Hip Hop is Afraid of Macklemore.


I didn’t get a chance to watch the Grammys (woe is me), but I did have the absolute pleasure to read about them on the internet. And what a pleasure it was.

In the interest of full disclosure, I too contributed to the explosion of similarly lame opinions that filled our social feeds at an incalculable rate. I was pissed off that Macklemore beat out Kendrick Lamar for any Grammy award, never mind four of them. Oh my god. It’s like Michael Jordan losing four game-sevens in a row. It’s like Peyton Manning throwing four picks on four straight drives. HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO US, KENDRICK? WHAT DID WE DO WRONG? WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

I was truly upset that a big panel of people who don’t listen to the same music that I do didn’t give a gold statue to my favorite rapper.

But in retrospect, what’s really surprising about a decision like this? For one, the Grammys have never been about defining genre. Regardless of what you think, or how you feel about the subtleties of Mackelmore’s music, it’s been defined as hip hop. That just is what it is. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are the first duo to ever have their first two singles reach the number one spot in the Hot 100. Macklemore is the first independent artist since 1994 to have their song go to number one. The song below is the last time that happened.

Macklemore won those Grammys last night for a lot of the reasons you’ve already heard, but mainly because it’s a great narrative. People love a great story, and every organization wants to make great stories. The Grammys are no different. Plus, let’s be honest. With the folks who are voting on these awards, what did you expect? Steely Dan beat out Radiohead, Eminem and Beck for best album in 2001. What a fucked up year that was.

I’m not going to go into the details, but it’s plainly obvious that Grammy voters are exerting a large influence in categories where they really aren’t experts. It’s such a travesty, I know. Yeah, I really wanted Kendrick to win because he sure as hell deserves it, but like I said — the narrative is undeniable for both of them. Kendrick will get his; no doubt about that. GKMC may be a masterpiece, but The Heist isn’t exactly a piece of shit. We’ll get over it. Kendrick will get over it. We all will.

But since all this has gone down, one thing has become truly apparent. There is a sect of hip hop fans who couldn’t be more eager to distance themselves from Macklemore. There couldn’t possibly be any more of an effort from this group to make it apparent that Mackelmore is absolutely NOT a part of the hip hop culture. It’s more feverish and desperate than A-Rod trying to distance himself from his alleged steroid use. So panicked. So desperate.

So what is it exactly that’s so threatening about Macklemore? For one, it’s that he’s white. There is no doubt about that. If it’s fair to infer that one of the reasons that Macklemore won all of those Grammys is because he’s white, is it so outlandish to believe that maybe some of the hate towards him is also because he’s a white man finding success in hip hop? No, it’s not outlandish, because it’s stated plainly. Check this shit out.

mackelmore kendrick text

The top bubble in the above image is an actual message that Macklemore sent to Kendrick Lamar after the Grammys. The bottom bubble is the viral brainchild of somebody I feel inclined to say not-so-nice things about; it was shopped in to show just how important it was to hip hop for a panel of old white people to affirm their musical taste.

Honestly, that’s one of the stupidest fucking things I’ve ever read. Shame on the child who wrote it. This Spin article really worked me up, too. Same with this New York Times article. Let’s not all act as if hip hop is the last bastion of black pride and honor. Give me a break. I’ll listen to hip-hop until the day I die, but this posturing and moral grandstanding as if Macklemore stole something from the black community because he pursued his passion (independently of a label, mind you) and achieved is a gigantic joke.

Exactly what is it that would have made the detractors happy? Should Macklemore have fought tooth and nail for his music to be re-categorized into a different genre? Should he have pursued another profession for the sole cause of not offending hip hop purists? The Spin article I linked to calls out Macklemore for Instagramming his “apology” to K.Dot, bitterly stating that it was only “because every magnaminous stance this guy takes must go public.” What a hypocritical and elitist stance to take.

As if media reports or the musing of artists or the general public aren’t subject to a response from the subject of such great disdain — as if the freedom to express an opinion is a one way street. What the fuck is Mack supposed to do? He can sit there on his thumbs as he gets blasted by hip hop fans and the media (in a completely ignorant, angry and disrespectful way), or he can do something to show people that he understands that they might be pissed off by what just happened, and that he identifies with what they’re feeling. WOW, HOW NARCISSISTIC OF HIS WHITE PRIVILEGED ASS. Give. Me. A. Break.

The dude is gonna get nailed no matter what. He should be allowed to defend himself without you putting words into his mouth, especially considering he’s done nothing wrong besides work his ass off for more than a decade to reach the peak of his profession. And he pretty much said what we were all thinking. We’re going to vilify him for acknowledging that? Shuuuuut up. I mean, Chris Brown gets better treatment from the same community. Apparently, being a women-beating piece of shit is a lesser offense than being a successful white man in hip hop.

One of my biggest beefs with the hip hop community is how grossly hypocritical this whole thing is. In a genre with so much filler, so much monotonous bullshit, Macklemore is really your biggest worry? I’m not even going to address the remarks accusing Mack of pushing a “Gay Agenda”. How paranoid are you? You think Macklemore is trying to turn your kids into gays? Isn’t the hip hop community the same community that wants me to believe that their aggressive, violent and misogynistic music won’t rub off on my children? How is that consistent?

Hip hop made them do it.

Hip hop made them do it.

Obviously, this fear stems from the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ single, “Same Love”. Hip hop purists don’t like Mack pushing his agenda using their culture as his tool for propagation. This is where we get into the one-way freedom of speech thing again. Rap music has never been a stronghold for morality. Those artists exist, but they are certainly not the majority. Are we still talking about the same genre of music that has been attacked and vilified for mainstream media for years? After listening to interview after interview with faded ass rappers, I always thought that hip hop was about expressing your point of view, and telling people about where your from.

Hip hop is all about its freedom of speech and saying what you feel — as long as you share all of the same opinions as hip hop. I’m not saying you have to like Macklemore, I’m not even saying you have to appreciate what he’s making. I could hardly give a shit. But to run around and act like 1) he’s pushing a “gay agenda” and 2) he’s the biggest threat to the state of hip hop is complete and total ignorance. It’s sad, and it’s desperate.

Hip hop is really self-conscious right now and there’s something very off-putting about it. From the community’s need to have Kendrick’s talent affirmed by a Grammy to their denial and subsequent attacks of Macklemore, there is a loud group that is very committed to controlling the message.

This next part will probably piss some people off, so I’m going to go out of my way to be crystal clear here.

One particular fan advocated burning all of the homos; how original. That comment was one of the 3 most liked in the thousand-plus comment thread. With most of this vitriol coming from the hip hop community, which is predominantly black, a burning question developed in the back of my mind. I’ll end my post with this question and I’ll leave it to you to answer it, as that’s always my goal — to start an honest dialogue. Please note that I’m not comparing the plight of today’s homosexual to yesteryear’s black American — though there are similarities, that’s a much deeper and nuanced conversation. But here’s my question, and the end of this rambling post:

Do you find it ironic that the group lashing out at Macklemore in such an angry, violent and ignorant way, is the same group of people whose ancestors were treated as sub-human property less than 150 years ago because of something as trivial as skin color?

Update: The last question isn’t a rhetorical question. If you take exception to it, say something. Change my mind, make a point. USE YOUR WORDS.

  • Black Guy

    you’re an idiot

    • nlokare

      Why is he an idiot? This is spot on analysis. No one “owns” hip hop. Its a cultural movement that’s transcended race and nation. Macklemore is just musician. Hip hop isn’t even just rap.

      • mohammeds

        Thats what white people say whenever Black peopel create someting that they they want. “No one owns it”, your kind destorys and dilutes everything it touches. Black people do own hip hop and you demons need to keep your gay asses out of it.

    • Richie Martin

      Great point. It’s obvious you read the article in its entirety and have a valuable opinion to share. Thanks for stopping by!

  • James Di Fiore

    Thank you for this piece. I’ve never seen such hypocrisy and blatant hate for an artist, and I’ve been listening to hip hop for 25 years. He’s being treated like the 2014 version of Vanilla Ice, all because an awards show that most of the same haters say is out of touch with the culture didn’t give Kendrick Lamar some trophies. And I can’t count how many times over the past couple days I’ve heard people entrenched in hip hop pretend that homophobia isn’t a staple in the music they love so much…or how many time homophobia is excused as ‘just part of the scene.’

    • Drag

      I have to wonder what artists you’re listening too. I mean gay-bashing was bad like a decade ago but I think its really calmed down in the scene in recent years. Like when I listened to Enimem’s “Rap God” I was feeling it except for the gay part which came off as kind of embarassing.

      Like I mean I’m sure that there are artists who have made homophobic remarks but I’m not sure if I would call it a staple. That said I really don’t listen to the more hardcore stuff like I used to.

  • JD Beatty

    First of all, great article Richie. I think something else interesting to point out is that the Grammys has been around since 1959, but the award for Best Rap Album has only existed since 1996 and Best Rap Song only since 2004. In the 19 awards that Best Rap Album has been a category, there have been 11 different winners (Eminem has 5 and Kanye has 4 btw). Basically, I don’t think The Grammy’s should be viewed as the pinnacle of hip hop/rap achievement, or any musical genre for that matter. Purists of any genre will get upset when their golden boy or girl doesn’t win, if they haven’t already written them off for “selling out” that is. But don’t put so much weight in awards that are decided by a few hundred people behind closed doors. If you’re looking for another reason to not put too much stock in the Grammys…http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/27/showbiz/music/grammys-trent-reznor-macklemore/

    • SSS

      This is all BS!! Kendrick is the best thing that’s happened to hip hop.. Rap… Or music over all.. It’s an obvious that he should’ve won!;( his album was real and it’s something that he personally experienced..He’s the only one besides Jay Z and Asap Rocky! That could bring real hip hop back to us!!! It’s sad and real F’d Up!……Btw whose Macklemore??????

  • Angry ignorant violent black

    The question you posed is biased. You generalize the entire group lashing out in an “angry, violent, and ignorant way” as being African-American. I think that is an ignorant statement to make. To me, people are more so mad at the Grammy voters and not Macklemore himself. The results are seen as a threat that the people in power still look down upon the African-American race.

    • Richie Martin

      Go and reread the article, this time for comprehension. I made it pretty clear that the article is directed towards those slinging racist and homophobic remarks at Macklemore. If you aren’t one of those people, then the article isn’t addressed to you. Most of the reactions that I surveyed came from black men and women. Odd, but I didn’t see a lot of white people mad at a white man for being successful in hip hop.

      I was specifically interested in why hip hop culture, which is predominantly black, is so freaked out by Macklemore. I most certainly didn’t make the mistake of implying that hip hop culture and black culture are one in the same, nor did I ever imply that all black people are racist or homophobic. I am, instead, addressing the small slice of people that ARE all of those things.

    • Richie Martin

      After getting a lot of feedback, I’m questioning my choice to include the last question. I’m actually going to go through this piece tonight and pick it apart myself. And after rereading it today, I think you might be right about the way I characterized the group I’m addressing. My last question is a shitty question, or at least I didn’t get there the right way. Too many assumptions and generalizations.

      Hope you didn’t see anything I said as hateful or anything of the sort. Thanks for commenting.

  • guy

    I think it’s a shock that he won at all. For the Academy Awards, there are those movies that just scream best picture. Everyone knows, those big grand and full of message movies. Very rarely does a (somewhat) underground movie that is huge in the hip film community ever win. Same goes here. I think its great that Kendrick got his name up in the nominations while still being relatively new and respected by hip hop heads.

    • guy 2

      *I don’t think it’s a shock

  • Drag

    Also, I will say that question at the end is quite inflammatory. A lot of people have been hating on Mack’s win. Not just black people. Yet, placing all the blame on the black community is kind of unfair and pretty ironic.

    As for my opinion, honestly. I don’t think Macklemore deserves the hate he gets. Did him being white have a part to play in him getting as big as he did. More than likely. Do I think his win was racially motivated. Not really. It was just moreso because the Grammys have no idea about hip-hop and well he was the biggest thing in hip-hop this year as far as mainstream was concerned.

    And let’s face it, Macklemore is going to take heat for being a socially conscious WHITE rapper no matter what. Because there will always be a deep-seated resentment from people on whether the issues he speaks about are sincere or whether he doing this to just keep up his pro-liberal image. And him sending apologies to Kendrick and posting it for millions to see isn’t really going to help that. Because, as much as we hate to admit to ourselves, the issue of race is still a big one in our society.

    • Sss

      Kendrick best Rap Album!..best Album!!!… “Where u from” ….. “Fukk who know”…

  • Tom

    This is just stupid.

    No ones afraid of Macklemore, they were just pissed that the biggest industry award in music got given to a considerably less talented pop-rapper with a decent-at-best album over what most hip hop fans believe to be a modern classic. The issue is that those who vote on the grammys know as little about hip hop as you do and simply voted based on who was the most popular. They also generally look down upon the genre.

    The insinuation that everyone objecting is homophobic is also absurd.

    Nothing Macklemore has done is revolutionary or even that bold, musically or socially, get over yourself.

    • Richie martin

      You obviously didn’t read the article if you think I insinuated that a) everybody upset is homophobic or b) that Macklemore is revolutionary or bold. If you read the article, you’d realize that the focus isn’t even about who the award went to.

      If you feel like doing more than skimming the article and offering some valid criticisms, be my guest.

      • JAG

        Actually your article does focus a lot on homophobia as a motivation for disliking Macklemore:

        “I’m not even going to address the remarks accusing Mack of pushing a “Gay Agenda”. How paranoid are you? You think Macklemore is trying to turn your kids into gays? ”

        “Obviously, this fear stems from the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ single, “Same Love”. Hip hop purists don’t like Mack pushing his agenda using their culture as his tool for propagation.”

        “But to run around and act like 1) he’s pushing a “gay agenda” and 2) he’s the biggest threat to the state of hip hop is complete and total ignorance.”

        “One particular fan advocated burning all of the homos; how original. That comment was one of the 3 most liked in the thousand-plus comment thread.”

        What exactly are you insinuating?

  • Steve

    Lol, no one is afraid of Macklemore just because he’s white.

    Rappers like Action Bronson and Mac Miller don’t get the same reaction, with good reason.

  • JAG

    Nice try. But the criticism of Macklemore goes way beyond the fact that he’s a “white boi” or he’s “all about dem gayz.” I, as a gay white guy, have huge problems with Macklemore. Rap is not more uniquely guilty of commercialism or the accompanying social ills of homophobia and misogyny than any other genre. The narrative that rap (and hip-hop), genres that have their antecedents in black culture, is all about “gunz, chainz and hoes” etc. is a myth peddled by the mainstream media to get you to ignore the fact that commercialism, misogyny and homophobia are systemic problems at ALL levels of cultural production (a harder problem to admit). No, the real problem is with rap, a traditionally BLACK subgenre…HOW CONVENIENT. (There is historical precedent for this of course. This is the very same false narrative that was used against Jazz back in the 20s).

    This narrative ignores the dozens of other rap and hip-hop artists that have done work with social themes and messages; The Roots, Common, Frank Ocean, Dead Prez, to name a few, that have all challenged commercialism and various other social ills. It makes a small subgenre of rap—the gunz, chainz, and hoes brand—representative of the whole in order to delegitimize it. In the words of Jay Dodd over at HuffPo:

    “Hip-hop has been queer for years before Macklemore was even born. The first rap song came out of the disco tradition, rappers like Cee-Lo Green and Andre 3000 have been doing drag for years, Common came out against writing homophobic lyrics, not to mention the countless rappers and artists who have supported Frank Ocean. While homophobic lyrics are pervasive in Hip Hop, they have never been more homophobic or heteronormative than any rock or pop song. Secondly, if 87 percent of YouTube users are White and 54 percent male, it’s guys who look like you and listen to rap like you do, who perpetuate that narrative of hateful Hip Hop.”

    Enter Macklemore, a mediocrity who gets to play the part of the Great White Hope of rap by lecturing the black artistic community (a community he was supposedly “raised” in) about how their art is inherently commercialist and homophobic. This is why I can’t get behind “Same Love.” The line” If I were gay, I would think that hip-hop hates me” is just as ridiculous as saying “If I were gay, I would think that Baroque music hates me.” But it plays perfectly into a false narrative. And Macklemore (along with Lorde,who kinda did the same thing) gets to be lauded in critical circles for “challenging” hip-hop and delivering us from its imagined excesses.

    I am not saying that Macklemore is a racist or something, or that he is a bad person. I am saying his music is now a tool that is used in crucifying black art for sins that are manifest at ALL levels of society; which is apart of institutional racism.

    But I get it. Black people are mean and shit!!!