Macklemore on Being a White Rapper: 'I Need to Know My Place'
By Zach Seemayer
If it's been a while since you heard Macklemore, that's because he's gone off the grid to record new music. After winning four GRAMMY awards in January, the 31-year-old rapper drifted out of the spotlight, but now he's back – not with a new album, but with a fascinating and thought-provoking hour-long radio interview.
The "Thrift Shop" singer sat down with Ebro Darden and Peter Rosenberg, hosts of the Hot 97 talk show "Ebro in the Morning," and opened up about his views on race, culture appropriation, his meteoric success, police brutality, the Iggy Azalea-Azealia Banks feud, and his controversial GRAMMY win for best rap album.
One of the most interesting parts of the interview was Macklemore's evaluation and self-reflection on his role as a white rapper within the culture and the music industry.
"For me, as a white dude -- as a white rapper -- I'm like, 'How do I participate in this conversation? How do I participate? How do I get involved on a level where I'm not co-opting the movement or I'm not making it about me, but also realizing the platform I have and the reach that I have, and doing it in an authentic and genuine way?'" Macklemore said.
"You need to know your place in the culture. Are you contributing or are you taking? Are you using it for your own advantage or are you contributing?" Macklemore added. "I saw a tweet that said, ‘Hip hop was birthed out of the civil rights movement.' This is a culture that came from pain and oppression... We can say we've come a long way since the late '70s and early '80s, but we haven't. Just because there's been more successful white rappers, you cannot disregard where this culture came from and our place in it as white people. This is not my culture to begin with. As much as I have honed my craft...I do believe that I need to know my place."
In January, Macklemore received backlash and criticism over his GRAMMY win for Best Rap Album. The Heist, which he recorded with Ryan Lewis, beat out albums by Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar. Many accused the GRAMMYs of racial bias.
Macklemore later texted an apology to Lamar, which he later posted on Instagram, that read in part, "You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It's weird and sucks that I robbed you."
Macklemore admitted that he regrets having posted the text on Instagram.
"The language that I used was a bad call. 'Robbed' was a bad choice of a word. White people have been robbing black people for a long time," Macklemore said, adding that posting the message was also a betrayal of Lamar's trust and friendship.