The racial divide is a nasty concept that affects everything in life. Nothing is safe, especially not music. With the history of "race records" which were merely music by African Americans and "covers" which were records taken from African Americans and redone by white musicians, the fight between "black music" and "white music" is all too real. This past Sunday, at the 56th Grammy Awards, the best new hip hop artist award went to Macklemore, who beat everyone's hopeful, Kendrick Lamar. Some people were jilted and accused this of happening not only because Macklemore's (who is actually good) album had more "positive" messages in his music but also because he is white.
After the award was given, Macklemore sent a text to Kendrick Lamar telling him how he should have won and how sorry he was for "stealing" the award from him. He knew Kendrick deserved to win. We all did. However, we all understand why he didn't. Macklemore is easily packaged, he is the one who won’t open you up to the ills of society that many people wish to ignore. His music is fun and bouncy. Greatly composed with all positive messages. He is nicely wrapped in suits and fine clothes, with quaffed blond hair and a bright smile. He could sell you ice cream in a blizzard. He seems as American as apple pie.
Then there is Kendrick Lamar. A kid with a past. Born and raised in one of the most violent cities in America, Compton, California. He saw in real time what the rest of America watched in movies like Public Enemy and Boys in the Hood. He lived through having parents addicted to mind altering substances. He lived a rough life and it has bled over into a well crafted album, one that made people willing to spend money for and even garner Grammy noms. But this album was not a winner because it was too real. It was another piece of a story that is pushed into the shadows, one that does not translate into mainstream enough because they do not want to understand it. That in itself makes it the more better and the more worthy.
Macklemore understands that what Kendrick made was a masterpiece and he is not one to turn a blind eye in the fight. He knew that he would receive a massive amount of backlash for the win because he knows he won it due to white privilege. In a recent interview for CRWN with Elliot Wilson, he says
"But it's something that I absolutely, not only in terms of society, benefit from my White privilege but being a Hip Hop artist in 2013, I do as well. The people that are coming to shows, the people that are connecting, that are resonating with me, that are like, 'I look like that guy. I have an immediate connection with him.' I benefit from that privilege and I think that mainstream Pop culture has accepted me on a level that they might be reluctant to, in terms of a person of color. They're like, 'Oh, this is safe. This is okay. He's positive.' I'm cussing my ass off in 'Thrift Shop.' Families are like, 'Fucking awesome.' I think that it's an interesting case study and something that I feel, as a White rapper, I have a certain amount of responsibility to speak on the issue of race, knowing that it's uncomfortable, that it's awkward and that, in particular, White people are like, 'Let's just not talk about it. Everyone is equal.' The reality is that...that's bullshit. We absolutely see race. We all do. I think we can evolve as long as we are having discussions about it."
Macklemore says something that black Americans address every day, the need for white Americans to see not only the race, but the struggle as well. He understands that he needs to use that privilege to reach those who are ignorant.
We all know, including Macklemore that this was a snub…and thankfully he has chosen the road to educate people on why this was wrong.