Written By: Matthew Harron
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are known for breaking boundaries through their medium of music. From hits like "Same Love", "Drug Dealer", and "White Privilege II", the Grammy Award winning duo depict political and societal charged topics with intentions to get their listeners involved in making a change.
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On February 26, Macklemore and Lewis released their newest album This Unruly Mess I've Made. The longest track on the album, White Privilege II, featuring Jamila Woods, emphasizes how white privilege is aligned in our countries lineage; more so, Macklemore addresses how his listeners can get involved.
Macklemore exposes his listeners to a personal experience of his. His opening lyrics paint a scene of confusion at his first Black Lives Matter rally. His lyrics and message convey different opinions regarding race and how individuals perceive race today. He digs into how white culture is accustomed to his message because of the color of his skin.
Macklemore finds himself in a area of unfamiliarity and uncertainty at the BLM rally. As a white male, similar to the cops regulating the rally, he is unsure how to portray himself as a white male surrounded by African Americans.
Pulled into the parking lot, parked it/
Zipped up my parka, joined the procession of marchers/
In my head like, "Is this awkward?/
Should I even be here marching?"
If their is no unity among races, Macklemore believes their is no hope for the greater cause. Macklemore's assiduous mind continues to question his relation to African Americans.
Thinking if they can't, how can I breathe?/
Thinking that they chant, what do I sing?/
I want to take a stance cause we are not free/
And then I thought about it, we are not "we"
Throughout "White Privilege II", Macklemore reinforces the need to support African Americans . His lyrics insist on African American recognition—particularly through the current music industry. Macklemore continues to express how his listeners that white artist continue to take from African American culture. Whether through music or fashion, whites do not recognize the source and creator of what they take for granted.
You've exploited and stolen the music, the moment/
The magic, the passion, the fashion, you toy with/
The culture was never yours to make better/
You're Miley, you're Elvis, you're Iggy Azalea/
Fake and so plastic, you've heisted the magic
In simple terms, whites have taken and recreated a culture for popularity. Not only has this been seen throughout music artists, but also Jazz Age based literature. Claude McKay's Harlem Glory, tells the story of the numbers game in Harlem. Once dominated by African Americans of Harlem, it was soon stolen and recreated after whites saw the riches that could be made—despite their previous views of the game, referring it to as "the nigger pool," whites recreated it without substantial credit to African Americans.
Still in the 21st century, American culture is still facing similar discrepancies among African Americans. It is clear that American history is in an endless cycle of scapegoating.
Macklemore is a guide to all of his listeners, but in particular, his white listeners who are unaware to such discrepancies. Macklemore emphasizes to his listeners that the best thing we can do is to get involved; be informed and take a stance to create a society where African Americans are granted the same social equality.
We have made progress as a society; five years ago it would be unheard of to hear whites talking about white privilege. Though we have made progress, we cannot halt here. It is in the utmost importance that we continue to inform and educate those who are blinded by the racial boundaries in American culture.