Disclaimer: It’s been many, many years since I last listened to radio (live or otherwise), so I can’t claim to be a regular Hot 97 (the popular New York hip-hop radio station) listener. So names of popular hosts like Ebro, Rosenberg, and Laura Stylez are foreign to me. However, I’m sure they are not, to a lot of you. Also, the first time I’d heard the name Macklemore was probably after the pushback he faced when he dominated rap categories at the 56th Grammy Awards earlier this year – a feat so egregious that he pointed it out himself, making public a dramatic message he sent to fellow, and more deserving contender, Kendrick Lamar, in which he, essentially, recognized the latter’s, shall we say, superiority. Although it was a move that, as I recall, many saw as superficial and self-serving.
Prior to that fiasco, I wasn’t at all familiar with Macklemore, nor his music. In fact, I’m actually still not. I’ve heard pieces of his music in passing, but I’m an old-school hip-hop head. If you read my KRS One post earlier today, you’d know that I cherish the rap music of the period in which I grew up – the late 1980’s to early 1990’s. Those were the golden years of hip-hop in my not-so humble opinion; and not much I’ve heard since then has moved me the way the likes of Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, MC Lyte, Gang Starr, N.W.A, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, De La Soul, and others did, during those years. So I still, on occasion, celebrate those artists and their albums, likely in the same way that my parents did for artists of their generation. It is a generational thing after all.
But, all that to say, I actually enjoyed this discussion between Hot 97 hosts Ebro and Rosenberg, and white rapper Macklemore, who, as they say, has been relatively quiet this year, since the Grammys. Although, he and his partner Ryan Lewis have emerged in recent months, joining protests in their hometown of Seattle, in response to the deaths of young black men at the hands of white police officers this year.
I thought the hour-long conversation below was worth sharing, because, as I recall, many of you were incensed after Macklemore’s Grammy wins, and what followed afterward. I remember my Twitter and Facebook feeds were dominated by commentary on matters of white privilege, and the cultural appropriation of black music (black art, really) by white artists, and the institutional recognition of those white artists (over the work of black artists), if only because they are white, and the institutions are mostly run by white people.
The conversation comes at a time when another co-opting white artist in Iggy Azalea (who I’m also not really familiar with) finds herself at the center of controversy, after, what I’m told, is a tone-deafness, and general lack of awareness of her privilege in an industry (a world) that cherishes her appearance and success over her African American peers. But Macklemore didn’t address her specifically, and instead focused on what I think is a much more thoughtful, nuanced, insightful, aware conversation on the climate of race relations in America, recognizing his privilege as a white artist playing, and being very successful in a field that’s been home to black artists for generations.
I’m not sure whether this will win him any new fans, but I appreciated the discourse. Not really knowing the guy before I watched this, he seems like a genuinely thoughtful, if humble person, who understands the position he’s in, and general reactions, from all sides, to that position.
And kudos to the hosts for keeping the conversation honest, focused and engaging, and for Macklemore for not shying away from any challenging questions or comments.
The whole interview is worth watching – especially on a slow holiday week, as the new year celebrations begin. Something to bookmark for a later date, perhaps.