I think I’m the only person who’s not excited about Macklemore performing a concert, for free, at my university’s end of year celebration. I know I sound negative–and I totally mean to. This topic gets grating to a lot of people who like him, so if you’re the type of person who’s just going to think of why I’m wrong the whole time you read this I suggest shutting off your internal monologue. Or read on and get angry, that’ll make me just as happy.
Reason numero uno:
- Macklemore, like every other rapper, is making money.He just doesn’t verbalize it. Which is fine, a lot of people like rappers who don’t talk about how much ice/chains they got–this is the go-to reason for “why hip-hop sucks” for most ‘open-minded’ or ‘sensible’ music listeners. “There’s no meaning,” they say. “I like Macklemore because he raps about things that matter.”Okay, sure, I’ll give you that. He talks about gay marriage and anti-consumerism, and… stuff. He’s “socially-conscious”. “He raps about the issues.” “He’s deep, man.” He’s a rapper who cares, and he’s like the first to do it, I mean, right? Yeah! He’s totally the first to do it. Just like Yasiim (formerly Mos Def), Talib Kweli, Lauren Hill, Atmosphere, Common, Wyclef Jean, Grandmaster Flash, Nas, Melle Mel were the first to do it… wait. All these rappers are/were socially conscious rappers…
Oh wait, you meant that he raps about easily accessible issues that most white people go through, repackages them through a lens that’s easy to relate to, then sells it to you for money, right? If that’s what you want from your music, fine. But I don’t go to church, and I sure as shit don’t listen to my music to have someone telling me what to think. I listen to my music to gain a new experience: I’d rather hear about the emotional breakdown of having a friend get shot and killed, or the struggle of growing up in strife, than be told “HEY GUYS you shouldn’t say ‘that’s gay’ on Youtube because it’s rude and hurts people’s feelings.”
Hip-hop used to be all about explaining what’s going on “in the hood.” It was a reflection of a personal and social state of being–a report. Now it’s the natural evolution from that because with the growth of equality came the growth of black success. Hip-hop has moved on from talking about “trying to make it” and instead talking about “having made it”. It’s the natural response: why talk about a struggle if it’s faded away? This is the transition a lot of people who don’t listen to hip-hop miss–they think the ice-chains-cars-money-hoes topics are unprecedented. Is there still institutional racism? Certainly. Is there more reason for optimism than ever before? You bet your ass.
Macklemore is doing the exact same thing as 70s and 80s rappers: he’s taking cultural snapshots of where we are, what we’re doing, and he’s vocalizing how he feels about it. THIS IS FINE. But what’s not fine is that he rides the ignorance of his fanbase, and doesn’t correct them because they tend to think “hes the first to talk about something that matters”. Every time some “socially conscious” musician gets big everyone acts like it’s never happened before. And the artists with even a shred of decency make sure to acknowledge where they came from. But now Macklemore doesn’t bring up his influences, now he doesn’t do shoutouts, nowhe doesn’t do anything to acknowledge where he came from or the culture he’s pilfered. He’s paid that homage before and I don’t understand why he isn’t doing it now that he’s popular.
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.
From The Language of My World (2005).
More of THIS. This would be fine.
But now that he’s gone pop this message isn’t important anymore. He took and ran with the “conscious” label and ditched that shit from 8 years ago.
“Oh if they’re real fans they’ll go through my music and find all that old shit where I used to say that stuff.” Bullshit. Real rappers never stop giving shoutouts to their heroes. Real rappers always remember that without their past they wouldn’t be here.