With the segment launched on a reference to a young Pop star’s involvement in Black culture, Kweli joked about his own expertise. “I thought you were about to ask me about [Justin] Bieber,” he said, “I was getting scared.”
Discussing the racial significance of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ recent Grammy win, Talib appealed to his personal and professional relationship with the Seattle artists during his explanation.
“I’m uniquely qualified to speak on Macklemore in Hip Hop because Macklemore & Ryan Lewis graciously took me on their tour,” he said. “We did forty dates, sold out, everywhere. Macklemore told me when he was first nominated for the Grammy, ‘I might win, and that’s going to be a problem.’ You mentioned the word ‘White Privilege’ has become a buzzword for Liberals and forward-thinking people. Macklemore, when he was going by the name Professor Macklemore, has a record called ‘White Privilege.’ That’s actually the name of the song, and he deals directly with him and Eminem, and he deals with White privilege head on in a more honest way than I’ve ever heard any White artist deal with.”
Macklemore’s song “White Privilege,” which appeared on his 2005 solo debut, The Language of My World, is available below.
Referencing the much-discussed post-Grammy text message to Kendrick Lamar, Talib Kweli added that Macklemore seems to “realize his position.” “Some people think that his text to Kendrick was corny, some people think his text to Kendrick was completely sincere, but I see it as an artist who realizes his position in this culture, and is doing everything in his power that he can do,” he said. “You know, he can’t not be White.
“I think that when you look at the something on the scale of the Grammy’s, anyone who’s shocked at the Grammy’s going to the most popular White rapper of the day, I got a bridge to sell you,” Kweli joked. “The Grammy’s have been extremely consistent, the last time the Grammy’s surprised me is when they gave Herbie Hancock an award. The Grammy’s have been extremely consistent in appealing to mainstream, which another word for that is White America. And Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ album appealed to mainstream America way more than Kendrick Lamar’s. But it shows ignorance about Hip Hop as a culture for the Grammy’s to make that decision so cluelessly.”
Talib Kweli Describes Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Independent Status
Referencing “general consensus” within the Hip Hop community, Kweli added that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ commercial success shouldn’t be looked at as a negative.
“I think everybody was shocked that Macklemore got it this year,” the Gravitas rapper said. “I think the general consensus in Hip Hop is that Kendrick Lamar had the best album of the year. And, if that’s not the consensus, people feel like the Drake album, the Kanye album, the Jay Z album, were all better than The Heist. And more authentic, that’s the general consensus. But that doesn’t take anything away from what Macklemore does or what his audience that has supported him has done. Because his fans and his consumers put him in that position. He reached out to his audience and the people voted with their dollars. I think that it speaks to the same type of ignorance that allows Bill O’Reilly to call Kanye West a gangster rapper. By separating it, even Kanye has plenty of Grammy’s, too.”
At the end of the segment, Kweli redirected the conversation from race to the more general struggle of navigating the Hip Hop industry as an independent artist, something he says Macklemore & Ryan Lewis provided a blueprint for. “And that’s the story of the year,” he said. “Macklemore & Ryan Lewis did not do this with a major label. They did it on their own, with their own label, and it got so powerful that they had to employ Warner Bros. to promote their records. Me as an independent artist, me as an artist without a label and all these independent, underground Rap artists, we should be paying attention to the blueprint that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis set up, rather than the racial overtones of them winning a Grammy.”