Following weeks of debate around cultural appropriation in the wake of Azealia Banks' powerful Hot 97 interview, Macklemore dropped into the studio with Ebro Darden and Peter Rosenburg this week to discuss his own feelings on the subject as a white rapper.
The interview couldn't be more well-timed: Macklemore has been effectively laying low since he stole headlines earlier this year for sweeping the rap categories at the 2014 Grammys, beating Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Album (and later publicly apologising for it). Now, his re-emergence to talk on racial issues comes as the latest round of Grammy nominations has revealed a continued bias toward white artists, and as Banks—and J. Cole—are highlighting Iggy Azalea's particular prevalence in the nominations as an example of the white-washing of hip-hop culture.
The hour-long interview is a thought-provoking watch, touching on the recent anti-police brutality protests (which Macklemore has participated in), on the role the mainstream media's racial bias played in Macklemore's own rise, and on how important it is show humility and accountability as a white public figure working within a predominantly black culture. The three talk about Iggy Azalea's dismissive handling of the current situation—both the country-wide protests and the accusations levelled at her—with Rosenburg observing that she "makes herself sound like she's better than the conversation." Meanwhile, Macklemore is earnest and keen to discuss his own privilege: "As a white dude, as a white rapper, I'm like, how do I participate in this conversation? How do I get involved on a level where I'm not co-opting the movement, where I'm not making it about me, but also realising the platform that I have and the reach that I have? And doing it in an authentic, genuine way?...It's my privilege that I can be silent about this issue. And I'm tired of being silent about it...it is so imperative right now that we have this race conversation in America if we're going to progress."
He also says that he has thought frequently about why it is that he is treated differently to his black contemporaries by the media. "Why am I safe? Why can I cuss on a record, have a parental advisory sticker on the cover of my album, yet parents are still like, 'you're the only rap I let my kids listen to'? Why can I wear a hoodie and not be labelled a thug? Why can I sag my pants and not be a gangbanger? Why am I on Ellen's couch? Why am I on Good Morning America? If I was black, what would my drug addiction look like?...To me, the privilege that exists in the music industry is just a greater symptom of the privilege that exists in America...It all boils down to privilege."
Watch the whole interview above.
Photo credit: David Becker/Getty