A few days ago, Macklemore took home four Grammys (for New Artist, Rap Performance, Rap Song for “Thrift Shop,” and and Rap Album for The Heist). After the ceremony, Macklemore posted a picture to his Instagram of a text message he sent to Kendrick Lamar, who he beat out for best rap album, where he says, “You got robbed. I wanted you to win.” He goes on to say that he wanted to say that during his acceptance speech, but got nervous and froze up. What a brave hero Macklemore is! What a swell guy!
Except it’s bullshit. Macklemore is not the end-all, be-all LGBT ally, nor is he “brave” for showing a text message he sent to Kendrick after Macklemore took home four awards.
First, why Macklemore isn’t a real LGBT ally. In his “gay rights anthem” (lol), Macklemore says,
When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,
‘Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-k, trippin’ “
Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she?
Okay, Macklemore, we get it, YOU’RE STRAIGHT. He repeats his “No homo!” refrain throughout the song, plus he says, “If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me.” Excuse me? Heina has already done a great article on pro-LGBT rap artists, so I won’t rehash all of them, but I will also add that both Jay-Z and Kanye (arguably the most famous rap artists today) have spoken out in favor of same sex marriage for years, and they were both nominated for best rap album (the award Macklemore said he “robbed” Kendrick of). To quote Jay Dodd, a student at Tufts University:
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.
The only reason I would think hip hop hates gay people is because Macklemore blatantly ripped off a queer guy of color’s song about gay interracial love for a song about shopping at thrift stores (seriously, if you don’t believe me, take a listen).
Oh, and when Macklemore performed “Same Love” at the Grammys, he replaced the gay woman in the song (Mary Lambert) with Madonna (who is also straight). Way to show solidarity with gay people, Macklemore! I’ve been corrected. Apparently Madonna was only brought out at the end of the song, and Mary Lambert was still up onstage. My apologies.
There are not too many rules to being an ally, but Macklemore has already broken most of them. Sending a text to a black guy you beat for an award doesn’t count as “checking your privilege.” If Macklemore really was aware of his privilege, he would have spoken out about it on stage when he won his award. Some people act as if that’s a preposterous idea– who would refuse an award based on institutional racism? Um, well, Marlon Brando, for one, so don’t give me the whole “that could never happen!” excuse. In a fantastic article by Brittney Cooper (which you should really read in its entirety), a professor of Women’s Studies and Africana Studies at Rutger’s University, she says:
However, Macklemore claimed that fear prevented him from taking a courageous stance and saying exactly that when he went up to accept his award. But Kendrick Lamar can’t do anything with a private apology, Macklemore. Far too often, allies refuse to speak up in public while asking for absolution via private confessions. Macklemore failed to use the white privilege that he has readily acknowledged to challenge this structure of power in a moment when the world was watching. [Emphasis mine.]
A true ally would speak out when the world is watching. Keep that in mind if you want to be a true ally, Macklemore.
(Featured image via Rap-Up.com)