I had heard of Macklemore, but I didn’t discover his music until I was leaving SXSW in 2012.
There was a delayed flight from Austin Texas and I was sat facing 2 other Hip-Hop heads in the departure lounge. We broke the ice and started chopping it up. We had nothing in common but Hip-Hop and for the following 2 hours we debated and dissected the rap game.
A rapper by the name of 360 from New York told me about a Macklemore show that he saw. About how the sonics were some of the best that he he had heard at a live Hip-Hop show, that Macklemore put on an amazing show, and how he explained to the crowd that he was 100% independent, that it was just him and a couple of other people that fund everything. The guy was called Zach from Seattle (a different Zach not M&RL’s manager), he explained how important Macklemore was in his hometown, that he was the real deal, and a great artist. After a couple of hours of in depth Hip-Hop convos we caught our flights, casually bumped into Nas, and made our way home.
I was pissed. How could I not know about this artist that tore down SXSW several times, an artist that stood for something and made quality music? How did I miss the debut 2 DopeBoyz posts? How could I not be playing this music on my show? Within hours of landing back in the UK I did the necessary research and reached out to Macklemore and his management.
A few DMs and emaiIs later I got the music, played it championed it, and connected with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis when they hit the UK.
There were no other DJs at the Kings College show, none of the usual bloggers, journalists, or youtube channels. I couldn’t understand why no one else from the UK scene was there even though the show was sold out. It was actually one of the best shows I’ve seen, and we will probably never see Macklemore & Ryan Lewis perform in a venue that small ever again because they’re creative aspirations wont allow it.
Since the SXSW airport convo I’ve interviewed Macklemore & Ryan Lewis several times, recorded an exclusive documentary with them in their Seattle hometown, supported them on their UK tour, and they very quickly became the most successful independent act. I got to witness part of their journey, and I’m proud to say that I’m a fan and a friend.
They were always in their own lane outside of the traditional Hip-Hop lane and the traditional Hip-Hop industry, they didn’t need the usual New York radio airplay, the Hip-Hop illuminati co-sign, or the music industry because they already broke through via the net. It wasn’t until the 2014 Grammys that they caught the full attention of the unforgiving fickle Hip-Hop fanbase.
The Grammy wins, the Grammy tweet, the Drake diss, the Azalea Banks comments, and charges of cultural appropriation overshadowed their intentions and music. Even though Macklemore was ‘down by law’, had paid his dues, grinded hard, and actually rapped about the issues of white privilege years before, it was a series of events that he was inevitably going to face because of the greater race issues that America faces.
America still has to come to terms with the fact that it is a multi-cultural society built on oppression and violence; Several high profile murders of black people by ‘law enforcement’, yet another whitewash at the Oscars, provocatively biased news channels, and an openly racist nazi like presidential candidate suggest that it will take much more than a black president to bring about change.
There is anger in the nation. Without Hip-Hop it would actually be a lot worse. If it wasn’t for the expression of anger and frustration through the culture of Hip-Hop a lot of voices wouldn’t be heard there would be a lot more pain and suffering, riots, blood on the streets.
Macklemore recently dropped ‘White Privilege 2’, a solid thoughtful piece of art that attempts to address some of the issues associated with the legacy of white privilege and the racial turmoil in the US. The intention, the detail, & the art is exemplary. Some people got it….
— Talib Kweli Greene (@TalibKweli) January 22, 2016
Some people didn’t. Even though the track was launched via a site that provided details on the research and intent behind the track, ‘writers’ of click/bait sites failed to read it or even listen to the track properly, TMZ trivialised the message, and it looked like Iggy Azalea didnt get a chance to absorb the full context of the track before speaking on it.
@lggysBae he shouldnt have spent the last 3 yrs having friendly convos and taking pictures together at events etc if those were his feelings
— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) January 22, 2016
Despite the effort to do the right thing by involving noteable scholars and modern day civil rights activists in the creation of the track, others questioned the authenticity of the message…
Whether their intent is pure or not…That ryan lewis macklemore campaign or project is so condescending..patronising and ill judged.
— msBareface (@msbareface) January 23, 2016
No one has the answers. Ignorance will always exist.
Unfortunately the appropriation of knowledge isn’t contagious. A lot of white people wont want to hear this. A lot of black people wont want to hear this. The people that need to hear ‘White Privilege 2’ more than likely wont. The people that need to understand what Macklemore is saying wont make the effort to decode the message like they would ‘Thrift Shop’ or ‘Whip That Nae Nae’.
The day we learn to treat each other as equals, respect each other, acknowledge the cultural value of our individual fellow human is the day that we no longer need Black History Month, the Mobos, the BET awards, or tracks such as ‘White Privilege 2’.
America’s complex race issues affect the world. They wont be resolved in our lifetime, but be thankful we have Hip-Hop. Be thankful that we have a lineage of artists that are vocal and create music of substance, an art form that encourages creativity, that we can contribute to, and disperse some kind of balance to the daily fuckery that we are exposed to.
I look forward to ‘This Unruly Mess I’ve Made’ Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s forth-coming album. From what I’m hearing he’s got a lot more to say, more issues addressed, and collaborations with revered Rap Gods.
Love or loathe him Macklemore will continue to challenge. He will solidify his position within Hip-Hop Culture via continued conscious lyricism and great music. Like Cole, Kendrick, and Drake he will be one of the great ones if he isn’t already.