My problem with Macklemore.

Can we talk about something that’s bothered me for the better part of two years now?



Don’t get me wrong; Macklemore is great. Macklemore makes me really happy. Macklemore is a trailblazer in hip hop and is making tremendous leaps and bounds introducing individuality, creativity, diversity, and inclusiveness into the music industry. I love his music, his style, his attitude, his general outlook on life, all of it.

But why do I feel like (mostly white) people are suddenly treating hip hop like art now that Macklemore has hit it big? Why do I hear white people saying, “Macklemore is an artist,” and “Hip hop is beautiful,” and “Hip hop is poetry,” only AFTER Macklemore made it to the top 100?

Weren’t you the same people who told me that my music – KRS-One, Lupe Fiasco, Wu Tang Clan, Tupac Shakur, Ice Cube, Lauryn Hill, the Fugees, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, NaS, OutKast, Common – was trash? Shouldn’t even be considered music?

But now that there’s a white rapper from Seattle that you like, hip hop is suddenly art? Poetry?

Do you not realized how blinded you are by your privilege? That you can’t see something for what it really is until one of your own shows it to you? It’s like you don’t take the opinions of minorities seriously. Like our opinions are so inferior to yours that we can’t speak the truth. That you have to speak it for us before it can actually be considered “truth.”

Hip hop was art long before white rappers came around. Hip hop is moving, fluid, carnal, raw poetry. It utilizes the natural beat of a heart pumped full of adrenaline, taken from tribal rhythms in African cultures. It takes that base beat, and lays a heavy layer of pure, unadulterated human emotion over it. It takes all the pain, all the suffering, all the anger experienced in life, and turns it into a story that everyone can relate to. Good hip hop makes you think. Good hip hop makes you cry. Good hip hop makes you want to show everyone who ever told you that you couldn’t make it that they were wrong. Good hip hop makes you want to love people just a little bit more. Good hip hop makes you want to love yourself just a little bit more. 

And that didn’t happen when Macklemore came out of the woodwork. That happened long before him.

I’ll leave you with this song. It came out in 2008. It’s about hip hop. Everything that it is and what it represents for people. Maybe you’ll get an idea of where my frustration is coming from after watching it.

He said, “I write what I see
Write to make it right; don’t like where I be”
I’d like to make it like the sights on TV
Quite the great lights, so nice and easy

He picked up his son with a great big smile
Rapped every single word to the new born child
Then he put him down and went back to the kitchen
And put on another beat and got back to the mission of

Get his momma out the hood, put her somewhere in the woods
Keep his lady lookin’ good, have her rollin’ like she should
Show his homies there’s a way, other than that flippin’ yay
Bail his homie outta jail, put a lawyer on his case

Throw a concert for the school, show the shoulders that it’s cool
Throw some candy on the Caddy, chuck the deuce and act a fool
Man it feels good when it happens like that
Two days from goin’ back to sellin’ crack, yes sir

One you never heard of I, push it hard to further the
Grind, I feel like murder but hip hop you saved me
One you never heard of I, push it hard to further the
Grind I feel like murder but hip hop you saved my life


6 Comments to “My problem with Macklemore.”

  1. I wrote the same thing for a webpage in html class when I was 10, ‘cept I was like, who has heard of britney spears, who has heard of prodigy, polled and listed results. I am embarrassed to this day I felt the need to make a page like that, you probly should at the least feel my shame.

    • I’m confused as to what this comment is trying to say. I don’t know whether you’re trying to share an anecdote about a childhood blunder or you’re trying to make me feel guilty/ashamed about my post/blog. If it’s the second one, I’ll have you know that I’m currently laughing at the idea.

  2. I think what you say is true, but it’s not a problem with Macklemore. The man is a great man, simply stated. The problem is with the mother culture that taught us that white people are superior, and there are also issues with explicit lyrics and content within most mainstream rap in the last twenty years. It’s true- to me, some of Mack’s songs seem fake, like they were made for the Billboard charts and radio, but he went up on the Grammy stage and performed a real one, and one that will change the world, and how many other Hip-Hop artists can claim to have done that?

    • I’d say you’re right; Macklemore isn’t the problem. I think I address that in this post by discussing my interactions with those who have – in a sense – deified Macklemore. Perhaps the post title is a little misleading. But to address your last statement about other hip hop artists not performed real, profound songs at the Grammy’s, I’d say that Ludacris’s performance of “Runaway Love” featuring Mary J. Blige and Earth, Wind, & Fire was a pretty profound performance. If you’re not familiar with the song, I’d highly recommend a listen. Hip hop artists have been using their music to raise social awareness of problems since the beginning of hip hop. Hip hop has always been a platform for discussion of hard, controversial topics; Macklemore is not unique in doing that. But for whatever reason, he seems to be the only one who gets praised for it.

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