“Acceptance” is a complex term for Macklemore. On one hand, he has been accepted in the most difficult barrier to breach in hip-hop — the Momsmobile. Meanwhile, the guardians of his own genre reject his family-friendly, bubble-gum image.
There’s a sector of hip-hop — mostly hardcore fans — who won’t blink at a new release from the Seattle emcee. His latest single, “White Privilege II,” is not for them.
As a single for the upcoming album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, “White Privilege II” is for Macklemore fans — the ones who will pay for and download it minutes after it’s on iTunes without second thought. It’s for the people who think he is the only good thing in rap. It’s for the fictional mom he meets in the restaurant halfway through the song who has kids who recite his lyrics. But it’s not what his fans want to hear.
Macklemore won’t be suddenly accepted with open arms by hip-hop with one track, but “White Privilege II” is the exact first step he needed to take in gaining the respect of his peers while taking an ambitious swing at a white-hot topic from an unrepresented perspective in the battle for equality— the white person who wants to help.
With this single, Macklemore is acting as a double agent for the Black Lives Matter movement. Macklemore’s character is the perfect disguise for a message too rooted in hate for a black rapper to convey with as much impact.
Whites may be minority in the hip hop genre, but Macklemore is anything but when it comes to the charts and mainstream appeal, putting him in rarified air as a hip-hop artist. The mastermind behind pro-penny-pinching “Thrift Shop” and LGBT anthem “Same Love” has been accepted in the family rooms of middle-class white America, which is a feat for any rapper, regardless of their color.
As he notes in “White Privilege II,” Macklemore had been using pieces of black culture — hip hop — to his advantage to build a career. “You’ve taken the drums and the accent you rapped in…That Grandmaster Flash’d go slap it, you bastard.” It was not until the Grammys when he saw the true power of Macklemore’s racial relativity, stealing physical hardware from Kendrick Lamar, a more deserving musician simply because his music was more palatable to the well-off Grammy voters.
Macklemore had good intentions with his innocent songs of acceptance and frugality, but to hardcore hip-hop, he came off more naïve than sincere. Macklemore had no problems enjoying his newfound fame, but every time he walked on stage in a $5 fur coat, the less likely it seemed he would ever be embraced by the genre he was misrepresenting.
Rap is a great platform to convey unconventional ideas, but when a rich white rapper gloats about ironically shopping in a thrift store (when, you know, there are people who shop there because it falls within their means), his messages ring hollow.