Macklemore Addresses Racism in America, How His Whiteness Sells Records, and More on Hot 97

Macklemore gave a very measured interview to Ebro and Rosenberg on the toughest topics in America and hip-hop today.

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Image via Complex Original
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Between Ferguson, Eric Garner, and the murder of two NYPD officers in the past six months (along with countless other recent examples of how race, violence, and protest have intertwined), there's a social platform to be put to use. The public and the police have responded with protests of their own. The hip-hop community has spoken up as well, with Killer Mike, J. Cole, and Yasiin Bey all entering the discussion in their own ways. Today, on Hot 97's Ebro in the MorningMacklemore was brought on to address a portion of the above issues.

Throughout the in-depth hour-plus interview, Macklemore, along with Ebro and Peter Rosenberg, discussed and debated how different Americans should be responding to current events, and what can be done to appropriately progress together as a nation of people who are "different, but the same," as Ebro put it. 

Macklemore's takes were measured and thoughtful. On the topic of activism and social mobility surrounding the topic of race, he first explained his thought process in entering the discussion. 

“For me, as a white dude—as a white rapper, I’m like, ’How do I participate in this conversation? How do I get involved to a level where I’m not co-opting the movement, or I’m not making it about me, but also realizing the platform and reach that I have, and doing it in an authentic way?’”

He then continued by pointing out how his white privilege has affected his silence:

“I was talking to somebody the other day. They said to me, ‘Silence is an action.’ It’s my privilege that I can be silent about this issue. I’m tired of being silent about it. I’ve been silent for a long time about it. I didn’t want to mess up. I didn’t want to offend anybody. It is so imperative that we have this race conversation in America if we’re going to progress... Racism is uncomfortable to talk about. White people, we can just turn off the TV when we’re sick of talking about race.”

Macklemore then immediately moved to what he believes, as a white person, needs to the first step in addressing the protests and outcry. 

“If we’re truly going to progress, we have to get past that ‘awkward stage’ of the race conversation, step up, and just have it. And as a white person, we have to listen. We have to direct the attention to the people of color mobilizing, and listen to those people, and take some direction. ” 

Rosenberg then pressed him on how his skin color has affected his perception within not just the music industry and hip-hop, but pop culture as a whole. He asked, “If a black rapper make ‘Can’t Hold Us,” would they have the same success?" 

“I can’t go that far, but I will say this… Why am I safe? Why can I cuss and have a parental advisory sticker on my album, and still parents are like, ‘You’re the only rapper I let my kids listen to’?” Why can I wear a hoodie, and not be a thug? Why can I sag my pants, and not be a gangbanger? Why am I on Ellen’s couch? Why am I on Good Morning America? If I was black, what would my drug addiction look like?" said Macklemore.

From that point, he also explained how his whiteness has been an advantage for him within the music industry, citing the idea that, “People purchase things that they relate to. They see themselves." He continued:

"Parents buy your album because they see your face... To me, the music industry is just—the privilege that exists in the music industry is just a greater symptom of the privilege in America. This is just a byproduct. People see me, they resonate with me—America is predominantly white—there’s relatability there.” ”

Not stopping there, Macklemore analyzed how mainstream America has digested his image and music in an unfair way to hip-hop culture. He said, “I’m the ’Same Love guy’ who’s all for equality. Like, ‘This is the first time we’ve heard any rapper talk about equality! Wow, he’s a hero!’ I got put in that “hero” box. When that happens, it’s because of privilege. White privilege." 

In the second half of the video, the conversation turned to Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore's infamous post-Grammy text. On the topic, Macklemore was blunt: “I made a mistake. A lot was going into that moment. A lot of fear was going into that moment.” 

Ebro and Rosenberg also brought the discussion to Iggy Azalea and how she's acted in response to claims of cultural appropriation. While Macklemore said that he wouldn't comment on her directly, he did deliver his verdict on Q-Tip's hip-hop history lesson: “That’s an OG breaking down truth. I’m not getting into how she responded, but it’s important to listen. To be humble. This is a whole debate right here, but this is not my culture to begin with." 

He continued, “It’s okay to fuck up and be part of the human experience, but you have to acknowledge it. You have to be accountable for your mistake.”

Listen above and also catch Macklemore's take on the Grammys, Kendrick's new song, and what holidays he celebrates. 


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