Last week, Macklemore released "White Privilege II," his track where he tries to come to terms with his own white privilege in the hip-hop community. Lest anyone forget, Macklemore (in a manner which makes no sense except within the context of white privilege) beat Kendrick Lamar for best hip-hop record at the Grammys. Even if you like Macklemore, good kid, m.A.A.d. city
was a seminal record in the hip-hop movement...The Heist
was not. And, to Macklemore's credit, he's trying to engage with the fact that his cultural appropriation of black culture (and also gay culture with "Same Love") has awarded him a spotlight in the hip-hop community and pop culture as a whole. The song is a bit of a mess, but it's Macklemore so of course it f***ing is. At least he's trying though and he's trying to give a platform in his music to Black Lives Matter and the artists whose work he's managed to profit from. Iggy Azalea...not so much.
Macklemore calls out Iggy Azalea, Miley Cyrus, and Elvis Presley in his new track (and implies that they're fascists later in the verse). And if Macklemore is the punching bag of the hip-hop community for his cultural appropriation, Iggy Azalea is the human effigy being rightfully burned in the streets. And Miss Iggy did not take kindly to her callout. She went to town on Twitter
calling out the perceived hypocrisy of Macklemore indicting her in this list of musicians who have capitalized off of white privilege. And that's when Talib Kweli showed up.
If you don't follow Talib Kweli on Twitter, rectify that immediately. The hip-hop icon doesn't hold back, and he ethers fools that attempt to start shit in his mentions every day. It's a thing of beauty. And when Iggy started moaning on Twitter about Macklemore including her in this list of folks who have benefited from white privilege, Talib Kweli wasted no time in clapping back
. This led to Talib Kweli and Iggy beefing hard in each other's mentions, and you can visit Talib's Twitter if you want to see the whole spiel, but needless to say, Iggy didn't come out the victor.
Months ago, we ran an article about how white men could help Nicki Minaj (and women of color more generally) by just being quiet when they're speaking about oppression
. I prefaced that article with an editor's note about how (on one level) the piece related to a conversation I'd had with the author of the piece on Twitter and the lesson I'd learned about letting other people speak sometimes. Macklemore didn't stay quiet, and while it's complicated to talk about other folks oppression when you're not part of the group, Macklemore is attempting to bring that to his (primarily white) audience who may not have access to these stories. Would it have been better if Macklemore had just told his listeners to devour all of To Pimp A Butterfly
or just played Janelle Monae's "Hell You Talmabout" a couple times in a row at one of his shows? Maybe. But, and I can't believe I'm saying this, Macklemore is using his position of privilege to make a point. If he holds up the work of black performers as well moving forward and continues to shine a spotlight on his own privilege, I won't feel comfortable punching at Macklemore in this regard (although I'll still feel more than fine saying his bars are weak). Iggy though...
Not only did Iggy not stay quiet, she tried to make this about her. She did precisely what Taylor Swift did when Nicki Minaj complained about the lack of women of color at the VMAs. Instead of saying, "Hey, you know what, Macklemore is right. I've also gotten rich off the music of people of color because I'm an easily packageable white women selling hip-hop to other white people and I've done some really sort of explicitly racist and homophobic shit in my time," Iggy ignored that and made it all about her. It's sadly predictable at this point.
Before anybody reads into this and finds me (a white dude) saying that white folks can't ever rap or shouldn't ever talk about the oppression of marginalized folks, that isn't what I'm saying at all. I love Action Bronson. I love El-P. I adore Aesop Rock. But they've also appropriated hip-hop culture. But they give back to hip-hop in meaningful ways. They don't try to steal the spotlight from black artists. They are aware of the history of the medium in a way Macklemore generally isn't and I don't hate "White Privilege II" nearly as much as I thought I would. And if you're a white person and you aren't aware of your privilege and you aren't actively standing up against oppression, you are complicit in said oppression. And while I wish it were literally any artist other than Macklemore who might challenge the way white folks view their own privilege, if he gets even a handful of his fans to really interrogate their white privilege in a meaningful way, then the track was strangely worth it.
But Iggy's response is emblematic of everything wrong with folks who refuse to engage with their privilege, and ignoring for the moment that her music has been a joke since day one, this just goes to show again that she's the sort of person that no one in the music community should be supporting in any way.