOR to the Heist, thought there are a few tracks on that album which I like too). If (using and simplifying your argument) hip-hop is born out of struggle and it’s survival is dependent upon keeping it out of the hands of the über wealthy, Macklemore certainly qualifies. Dude has paid his dues independent of a major label, has his own struggle (whether it be self-induced or otherwise) and is a solid MC (for the most part).

    That being said, songs like ‘Thrift Shop’ are not hip-hop. Mack creates music across a couple of different genres, especially with the multi-talented Ryan Lewis at his side. Those claiming he is leading hip-hop into the mainstream by “bridging the gap” or whatever-the-fuck would be better off focusing their criticism on the likes of Kanye West. People like him and the YMCMB crew have done a far better job at watering down hip-hop than Macklemore will EVER be able to. Why? Because they’re not white. Heads are still holding their breath, waiting for the opportunity to separate a rapper because of the color of his skin. ‘Ye and Lil Wayne’s misappropriation of hip-hop flies under the radar because they’re not white. People assume that “Black is hip hop”, when some of the music Macklemore has delivered (even off The Heist) is, in my opinion, far more hip-hop than anything put out by YMCMB or Kanye West or almost any other garbage one might hear on the radio.

    Now, I’m not saying that anyone is arguing FOR any of those lames, just pointing out that, even though Macklemore is in the spotlight at the moment, I think our attention is still better spent on the people who are actively and successfully misappropriating hip-hop and have been for years.

  55. Michael Sheahan
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 14:42:00

    Also, I love this site and appreciate the opportunity to have these conversations.

  56. Michael Sheahan
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 14:38:00

    You’re right, and it was a huge controversy when he did. And I think that controversy was because he was white and it scared white people (btw, I’m super white!). But nobody bats an eyelash when Rick Ross does it or 2 Chainz or Flo Rida or Future or Lil Wayne or Nelly or etc talks that shit. I don’t want to come off as a jerk. I love hip-hop music and I have since I was a kid. I just see the kids I work with and teach internalizing these songs on the radio and upsets me.

  57. Beats Broke
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 14:30:00

    I heard that Drake guy is pretty black.

  58. Geoff El Terich
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 14:25:00

    corporations using hiphop culture for their own means is nothing new, but the overwhelming use/abuse of hiphop culture in mainstream media is a little frightening.
    and i think the biggest problem with Macklemore (besides being a mediocre mc) is that he comes across as a hipster and he just made the hipster anthem “thrift shop”. hipsters like things “ironically” which implies that he doesn’t have true love for hip hop, he’s just doing it with a wink and a smile. now, reading some of his interviews, he seems like he does have a true love and appreciation for the culutre, but still, that’s how his music comes across, and that’s how he is being used.

  59. Biggghouse
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 14:09:00

    Firstly I really dislike the dudes new album, but he has been working hard for years, building a fan base and playing shows, he also has some pretty good music a while back, and while I dislike the direction he has gone in I can’t hate, he is doing what he needs to get exposure and money. I think compared to most rappers that are blowing up Mack is fairly unoffensive, I wouldn’t bump thrift shop but I you hear him speak its clear he loves hip hop, there is no intentional subversion of the culture, he is just doing his thing, there’s no evil to it.

  60. David Reyneke
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 13:37:00

    Nearly the most.

  61. Andrew Martin
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 13:36:00

    ” If Macklemore was making songs about killing other white suburban kids, calling white girls bitches or dealing drugs to kids in prep school, he would have never gotten where he is.”

    LOLOLOL Eminem did that and moved mad units.

  62. Michael Sheahan
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 13:32:00

    (Disclaimer-I am not a Macklemore fan nor a hater) I feel like these conversations are a distraction from what seems to me (this is my opinion of course) is a much bigger issue-the corporate corruption and dissemination of music that is purposely damaging to young black and latino people in cities all over the country. Multi-national companies are using hip-hop to sell products and hypnotize millions of people with repetitive slogans of ultra-violence, misogyny and materialism. I heard someone say in a debate about hip-hop that it is “the advertising arm of the prison industrial complex.” If Macklemore was making songs about killing other white suburban kids, calling white girls bitches or dealing drugs to kids in prep school, he would have never gotten where he is. The white systems of power would never let that happen. I find the the influence of corporations to be much more dangerous and concerning than a white rapper, rhyming about used clothes on the radio.

  63. Kajer24
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 13:30:00

    Si, same.

  64. Marque
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 13:23:00

    I enjoyed this thoroughly, kudos.

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