Yesha Callahan

Macklemore Owns Up To His White Privilege


I have to admit, I like Macklemore’s music. Popping tags in a thrift shop? Been there done that. Actually every Sunday and Monday when my local thrift shop has their 50% off days. A lot of critics have referred to Macklemore as a “bubble gum rapper” without any “street cred”. But who really needs street cred when you’ve had back-to-back No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us“), and  a  Top 20 track (“Same Love”).

What Macklemore lacks in street cred, he makes up for it in “White Privilege” cred. And he’s owning up to it.

Rolling Stone recently did a cover story on the West Coast rapper (hey, Seattle is still the West Coast) where he discussed his version of white privilege:

“If you’re going to be a white dude and do this shit, I think you have to take some level of accountability,” Macklemore says. “You have to acknowledge where the art came from, where it is today, how you’re benefiting from it. At the very least, just bringing up those points and acknowledging that, yes, I understand my privilege, I understand how it works for me in society, and how it works for me in 2013 with the success that The Heist has had.”

“We made a great album,” he continues, “but I do think we have benefited from being white and the media grabbing on to something. A song like ‘Thrift Shop’ was safe enough for the kids. It was like, ‘This is music that my mom likes and that I can like as a teenager,’ and even though I’m cussing my ass off in the song, the fact that I’m a white guy, parents feel safe. They let their six-year-olds listen to it. I mean it’s just…it’s different. And would that success have been the same if I would have been a black dude? I think the answer is no.”

So on one hand, he understands if he was a random black guy talking about popping tags at a thrift store, that he might not be where he is today.

But who’s fault is it?

Do we blame the music executives who probably want to push the envelope when it comes to black rappers? Macklemore has never been signed to a major label, he’s been releasing music independently since 2000.  But it seems when it comes to  music executives marketing  black rappers, the more bitches and hos and gunshots the better right? Have you heard of Chief Keef? No? Then consider yourself lucky.

Maybe one day a record executive will come across a happy black rapper who doesn’t mind rapping about popping tags, his mental health or gay rights.  Until then, I guess Macklemore is correct about his version of white privilege. I mean, what’s the point in having white privilege if you’re not willing to own up to it, right?


What do you think about Macklemore’s comments?

  1. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    Does anyone bring up his past, like the fact that he was a drug addict?

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      Actually the Rolling Stones article does, and so does he…all the time.


    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      You mean how he recovered and turned his life around?

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      He talks about it all the time. He talks about it in like all of his interviews and in several songs on the album. He very much owns that part of his past.

      With that said, so what if he is a recovering addict? A large chunk of celebrities, especially musicians, are. At least he got help.

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      What’s your point?

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      SMH. You all seem eager to fight and are reading a tone that isn’t there. I was just asking a question.

      That’s why I can’t stand commenting on this site sometimes.

      • August 21, 2013 - Reply


        By all means…no one is forcing you to comment 🙂


      • August 21, 2013 - Reply


        Don’t let the doorknob hit you..

  2. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    Still can’t get on board with this dude. This song has been out for a really long time, and since releasing it, he still has yet to pass the mic to queer hip hop artists or do more collabs with black hip hop artists. He was also completely silent about Trayvon Martin and the defanging of the Voting Rights Act.

    There’s more to realizing your privilege than writing a song about it that you won’t even upload to your soundcloud account, and we should demand more from our allies than this path of least resistance nonsense.

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      When did he call himself your ally? So because he raps he is your ally? Are you making the same demands of all these other nignog rappers? Or is it just easier to scape goat this ginger?

      • August 21, 2013 - Reply


        Exactly. I don’t understand the concept of expecting him to be an ally while expecting nothing from black male rappers who consistently make music degrading black women. I rather him not collaborate with these women hating black rappers. That in my opinion shows way more social consciousness.

      • August 21, 2013 - Reply


        That’s fair; he never did claim to be an ally. I suppose I came away with that impression because so many people fall over themselves to treat him like one.

      • August 21, 2013 - Reply


        I get what she is saying. this man is using a black art form to make himself rich but yet is not aligning himself with the black community so it goes further beyond appropriation and is showing another type of white privilege.

        While we should be holding black artists feet to the fire regarding the message they are sending.

        Why are we not demanding that people who are using your culture to make money not act as if they understand the culture in which they are appropriating.

        We fall for these fake artists all of the time and we allow them to set up a scenario where a black artists will not be afforded the same opportunity to record and get exposure for their own music (made from their heritage and culture) unless it does follow the negative status quo.

        If we are going to talk about the status of Rap music we cannot leave out the very fact that positive Black rappers are not being signed and if they record on their own label they will not be given access to the radio stations because white executives are making a judgment call about the authenticity of their image.

        This is the game that is being played – it is the new version of the Cover Artist that made Elvis Presley and Pat Boone millionaires and demi gods.

        We really need to reclaim our music and are culture. Not just from the black rappers who tainted the culture but from white interlopers as well. And that goes for Soul and R&B artists as well. Loking at you Justin Timberlake, Justin Beiber and Robin Thicke.

        Why do you think you hear Adele and Amy Winehouse’s name in the mainstream but you do not hear Ledisi, Jill Scott and others.

        They say you should know your history or you are doomed to repeat it.

      • August 21, 2013 - Reply



        I don’t understand this argument. The beauty of music as a true art form is that it has the ability to evolve and change as it should. Sure rap and hip hop may have started out in the black community but it is now part of a global phenomena. There is German hip hop, Japanese hip hop, Korean hip hop and while these artists are influenced by black American hip hop, it would be fake and less authentic if they tried to sell their audience “black American” hip hop when that is not where they come from or their experiences.

        If anything, hip hop start out as an outlet for the disenfranchised to comment on the community and critique society. In my opinion, it is more authentic for it to be use for those or similar purposes, even if the rapper is white or Asian, versus the sorry-s*** you hear on the radio from mainstream black rappers today.

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      Please google the song Same Love.

      • August 21, 2013 - Reply


        I’m quite aware of Same Love, and the advocacy he does for queer folks. I’m also aware of how much it bothers me that artists who are actually queer don’t get the same amount of airtime that he did.

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      From your comment it is quite clear you have not listened to his album from beginning to end bc he definitely talks about Trayon in his song A Wake…do that first then if your opinion is still the same, then so be it.

  3. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    Refreshing to see a white artist who does “black music” own their privilege. I’m all for APPRECIATING whatever type of music style you like, as long as you execute it well and don’t try to erase its roots. I love that Macklemore sticks to what hip-hop is (rhyming over a repetitive beat) without succumbing to whatever the mainstream tries to tell you its about (at the moment – using foul language to tell everyone how poor you grew up even though you have money now which you spend on expensive brands you used to know nothing about while regularly enjoying disrespecting women and expecting them to oblige) and just staying true to what he really is. Even better that he acknowledges that as great as the music he makes is, his whiteness is what helps him sell records and win the approval of America. Eminem does this as well. Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, etc. – take note.

  4. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    I didn’t even know he was a rapper. Don’t really keep up with the updated rap now except maybe three rappers. A least he is being honest and real about part of the reasons why he is very popular and that’s all I have to say.

  5. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    I like Macklemore and i like his music. I think of this same question everytime his song comes on the radio. Why do Black rappers need to have street cred? Honestly you can blame the music executive all you want but the consumers control this industry. White people buy Macklemore’s music talking about gay rights and thrift shopping. I don’t think most blacks would support a black artist talking about the same things. I would but most black people wouldn’t. lets be real here.

  6. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    I liked his radio edited song, ‘Poppin Tags’, because my kids like and sing along to it, but that ‘Same Love’ song put a bad taste in my mouth. Not because of the content, but again, because my 10 and 5 year old were listening. They have no clue about the message – a message which is too grown up of a conversation to have with my children right now.

    I wish him the best in his ‘career’ – LOL

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      It’s actually not that much of an adult conversation. If they ask you about what it means, just use the lyrics to help you. People are fighting for their rights to love the same way as anyone else. You don’t have to get into nitty gritty details. Now if you don’t agree with what he’s saying, that’s really just a whole different issue

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      you’re the parent. shouldn’t you be in control of what your 10 and 5 yr old are listening to? do you feel the same way about having them listen to the millions of other love songs on the radio? no? oh…so it is about the content then

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      You are so right. Listening to a song on the radio about accepting people for who they are and valuing love no matter what form it comes in is going to turn black boys gay.

      If anything acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle with help the issue of HIV/AIDS amongst black gay males. Acceptance and being out means less sneaking around, less cognitive dissonance about being gay, seeking out resources, community connection, and the list goes on.

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      My son was four the first time he heard the word “gay.” It was in a story on npr. He asked what it meant and I told him. Then he recalled one of his teammates had two dads and that was it. No biggie.

  7. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    “Everything you hear on the radio is CENSORED. If you think there aren’t some Asian, Italian, Jewish and Hispanic teens who are rapping about, chinks, dagos, Hymie, wet backs, spics ect.. cussing and using misogynist lyrics who want but can’t get a deal you’re CRAZY…”

    I don’t. But, they go out of their way (in public forums) to justify calling themselves racist derogatory words either.

    “…These music execs only let black kids use derogatory black terms and derogatory words…”

    When you say ‘black kids’ I am going to assume that you’re referring to the music labels’ artists. I’m sorry, but a record exec cannot stop another adult from saying the word ‘n*****’. That is up to the artist.
    Now in regards to children, the fault lies with the adults that are raising those children.

    “…However, those black kids can’t use gay slurs nor slurs about other races (black rappers use to use gay and what could be considered anti semitic words)…”

    A black artist can say anti-Semetic slurs or homophobic slurs on his/her records… But there are consequences for those actions. Just ask Rick Ross.

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      Who apparently got signed back on to Reebok. They dropped him just because of the bad publicity, kinda like Russel Simmons

  8. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    I understand what you are saying and some of it makes a ton of sense but how does it relate to this article. Macklemore is acknowledging his white privilege. He is a white man saying he is at an advantage in an industry dominated by black men. I guess you are using this as an opportunity for your “blame the white man” argument. I thought black men were past that argument and on to blaming the black woman.

  9. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    I’m glad he has turn his life around and people are willing to give a second chance.
    in order for this concept to be fair it should apply to anyone who truly deserve it no matter black or white.

  10. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    Rapping about thrift shops I truly thought the song was just a parody to be honest but, of course something like this would top the charts, just like that lame ass Carly Rae Jepsen Call me maybe was everywhere, don’t get me started on One Direction and Taylor Swift. Meanwhile R&B music and artist don’t get nearly the recognition it deserves and its been that way for years now.

  11. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    IMO, today’s R&B music… sucks.
    Plus, it seems that once a R&B singers becomes popular then their music becomes ‘pop’ music.
    There are only two artists that I am really listening to, as of lately and these singers has been creating music since the late 1990’s.

  12. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    No shade, but the word is “feel,” not “fill.” Sorry, I’m an editor and seeing that repeatedly in your comments has compelled me to help you out. Carry on.

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      I stopped reading after I saw fill the second time. I just couldn’t…

  13. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    I like macklemore. I have that heist cd. I play ita lot Bc i am not for other ppls monetary gains or how much they made are making and will b making…i make money too ninjas…i hv made money, am making money and hopefully will continue to make money. What makes ur money making better than mine…

  14. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    I have no desire to buy his music but I find it refreshing to hear a fun song like this in a sea of “bitches” and “hoes.” I also find it refreshing to find a white person aware enough to admit their white privilege and how its benefited their success. So many of them seem to walk around in a cloud of “post-racial” kumbaya BS like everyone’s opportunities are the same! Mo Ma’am! I definitely find myself listening to my parents and grandparents music because I’m so bored with today’s stuff. There a few R&B/Soul artists KING and PJ Morton who move me but we are currently saturated with “fun” meaningless crap now-a-days.

    • August 21, 2013 - Reply


      Agreed. Since most new stuff is sampled you might as well listen to the originals.

      • August 21, 2013 - Reply


        Precisely! I’d fall out of my chair if I heard an original beat in a new hip-hop song that I actually liked!

  15. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    I like Macklemore and his flow and lyrical content is on point. He is better than what we have out here now. If you like him, you like him.

  16. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    He seems cool and I’m glad that he’s acknowledged that. But, he’s highly incorrect if he feels that a black rapper can’t be as successful. Does ANYONE remember when Soulja Boy debuted with “Crank That..” I would cringe and laugh in amazement at the fact of white parents letting their kids, “Super Soak that H*******!”lmbo..You need look no future than your favorite rapper’s Instagram page to see that the majority of the people filling the stands are white suburban kids. Hip Hop did not get to where it is today due solely because of the support from black people. But, I agree that it was EASIER for him to rise to the top…whereas, others had to somewhat crossover and go “mainstream” to receive the same commercial success.

  17. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    Do we blame the music executives who probably want to push the envelope when it comes to black rappers? Macklemore has never been signed to a major label, he’s been releasing music independently since 2000. But it seems when it comes to music executives marketing black rappers, the more bitches and hos and gunshots the better right?

    It’s not just rap or music really. I find the more “mainstream” black endeavors go the more they fork off into either complete buffoonery or water with a dash of blackness. I’m not impressed with most modern day “black” music of any genres, and I usually hate when I’ve come across an indie artist only to watch him/her go mainstream. I understand that they do this to make a living, but I find that once they go from doing music as a hobby to doing music as a job (i.e. signing to a label), the quality and depth get flushed to hell (I’m looking at you, John Legend). It happened to hip hop as a whole, it happened to R&B as a whole, it happened to Rock (I’m not even old enough to remember when that was considered black), and on and on. And it’s not just music. Once we start chasing white dollars instead of staying true to our authentic beginnings, it all goes downhill.

    I said all that to say, I don’t like Macklemore because he’s a white man doing black things (I usually am very irritated by that). I like him because what he’s talking about is different. I remember the second time I heard his song, after I found out he was white, I literally half danced and half bemoaned that the song wasn’t done by a black man because I liked it so much and was so happy to finally get something different yet relatable from black men that it broke my heart to find out a white man “showed us up.” Of course, I got over it, but I still want to see better quality coming out of our community. Until that happens, I really can’t say that I have a problem with Macklemore’s white privilege getting him where he is because it’s not like black people are making it hard for him at all.

    Black artists take their golden voices to these big labels so they can be paid thousands to make them millions (and be told how, when, and where to do it). It’s no wonder that gold has turned to brass.

    Sorry for the rambling…

    • February 3, 2014 - Reply


      I never really cared that it was a white guy, but I always was suspicious of the sudden praise of Macklemore from society and feeling it didn’t just have to do with “talent”.

  18. August 21, 2013 - Reply

    In today’s dumb rap game I don’t see why anyone has to explain anything anymore to anyone.

  19. August 22, 2013 - Reply

    Aren’t Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, and Travie McCoy slightly counter-culture and “safe” for white folks? I always felt they were different breeds than the bitch/ho/gunshot crowd.

  20. August 22, 2013 - Reply

    People who have white privilege don’t have to own up to it some of them are not even aware because their not privilege their just being white

  21. April 7, 2014 - Reply

    God i hate macklemore -_- .. i can’t wait for his career to die, it’s his middle class, suburban, white fans who know shit about hip hop but arrogant enough to speak their opinions like facts that piss us off more, Like the shit head who wrote this.

    • May 24, 2014 - Reply


      bro i came from the streets literally and macklemore hit me somewhere and made me think that we can be more than what we are, and no matter what he’ll back us with his soul in the end what more can we ask from a artist then to change the world one soul at a time.

  22. June 22, 2014 - Reply

    He is goddamn awful. Blatant pandering to the left. I hate all white rap and most rap in general but Macklemore makes me want to hurl. He is a way to package and sell ideologies that are ruining this country. I wish he would go into a black neighborhood in Gary In or St Louis. Then he could get some street credit “white rapper shot – exposed to REAL rap culture”.

  23. November 9, 2015 - Reply

    Glad to see his pale skin is helping him somehow. Mine does nothing but burn when I’m out in the sun too long.

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