Race + Hip-Hop + LGBT Equality: On Macklemore’s White Straight Privilege

By Guest Contributor Hel Gebreamlak

Macklemore (left) and Ryan Lewis in video for “Thrift Shop.”

Much of the nation was introduced to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis this past weekend, thanks to their appearance on Saturday Night Live, a major accomplishment and promotional tool for any musical artist. Considering the indie-rap duo’s already growing popularity with their chart-topper and multi-platinum seller, “Thrift Shop,” it is important to examine the impact of their success.

Macklemore has already been touted by several media outlets as the progressive voice on gay rights in hip-hop since the release of “Same Love,” his second single to chart on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The song, which peaked at No. 89 last week, tries to tackle the topic of gay marriage and homophobia in media and US culture, focusing specifically on hip-hop with lyrics such as, “if I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me.”

Though Macklemore is not gay, “Same Love” has gotten many accolades from fellow straight supporters, as well as members of the gay community. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed it on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where DeGeneres introduced them by saying, “Here’s why you need to care about our next guest. No other artists in hip-hop history have ever taken a stand defending marriage equality the way they have.”

But, how can this be the case when there is already an entire genre, Homo Hop, comprised solely of queer hip-hop artists? Whether it is intentional or not, Macklemore has become the voice of a community to which he doesn’t belong in a genre that already has a queer presence waiting to be heard by mainstream audiences.

Mary Lambert performs “Same Love” on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

We should also examine the song’s hook, performed by lesbian singer-songwriter Mary Lambert. Lambert first gained notoriety as a spoken-word artist, and it is important to remember that spoken word, like hip-hop, is rooted in Black culture. They are both a response to white supremacy.

However, Lambert, like Macklemore and Lewis, is a white artist. This begs the question: what does it mean to have three white people–two of whom are straight–be the beacon of gay rights in hip-hop?

In “Same Love,” Macklemore does not address these concerns. Instead, he raps about hip-hop as if it were his. The song lyrics even take it a step further by conflating Black civil rights and gay rights, which are both about identities he does not possess and oppressions he does not experience:

A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ‘em
Call each other f*ggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins
It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference

Nov. 2, 2008 protest against Prop. 8 in California. Image by John Hyun via Flickr Creative Commons.

Macklemore speaks of hip-hop as if his whiteness is irrelevant when criticizing the genre as a whole for being homophobic. These lyrics are very reminiscent of much of the shaming of people of color that occurred in 2008 after the passing of Prop 8 in California, where Black people and Latin@s were accused of being responsible for the anti-gay legislation passing while seemingly ignoring the millions of dollars raised by white Christians to ban marriage equality. Though Macklemore may not be blaming Black people for homophobia, by focusing on homophobia in Black community spaces as opposed to the pervasiveness of homophobia everywhere, white people get to remove themselves from the problem.

On top of this, the same argument that suggests that Black people should be more understanding of homophobia because of their own oppression is used both in the lyrics of “Same Love” and in many racist pro-marriage equality campaigns. This line of argument suggests that homophobia perpetrated by people of color is somehow worse because they should have known better as people who are also oppressed. Furthermore, when white people are homophobic, it is less condemnable because they don’t know what it is like.

Along with not acknowledging his white privilege in “Same Love,” Macklemore uses the homophobic slur “f*ggot” in the second verse seemingly without any consideration of his straight privilege. Though he is condemning the use of the slur, there are ways he could have held this conversation without inciting the word itself, since many folks within the queer community feel hurt by straight people using that word in any context. And in the third verse he raps, “and a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all, but it’s a damn good place to start.” For many queer people of color who have not seen themselves represented in the marriage equality campaign, it can be very hurtful to have a straight person–let alone a white one in a musical genre that was created to address white supremacy–tell them where the best place to start is.

In a November 2012 interview with Chris Talbott of The Associated Press, Macklemore expresses his fear over touring in states like Idaho, Montana, and Texas as a pro-gay artist. Macklemore was afraid that there would be backlash from the heartland, however, was pleasantly surprised when the rap duo was met with open arms. “Those were three places where people probably sang the loudest,” Macklemore said.

Macklemore’s fear of traveling these states demeans the reality that there are queer people there to begin with, who are already living in communities that are theirs. He also fails to acknowledge that he is straight and, therefore, experiences the privilege of not being gay-bashed.

This line of thinking appears to have informed the song “Same Love” from the start. The single supports the idea or, at least, implies that people of color–particularly Black folks who created hip hop–are more homophobic than white people and that there are no queer people who feel supported in these communities. This is very dismissive of queer people of color who consider communities of color their primary communities, who have experienced racism by queer communities, and for queer hip-hop artists of color who have found a home in the undervalued sub-genre of homo hop.

However, Macklemore distances himself from his privileges. Continuing to focus on hip-hop, he talked about misogyny and homophobia in hip-hop culture with Kurt Andersen of Studio 360:

Those are the two acceptable means of oppression in hip hop culture, Its 2012. There needs to be some accountability. I think that as a society we’re evolving and I think that hip hop has always been a representation of what’s going on in the world right now.

By making statements such as these, Macklemore not only gets to remove himself from straight and male privilege–both of which he benefits–but he also gets to be the white savior of hip-hop. Macklemore pleads for hip-hop to be more accepting of non-queer women and queer people, but he does not promote the work of non-queer women and queer hip-hop artists of color. In fact, he does not even include a queer person of color in the song “Same Love,” but instead chose Lambert, a white person whose success was also found in a Black art form.

Macklemore acknowledged the complications of being a white artist in hip-hop earlier in his career, in the song “White Privilege”:

[W]hite rappers albums really get the most spins
The face of hip hop has changed a lot since Eminem
And if he’s taking away black artists’ profits I look just like him
Claimed a culture that wasn’t mine, the way of the American
Hip Hop is gentrified and where will all the people live

Despite knowing that white artists get more recognition due to racism, Macklemore has not taken any steps to minimize this reality. He has not been accountable to homo-hop artists of color, who not only are impacted by homophobia in society as a whole, but also go unsupported because of homophobia and racism that favors white straight men like Macklemore. Macklemore has not corrected the misinformation that he is the most pro-gay voice in hip hop, when what could be more pro-gay than a gay artist within the genre? And none of the artists featured on “Same Love” have been openly accountable to the fact that they are profiting in a genre that does not belong to them at the expense of queer artists of color.

Lambert’s website calls the song “revolutionary.” But, is it really revolutionary to take up space in a genre that exists in response to a system of oppression you benefit from? Is it revolutionary for Macklemore, as a white straight man, to assume that gay people–including gay people of color who may find strength in hip hop in the face of racism–must feel that the genre hates them as is stated in the first line of the second verse in “Same Love”?

And, is it revolutionary for white people to get mainstream recognition for talking about homophobia in hip-hop, when queer hip-hop artists of color are routinely ignored? The fact of the matter is the success of “Same Love” is largely due at least in part to white audiences being more receptive to white straight men talking about oppression than oppressed people, as well as the comfort of being able to remove themselves from misogyny and homophobia because the oppression at hand is the fault of Black people in hip-hop. What could be more revolutionary than that? How about listening to queer people of color?

Hel Gebreamlak is the co-founder of Writing Resistance and author of the blog Black, Broken & Bent.

Bonus: Here are three queer hip-hop artists to take note of.

Mélange Lavonne, “Gay Bash”

Deep Dickollective, “For Colored Boys”

THEESatisfaction, “Deeper”

 

  • Yaknow

    The author of this article is an idiot who can;t see the forest through the trees. Seriously! The difference is he is NOT gay and is taking a stand. That is brave and EXACTLY what is needed. It’s like the author would diss a white person in the 60′s for taking a stand against racism when their community is all KKK. The song made me cry when it came on the radio. Your article just made me ask why.

  • danielle

    He did back up his care with meaningful action. All of the proceeds of the song went to the organization “Music for Marriage Equality” to help campaign for referendum 74, a ballot measure for marriage equality in the state of Washington.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.westermann Michael Westermann

    Pseudo-intellectual crap. This gay man loves the fact that Macklemore has become popular. Whether you like it or not, the reality is the fact that he’s straight makes it more approachable to many, and furthers our cause. So he’s not gay. Deal with it.
    Secondly, I took the time to listen to your three clips. I’d never heard of them before today. None of them are as catchy or as well-produced as Same Love, in my opinion. They don’t have a sound that will achieve mainstream appeal the way Macklemore & Lewis’ music will.
    You deconstructing this into a larger symptom of some perceived social ill is a waste of time. They’re successful and talented. They write some great songs and have an audience. They’re on our side. That should be enough.

  • http://twitter.com/Murrth Nick Murray-Smith

    If I was the only one who felt this way it might be.
    It depends on your goals and your audience but at some point misunderstanding the message depends on the message too.

  • http://twitter.com/Murrth Nick Murray-Smith

    If I was the only one who felt this way it might be.
    It depends on your goals and your audience but at some point misunderstanding the message depends on the message too.

  • Travis

    So you can only be a minority and gay to support civil rights and everything else is just hypocrisy?

  • strugglingwithpriviledge

    As a queer white middle class male who struggles constantly with confronting my countless privileges, I have faced arguments like this my entire life as I live and work in spaces of solidarity with oppressed and marginalized minorities of all stripes. I get it, I will never face many of the challenges that many others face due to the random lottery of my birth but why is it wrong – for me, or Macklemore or anyone else – to want to enter into solidarity with those struggles as long as they do so with respect and understanding?

    Macklemore isn’t saying he is speaking for the queer community, he is simply speaking the truth of his own lived experience, and I’m sorry, but your conflating Macklemore’s frustration with homophobia in the Hip Hop community (which is, if you listen to the majority of the mainstream crap that is pumped through our airwaves, still incredibly misogynistic and homophobic by any standard) with the shit about prop 8 is crazy.

    Sure, Macklemore could probably be doing more to use this platform he has been given to shine the light on many talented queer artists that have been living this struggle their entire lives and I really hope this article and others help him realize that, But the way you write this, its clear that you aren’t looking to create dialogue or understanding, but rather to tear down an ally and judge others by the same color-coded rules of exclusion that you rail against.

    I just don’t understand why it is that you chose to focus your anger and frustration with our racist, misogynistic and homophobic society on a well-meaning ally when there are plenty of biggoted asshole musicians out there much more deserving of your frustrations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stefanofunk Fon deVuono-powell

    From one Black Seattlite to another: the idea that hip-hop is a rooted in Black culture ignores its strong latino roots (which are, in turn, significantly Afro-Latino), but more importantly the uniqueness of its geography as a NYC-based cultural movement that has included white people since the 1970s (see Quasar, Mr. Freeze, etc). The simplistic portrait of hip hop as an exclusively black “response to white supremacy” is, as far as I can tell from talking with pioneers like Bambaataa, Mr Wiggles et al, an imposition from largely white media: a vaunted version of the “black anger” mythos that pervades liberal white analysis of non-mainstream African-American vernacular culture.

    As for Queer hip hop, shout out to Man Parrish:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tsfJn8YdwQ

  • Zac

    This is stupid. Macklemore feels strongly about marriage equality because of his gay uncles. He feels strongly about equality, which is why he chose to rap about it. He sees something that he feels is wrong with the world, so he made a song which expresses his feelings to attempt to change the world. He first tried to write the song through the viewpoint of a gay person, and then decided that he had no right to do that, as he was not truly gay. So he wrote it through his perspective, how seeing his uncles being discriminated against and the casual use of homophobic terms upsets him. This person is an idiot claiming that he puts words into the gay community in general, saying that “if I were gay, I would think hip hop hates me”. Those are HIS feelings. Not anybody else’s. That’s why he said “IF I were gay”. I think the person that wrote this was just looking for any reason to bash this song. I also disagree with the idea that Macklemore attempts to make black people feel guilty for the homophobia because its a rap song, along with the part of the song that talks about racism. He was merely showing the general attitude about discrimination and how it is somewhat “acceptable” and used far too casually in our society. And somehow, by supposedly saying that black people should feel worse for being homophobic than white people, because they should know what it is like to be oppressed, and that it is “less condemnable for white people”. I don’t know how the person that wrote this got any of these notions that were in the article, it seems as if they were merely looking for any stretch possible to condemn this song.

  • http://twitter.com/Murrth Nick Murray-Smith

    That may be the underlying point the article is addressing but it comes across more as blame and criticism of Macklemore than society at large.

  • http://twitter.com/HeadlockBetty Headlock Betty

    You know, I was turned on to Macklemore shortly before he got big from an NPR reaction piece. They were critiquing an NYT editorial, and they posted the Thrift Shop video, calling it an “ode to resourcefulness.” I liked the song so much that I previewed the album on Spotify, then went on to buy it after hearing Same Love and A Wake. It is extremely unusual to hear a white guy make a pro gay rights song, and a song that addresses his own white privilege.

    Macklemore has blown up because he is talented, he has packaged his brand expertly, and because he’s dedicated to both his viewpoint and his music. Macklemore has also blown up because he’s a white man, and that affords him access to both more resources and more mainstream listeners than rappers of color. However, he formally rejected mainstream access into hip-hop – he actually has a whole song about turning down a record deal called Jimmy Iovine. Of course, that can be a luxury for a white rapper, and of course rappers of color in the same position have to struggle and grind with way less chance that their work is ever going to get that kind of recognition. But it doesn’t negate the fact that by turning away from large labels, he’s had to work that much harder to build his audience.

    Part of the reason his audience is attracted to him is because he’s white. He’s perfectly aware of it:
    “I wish I didn’t care
    If cynical hipsters with long hair
    And cocaine problems like my music
    It’s not my issue, I can’t solve it

    I’m not more or less conscious
    Than rappers rappin’ about strippers up on a pole poppin’
    These interviews are obnoxious
    Saying ‘It’s poetry, you’re so well spoken.’ Stop it.”

    And yeah, it sucks that Homo Hop and rappers of color don’t get the same kind of mainstream success or media coverage. But should we begrudge him his success because he’s received some of it due to his privilege? Even when he knows it and he discusses it? When a rapper has an audience base as large as Macklemore’s is and he uses his platform to talk about racism, sexism, and homophobia, shouldn’t we be glad that the discussion has been initiated among his audience? Because – and I’m saying this as a straight, white, cis woman – white people are not very good at processing their own privilege.

    It’s sheerly through my own white privilege that I even came across Macklemore (from an NPR editorial, really?) And all of my exposure to hip-hop comes through a white privilege filter. I like Lupe, Mos Def, Talib Kwali – “conscious” rappers that I have to actively seek out and screen and process and decide whether I will or won’t listen to depending on how much I like what issues they present and how they present them. I also like Outkast, Missy Elliott, and yes, Eminem – because they have enough mainstream access that I hear their music with little or no effort to find them on my part.

    I can absolutely understand the frustration and resentment that this white straight guy has received so many accolades and so much success in so short a period of time. Yes, it is due to in part to his privilege. But huge swathes of his audience are people with privilege. He is in a position to make them more aware of it and to shape the discussion around it, and that is a responsibility that he’s demonstrably taken seriously. And don’t forget, he’s achieved this success by taking a harder road, but one that didn’t compromise his integrity. He didn’t want to change the music he makes to fit it into a mainstream, “palatable” mold even if that was the quickest path to success.

    So maybe this article is a little premature. Let’s see how he handles his success now that he’s on an ascending career path. Because yes, he’s straight, white, and male. Yes, he hasn’t had to deal with anything close to the same struggles that PoC, homosexuals, or women have had to deal with. But he’s talking about them with a megaphone now, so maybe he can get people like me and like himself talking about them too, in a conscientious, thoughtful, and respectful way. Because it’s not really a discussion if the only people at the table are the people without privilege and power.

  • danielle

    I encourage you all to read Macklemore’s blog post about his inspiration for writing “Same Love” (http://macklemore.com/post/27481163762/this-song-which-i-wrote-in-april-is-a-response. I found it to be very humble and earnest. He talks about how the hip-hop community helped shape his world view, even more-so than the church he was raised in. That’s a beautiful illustration of the power of music, no matter the genre and regardless of whether or not you think he
    “belongs”.

    In the last paragraph he writes:

    “My hope is that my personal testimony can help in some way to not only
    advance the dialogue and approve Referendum 74, but also to help shape a
    culture of belonging in which ALL people are equal.”

    That brings me to a crucial element that wasn’t even mentioned in this article. Washington’s Referendum 74 was a major ballot measure that galvanized Macklemore (a well-known local) to write a song that could hopefully help make a difference come election day. No where in the article or comment section is there mention of the fact that Macklemore gave all of the proceeds from the song to the group Music for Marriage Equality, “a diverse group representing the Seattle music industry, uniting to help Washington state become the first state in the nation to defend marriage equality by a public vote.” http://music4marriage.org/

    He isn’t trying to be in the Homo Hop genre, much less drown those artists out. He simply wrote a song as a way to be an advocate for their equality. If anything, he’s doing them a favor by bringing more attention to them through the advancement of dialogue.

  • Kate

    Have you even listened to other songs by the artists you linked? Sorry, but as a black (lesbian) woman – I

    refuse to support those kind of lyrics for the sake of tokenism.

    Articles like this are why I no longer refer people to Racialicious. It’s like you formed your points before researching and in turn had to do a lot of reaching in order to make things fit. Macklemore shouldn’t have been more than a mention in this article. A lot of the points you make are both culturally inaccurate (eminem is the face of homophobia in rap music – not black artists) and inaccurate in the context of the artists background.

    Macklemore is one of the few rap artists I can listen to whose lyrics don’t attack me/tear me down in some way. The kid is talented, his songs are meaningful, and (thanks to Ryan) I get to access the aforementioned backed by really great production. So yeah, I’d say in this case the white dude is kind of revolutionary.

    Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – A Wake Lyrics:

    They say it’s so refreshing to hear somebody on records

    No guns, no drugs, no sex, just truth

    The guns that’s America, the drugs are what they gave to us

    And sex sells itself, don’t judge ’til it’s you

    Ah, I’m not more or less conscious

    The rappers rappin’ ’bout them strippers up on the pole, copping

    These interviews are obnoxious

    Saying that ‘it’s poetry, you’re so well spoken,’ stop it.

    I grew up during Reaganomics

    When Ice T was out there on his killing cops shit

    Or Rodney King was getting beat on

    And they let off every single officer

    And Los Angeles went and lost it

    Now every month there is a new Rodney on Youtube

    It’s just something our generation is used to

    And neighbourhoods where you never see a news crew

    Unless they’re gentrifying, white people don’t even cruise through

    And my subconcious telling me stop it

    This is an issue that you shouldn’t get involved in

    Don’t even tweet, R.I.P Trayvon Martin

    Don’t wanna be that white dude, million man marchin’

    Fighting for our freedom that my people stole

    Don’t wanna make all my white fans uncomfortable

    But you don’t even have a fuckin’ song for radio

    Why you out here talkin race, tryin’ to save the fuckin’ globe

    Don’t get involved if the cause isn’t mine

    White privilege, white guilt, at the same damn time

    So we just party like it’s nineteen ninty nine

    Celebrate the ignorance while these kids keep dying

    ( http://rapgenius.com/Macklemore-and-ryan-lewis-a-wake-lyrics )

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=560499417 Rodrick Perkins

    So what is Macklemore’s responsibility to those artist?

  • Sallynotadude

    Yay! I’m so happy to see Deeper on here! Interesting article. I am a white gay dude from Seattle and at first I got somewhat defensive “Does this writer understand the really weird dynamic of Seattle racism?” and typical barely formed thoughts that always happen when white people hear black people talking about race.

    What is Macklemores responsibility in participation in hip hop? Answer: Total. From what I understand (I read some books on hip hop but really, im not that into it) Hip Hop is super user based. You are supposed to make bombastic impressions and.. not push the envelope, but always be surprising. You just do something and are judged for your content. The package the content comes in will get ripped apart and ridiculed, white or black, but the content is supposed to be an expressive notch in a timeline of change. You just gotta do it and people will respect you or not.

    After taking all that in I feel like Macklemore isn’t doing enough. Too trepidatious, cautious, something not all hip hop artists are able to do.

  • charlottMB

    The fact that so many “allies” have come to Racialicious and bombarded the conversation with the intention to silence the viewpoint of a POC, ironically, proves the point of the article.

    • http://twitter.com/Murrth Nick Murray-Smith

      Perhaps if you frame it that way, yes.
      Are people really bombarding the conversation though? I see a lot of people trying to make thoughtful contributions to the discussion around this article. It’s a far-cry from the drivel you’d find in the comments section on youtube.
      Isn’t it a bit presumptuous to claim you understand the intentions of the individuals commenting? Where do you see an attempt to silence anyone?

      Certainly many of us disagree with some parts of the article but criticism doesn’t equal an attempt to silence. In fact, valid criticism is an essential part of intellectual growth/improvement. By removing or modifying the arguments that people find problems with, the resulting argument becomes stronger.

      As far as I can tell, all of the people who have commented on this post are firmly against both homophobia and racism.
      Just because intentions are good doesn’t mean the message is unproblematic. That goes for allies as well as POC. Making an invalid argument against something can actually strengthen opposing views.

  • Angus

    Despite knowing that white artists get more recognition due to racism, Macklemore has not taken any steps to minimize this reality.

    And what is he supposed to do? Isn’t the whole point of the privilege critique that privilege works systematically? It’s not some kind of individual sin that you can atone for by “checking” it. You can’t minimize it or make it go away. So how can Macklemore “make himself accountable” beyond acknowledging and discussing it?

    …None of the artists featured on “Same Love” have been openly accountable to the fact that they are profiting in a genre that does not belong to them at the expense of queer artists of color.

    There are two things wrong here. First, the notion that culture “belongs” to anyone is incoherent for something that’s freely transmissible and constantly in flux. (But of course that doesn’t excuse denigration, mockery, essentialism, and so on.) Second, the implication that Macklemore’s success comes at the expense of queer artists of color. That’s just not how this shit works. If Macklemore didn’t exist, do you think queer artists of color would be getting more mainstream success? No? Then how is Macklemore profiting at their expense?

    FWIW, I’ve never heard the guy’s music. He may very well deserve criticism, but not with bad arguments.

  • http://twitter.com/BrinaSEA Sabrina Roach

    These discussions are important and have been going on in our local community about Macklemore for some time. I only worked with him briefly in 2007 on a community radio fundraiser and others know his work on his white privilege better than I, but I think it’s useful to provide more information on his larger body of work. His song exploring white privilege is linked here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdVRlM-kSx8

  • Eric_P

    Music isn’t a zero sum game. Nobody is getting “slept on” because of Macklemore. Nobody. There is no numerical limit on hit records. The fact that artist X made a hit album in no way interferes with artist Y’s ability to create a hit album. Your hypothetical artists are getting slept on because they haven’t created an album that’s created the buzz worthy of attention. That’s not Macklemore’s fault.

    • anedumacation

      Really?? You really don’t think that an artist like le1f’s queerness has anything to do with the lack of mainstream buzz he’s getting? Out of all the artists who have been creating a queer hip hop sound — not one of them has an album worthy of mainstream attention? Or is it because mainstream hip hop has no interest in listening to artists who subvert the sexual norm?

      Again, we’re talking about Macklemore’s “fault”. Its not about that. He didn’t intend to drown out other voices. I don’t think its his fault that he does. But the fact remains; we talk about him instead of queer artists.

      Music isn’t a zero sum game, at least when it comes to quality. The attention that’s meted out to musical artists? Yeah, that does exist in limited supply.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mrdaveyd Dave ‘Davey D’ Cook

    After reading this it comes across as if Mackemore shouldn’t do the song at all.. On one hand we ask artists to stretch their boundaries and get on the mic and say something meaningful and when they do in what appears to be an earnest attempt they get taking to task.. We saw this with Lupe when he did Bitch Bad..

    Yes by virtue of Maclemore being white one can make the argument that he’s a white guy in a Black originated artform, one that many of us have no problem selling off to the highest exploiter.. like white run/owned record labels who ripped our parents and grandparents off .. We have no problem showing up at white owned BET awards or having distortions of this Black culture be programmed by white owned radio stations like Hot 97 or or by white people on Black owned outlets.. We have no problem sitting on panels at white owned universities that are constantly undermining Black and ethnic studies departments …

    As fans, lovers and guardians of Hip Hop when did we first become aware of Macklemore? Was it when he showed up on SNL or was it last year when he started blowing up? Seems like some sort of dialogue could’ve been established w/ macklemore long b4 Saturday night Live.. and if anyone needs to be checked its folks like Ellen for overlooking all the people within Hip Hop who have spoken out in favor of same sex marriage starting with folks like Michael Franti who addressed this issue several times over the past 20 years on major record labels.. or Murs who did a song last year.. I think a column correcting Ellen should’ve been dropped the minute word was out she made that comment..

    In terms of Macklemore getting national exposure, this is the same SNL that had Kevin Hart on did very little to advance any cause even though he wrote his material.. He did the obligatory wearing of a dress where
    he could poke fun at sisters.. and allowed the Loren Michaels to use him as he’s done so many other Black faces.. I refused to watch..I guess for me I can see Mackelmore being invited to national spaces.. Perhaps
    we should continue growing our own spaces.. and make them just as popular and desireable as the ones he gets invited to..For example what outlets would u suggest folks go to to hear a consistent presentation of material by artists like DDC and others?

    Also do we put the same critique to Macklemore as we do others who have spoken out before him like the Beastie Boys, Consolidated, or more recently B-Dolan and Sage Francis who brought attention to Ce Ce Mcdonald’s case while many of our contemporary Black rap artists who have similar high visibility remained silent or completely unaware..

    • Misty

      It was Murs.

  • ElChino

    This article really irritates me. I get it…he is a white straight male who hasn’t had to deal with gay bashing, racism, or sexism, but how in the world can you fault him for becoming famous and speaking his mind about issues that he obviously feels passionate about. It seems like the author of this article would rather have him completely ignore these issues because his opinions on the matter carry less weight or are less valid because he is a white straight male. Maybe there is some truth to that, but I think anyone who feels strongly about equal rights should be praising Macklemore for voicing his opinions within the mainstream media. I’m sure it’s unfair that many underground homo-hoppers have yet to make it to the national spotlight. Maybe the author should have written an article promoting one of them instead of complaining about this guy. It seems to me that while the author obviously shares Macklemore’s sentiments regarding the issues at hand, they don’t like hearing about it from a white, straight, male, who is making loads of money from mainstream hip hop.

    don’t hate the player, hate the game.

  • pinkt

    First off, a hook is a hook. Period. There is a serious hook in that song and that coupled with the very fortunate timing of its release is a formula for wide success. It is that simple.

    Secondly, “the single supports the idea or, at least, implies that people of color–particularly Black folks who created hip hop–are more homophobic than white people.” Does it? Because I really missed that admonition. It’s exhausting to watch people try to do good things and get bashed for it because it just isn’t good enough, progressive enough, perfect. Maybe we should all go back to hating each other.

    Finally, spoken word is actually rooted in ancient Greek culture.

  • Duck

    The
    social justice scene kind of trips over its own feet when it confuses
    social privelege with personal value. White/Straight/Male/etc
    privelege absolutely exists. But when it gets turned into an accusation,
    it actually starts to reinforce that privelege by depoliticizing and
    removing that privelege from its historical context. If you create a
    situation where men cant talk about sexism, whites can’t talk about
    racism and straights cant talk about homophobia, you’ve created a
    perfect storm of silence where the status quo wins because the *social*
    context of opression has been reified into a *personal* context and
    people without social priveleges are forced to struggle outnumbered, a strategy with no history of success.

    Basically, I blame tumblr for making people so god damn confused about how intersectionality actually works.

    Good on Macklemore for talking about homophobia. Now everyone else needs to as well. Attacking Allys just because they belong to a more priveleged social group (that they had no say in membership, remember that folks) as if its a personal failing is foolish and in my view indicates a shallow understanding of the whole Privelege and Intesectionality thesis. Struggle doesn’t work when we do it alone, history teaches us this.

  • Lali Mohamed

    Please add gay rapper Deadlee to this list:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7PxJ8T3EEw

  • Leon

    There are concepts the author of this article might want to explore: the organic nature of creativity. The idea of working class unity in social change. What is social change? Is racism a purely psychological phenomenon, divorced from capitalism? The fact that change is constantly happening so notions such as “privilege”, especially at the individual level, are in flux. That you don’t speak for who you think you speak for?

  • reagh8

    Good Effort.

  • jc

    Great article, agree with everything completely. Macklemore’s fans will defend anything an everything he says and does though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dreamqueen.myles DreamQueen Myles

    Great article, thanks for writing it! I thought I’d add a few links to more QPOC hip-hop artists as well:

    (5 black homo-hop artists you need to know about)

    http://www.queerty.com/5-black-homo-hop-artists-you-need-to-know-about-20090807/

    (Mykki Blanco-Wavvy)

    http://youtu.be/sokeAMDm7mk

    (Zebra Katz & Njena Reddd Foxxx- Ima Read)

    http://youtu.be/oo4Sqt2Bmag

    (LE1F- wut)

    http://youtu.be/Nrnq4SZ0luc

    (Cakes da Killa- Whistle/Beat it up)

    http://youtu.be/oCjiwBuhkYM

    (Double Dutchess- “Bucket Betch”)

    http://youtu.be/i8TWQ7fVZ4g

    Obviously there’s tons more, but those were just a few off the top of my head! xo

  • June

    Being a queer person, his song “same love” does not sit well with me. It does not anger me, however. I give the same eye roll that I have given many self-identifying “allies” fighting for “justice.” As far as him being a white rapper, there are SO many issues with that, but to give him credit, he has tried to address it and parse it out in this song, appropriately titled “white privilege” : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdVRlM-kSx8 My guess is that it’s not a message his (mostly white) fans want to hear.

    • Jennifer L.

      So, and I’m genuinely curious, a straight, cis-gendered person who wants to be an ally simply can’t be one by virtue of the fact that they hold the dominant identity? I definitely agree with the idea of continually examining and being aware of one’s own embodied privilege, but I react against the idea that there is -no- level of shared empathy that would allow a straight person to identify in some part with the logic of injustice and want to fight against it.

  • Tusconian

    I notice a lot that when there is an issue in wider society, such as homophobia or sexism, those in power (generally, white people) scramble to minimize their participation in such acts by placing the blame on a minority or foreigner. Homophobia is rampant among pretty much every group in the US, and is glorified in the media controlled by straight white men? But religious folks are more likely to be homophobes, and black folks are more likely to be religious, so it’s the fault specifically of black Baptists that gay marriage isn’t legal! Women in America are at risk of abuse and rape, and tend to have lower paying jobs? Well, women in India and Afghanistan have it worse, and since it’s a contest apparently, let’s pretend we’ve reached gender utopia status and tell American women to stop their whining!

    I also see hip-hop, which is a broad, diverse genre, blamed as a whole for the objectification of women, glorification of violence, and shallow lifestyle. They’ll point to any black artist on the radio (because all black people on the radio are rappers, and rappers are the only ones objectifying women) and say “see, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown (who’s totally a rapper) have sexist lyrics and terrible personal lives, so rap itself is inherently sexist and homophobic.” But, plenty of non-sexist, non-homophobic rappers are out there, they just don’t get much airtime (I guess because suburban teenagers don’t feel edgy listening to them). And a good chunk of popular rock, pop, and country music, which are white dominated, are just as sexist and homophobic. Though if (and that’s a big if) that is ever acknowledged by the same people tearing rap down, it’s an issue with that particular artist, whereas the sexism and homophobia in rap are an issue with all rappers, all rap fans, and anyone that’s associated with rap (so, anyone black).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174475695 Lance Dwyer

    This is a great article but I definitely disagree with what seems like the author’s overarching thesis that Macklemore is doing more harm than good or simply should not receive praise for his socially conscious songs. The movement towards equality for the queer community will have to be driven by us but along the way we need powerful and passionate allies like Macklemore who are willing to put themselves out there with a song like “Same Love.” I think the author poses good points that definitely need to be addressed but if we turn against our allies and silence them then we’re not going to get anywhere.

  • Michael

    This column correctly points to some ways that Macklemore could do more to reduce homophobia and anti-women sentiment in hip-hop. However it ignores the significance of the artists’ work. Macklemore’s music takes aim at changing shameful homophobic and sexist norms in hip hop. It is unclear how the author hopes to remedy the situation. Should we allow hatred to simmer until a LGBT person obtains the opportunity to critique it? Doing so only deepens the forces of oppression that intimidate and bully people from expressing themselves in the public sphere. People of privilege have an obligation to use their advantages to push back against sentiments that demean and marginalize. The column rightly notes that Macklemore could achieve more change by promoting Homo Hop and acknowledging the way traditionally white culture abuses the LGBT community. However the possibility that Macklemore can do more does not obscure the good he has done so far.

    • http://2in20.blogspot.com yes

      “However the possibility that Macklemore can do more does not obscure the good he has done so far.”

      I think the author’s point is not that Macklemore hasn’t done good, but that there has been and is currently a lot of good being done by artists who are PoC and/or LGBTQ-identifying and experience things like racism and homophobia as part of their every day existence. The fact that he is afforded a national audience on a show like the Ellen DeGeneres show or Saturday Night Live, whereas other artists are not, is just part of what makes this feel problematic, since it makes one wonder who is speaking for who (white cis-straight dude speaking for queer PoC is just bunk), and it virtually erases the lived experiences and hard work of other people, regardless of what Macklemore’s intentions are (no such thing as “magical intent”.)

      I don’t expect him to rattle off a list of people who are doing this work every time he gets on stage, but to say something like “There needs to be accountability” and to make statements about the state of hip-hop as if there aren’t people who are at this very moment asking for that accountability is an extremely privileged statement to make, since it makes implied assumptions about who is responsible for things like misogyny and homophobia in hip-hop and doesn’t even start addressing things like recording label CEO’s who control what kind of rap makes the airwaves, white consumption of rap music its ties to the culture of hypermasculinity that permeates American culture, etc, etc.

      P.S. If he actually cares about advancing equality, he should understand that, as a white person, he will almost never be finished examining his privilege and the moment he thinks he has, he will almost certainly find more. People who are invested in equality and benefit from a certain degree of privilege should be able to handle critics say without taking it as a personal attack, especially if they want to be a good ally. After all, the people who have the most vested in attaining equality are going to keep at it, regardless of whether he wants to be an ally or not.

  • zdrav

    Don’t you know that Whites are the most naturally heroic of all races? Whenever a movement needs a leader and a hero/heroine, even if there are POC or gay people who are willing and able to fulfill those roles, a White person MUST be chosen.

    It’s just like the houses in Harry Potter:

    Whites: Brave, creative, beautiful, visionary, perfect blend of masculine and feminine
    Blacks: Strong physically but weak mentally, loyal, a bit animalistic, hyper-masculine, aggressive, artistic
    Asians: Strong mentally but weak physically, docile, obedient, good worker bees, hyper-feminine, passive
    Latinos: Err, um, good house servants and landscapers?

  • Greg_G

    Unfortunately, I believe much of the disappointment expressed in this article is misplaced. Macklemore shouldn’t be the target of your criticisms, the media and music fans who ignore those you believe should be getting more attention and more credit for their anti-homophobic and anti-racism efforts within the world of hip hop should be the ones getting called out. As a legitimate artist and lover of hip-hop Macklemore should be afforded the right to be critical of his art form and free to express his personal views on various issues. I find it problematic when people deny whites, or any group other than blacks (for context, I am a straight black male), the opportunity to fully embrace and contribute to hip hop as an art form. We may have created it, but we don’t “own” it. Yes, racism and homophobia are huge problems in hip hop, but non-black hip hop artists are just as guilty of perpetuating those problems (the aforementioned Eminem, for one) so it isn’t a “white guy criticizing black artists” issue, it’s an artist criticizing other artists issue.

    • Just_fact_s

      “…profiting in a genre that does not belong to them at the expense of queer artists of color.”

      Disctiminating against an artist for his (or her) message based on his (or her) sexual orientation and skin color is pretty hypocritical and counter intuitive to the point that the article is attempting to make. Hip-hop is about the art and the message. Saying that the art/message “should” say this, or “should” mean that is not the choice of the listener.

      The message in the song is clear. Our culture is against homosexuality in general, and we should raise up and protect the oppressed. Putting the artist in the line of fire for communicating on behalf of your cause sounds more like misplaced jealousy or envy.

      That being said…if Macklemore’s intention was to “profit” from this song and its message, as opposed to producing the song as a piece of art, then I agree that he should come under fire for exploiting a group of people to which he does not belong. But based on the personal nature of the song, the lyrics and the statements of the artists, I believe the song was written and produced out of pure motive and out of support for the gay community.

    • MercuryIsRed

      I agree, much of the article seems to be blaming Macklemore for the sins of his audience and those who laud him. It’s as though his biggest crime is being successful.

  • Natalie

    wonderful article… this guy rubs me the wrong way

  • disqus_MzwYwr7iS4

    I find it a bit harsh to say Macklemore doesn’t belong to a community that he shares some of his thoughts with. This article was very well-written and made excellent points. It would indeed be revolutionary for queer hip hop artists of color to not be routinely ignored. However, I enjoy Macklemore’s music. I think his heart is in a good place. I don’t deem him the white savior of hip hop but you certainly won’t find me attacking him for having mainstream status and saying *something*, perfect or not.