Stopping by Hot 97 for an in-depth conversation with Ebro and Peter Rosenberg about race and whiteness in Hip Hop and in the United States more generally, Macklemore opened up about his thoughts on the recent killings of young Black men at the hands of police and addressed his position in the public response. During the more than hour-long interview, The Heist emcee also retreaded the outcry over his winning a Grammy over Kendrick Lamar in the Best Rap Album category earlier this year and admitted his whiteness has granted him mainstream acceptance in Hip Hop and beyond.
Beginning with a reaction to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, Macklemore wondered out-loud how he should position his public response.
“Eric Garner, Mike Brown, very sad situations,” he said. “Very, very sad situations. Situations that left so much frustration in me, watching these injustices again. It was one of those moments of, ‘How is this happening again right now?’ If there’s anything positive that has come out of their deaths, I believe it has brought attention to the injustices that have been plaguing America since the jump: racial profiling, corrupt judicial system, police brutality. These are things that now have attention. Now people are talking about these things which is great. People are mobilizing, I’ve been inspired by the mobilization.
“For me, as a white dude, as a white rapper, I’m like, ‘How do I participate in this conversation?'” he added. “How do I get involved on a level where I’m not coopting the movement or I’m not making it about me but also realizing the platform that I have and the reach that I have? And doing it in an authentic, genuine way. Race is uncomfortable to talk about, and white people, we can just turn off the T.V. when we’re sick of talking about race.”
Addressing his place in Hip Hop more specifically, Macklemore expanded on previous statements about his being a white rapper and said simply, “the privilege that exists in the music industry is just a greater symptom of the privilege that exists in America.”
“This is something I’ve talked about, I’ve thought about, I’ve talked about it, these are some things that have come up,” he started. “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 labeled a thug? Why can I sag my pants and not be labeled a gang-banger? 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? It would be twisted into something else, versus maybe like, ‘Get back on your feet!’ To me the music industry, the privilege that exists in the music industry is just a greater symptom of the privilege that exists in America. There’s no difference, this is just a byproduct. This is just an offbrand of what’s happening in America. People see me, they resonate with me, America’s predominantly white. There’s relatability. It took a long time for me to get to a point where I was noticed at all. I was an underground rapper for over a decade. But once we got that viral video, once we build up enough momentum organically through word-of-mouth, through the underground, it hit…I got put in that hero box. It’s because of privilege. It all boils down to privilege. White privilege is what I’m talking about.”
Watch the full interview below: