More Macklemore

It’s still surreal to me that Macklemore has become as famous as he has. The first time I saw him perform, it was at my high school prom at the Seattle aquarium. A few years later I attended his secret show at Neumos, right before The Heist dropped. The album soared to the top of the charts instantly, and Macklemore seemed to achieve nationwide fame literally days after he played an intimate show right here on Capitol Hill (for which I was tenth in line, thank you very much).

Perhaps fame will naturally bring backlash, and I’m almost certainly biased. But I’ve still been surprised at the fervent hatedom that’s sprung up in the wake of Macklemore’s rise to stardom. There are more articles slamming Macklemore than praising him these days, and scores of anti-Macklemore blogs have popped up.

Macklemore occupies tenuous territory as a white hip-hop artist, that’s for sure. And yes, he benefits from his whiteness, and yes, the song “Same Love” is a pretty shallow take on LGBTQ issues, and yes, he’s made mistakes, and yes, Kendrick Lamar should have won that Grammy. I agree.

But condemning Macklemore as the worst thing that’s ever happened to hip hop really doesn’t help anyone. Painting with such broad strokes doesn’t inform an intelligent conversation on allyship, because frankly, Macklemore has done a lot of things right. He frequently discusses his privilege and critiques his place in hip-hop. “Same Love” raised money for R-74 and was created in collaboration with members of the LGBTQ community.

It’s important to critique pop culture, but it’s also important to acknowledge the good. And when we create a dichotomy of artists who are doing everything right, as if they’re flawless bastions of social justice, and artists who are irredeemably problematic, we lose the ability to engage with these issues with the nuance they deserve.