Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog Friday, February 28

Free writing. Use it to start reflection on any of the course strands (or anything about the course) that you can use for the mid-semester section of the learning record. Write about the latest find in your research or a song/video that you find particularly problematic/noteworthy/enlightening.

Lots has been said about Macklemore and white privilege. For my research topic, I hope to examine the social construction of hip-hop, as well as white privilege, and how that relates to Macklemore.

In interviews, Macklemore’s discussed how being white has affected his status and music.

But years before Macklemore was making national headlines, he addressed the topic of his race in “White Privilege,” a song off his 2005 album The Language of My World (listen above).

From the very beginning of the song, Macklemore wonders, “Am I just another white boy who has caught on to the trend? / When I take a step to the mic is hip-hop closer to the end?

He recognizes that fellow white rapper Eminem helped bring about a major shift in hip-hop. While addressing the issue of white rappers in hip-hop, he also mentions other historical instances of white people hijacking the cultures of others:

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?

Macklemore goes on to point out the fact that many white people are uncomfortable admitting that they’ve ‘stolen,’ in a sense, the art-form – admitting that they’ve exploited a culture without having to struggle with its burdens.

And most whites don’t want to acknowledge this is occurring
Cos we got the best deal, the music without the burden
Of being black in a system that really wants you to rock

Macklemore is very conscious of his status, almost seeming to predict the debates that occurred after his Grammy wins earlier this year:

I feel like I pay dues, but I’ll always be a white MC
I give everything I have when I write a rhyme
But that doesn’t change the fact that this culture’s not mine

And he continues with the hook:

Hip-hop started off on a block that I’ve never been to
To counteract a struggle that I’ve never even been through

If I think I understand just because I flow, too?
That means I’m not keeping it true, I’m not keeping it true

In the second verse, Macklemore goes even deeper into how white people have often exploited black music and culture:

Marketed the music, now adapted to the lifestyle
What happened to jazz and rock and roll is happening right now
Where’s my place in the music that’s been taken by the media
With white corporations controlling what they’re feedin’ ya?

So is Macklemore a ‘real MC’? Can Macklemore ever be a real MC? He recognizes that hip-hop is “rooted in authenticity, something you literally can’t learn.” Is Macklemore nothing more than another white face benefitting from privilege? Is it enough for Macklemore to recognize and admit to his privilege?  Or has Macklemore been a positive influence on hip-hop?