I’ve also been doing a lot of reading about why people hate Macklemore, and yes, he’s cringe-worthily earnest. And yes, his infamous text message to Kendrick Lamar was cringe-worthily self-promotional and strove so, so hard to show how self-aware he was. And yes, it might be annoying how much he refers to himself as an artist (despite how hard he may or may not have worked to get where he is). And yes, he somehow equivocated “hip-hop” to “YouTube comments,” and that’s certainly a bit of a stretch. And maybe sometimes he looks pretty stupid. But I freaking love him.
I’ve read that Macklemore is “hip-hop for people who don’t like hip-hop,” creating an awful sort of hip-hop pop rap for the hipster white guy who’s fresh out of college and probably working at a marketing agency and likes what he considers to be “everything” but is really a narrow selection of what the Power That Be deem acceptable music for his culture and status. I think that’s an easy and lazy dismissal.
First of all, there’s always been an argument about whether art can be both massively appealing – accessible, not eclectic – and still be considered art. This
Secondly, I’ve read that there are plenty of hip-hop artists – queer and otherwise – who supports gay rights, which is why Macklemore is so annoying. The fact that he’s popular for making a pro-gay rights song is somehow a dismissal of all the other queer hip-hop artists. As a star riddled with White Male Privilege, we must burn him at the stake, because he’s indicative of what the Grammy’s have become – a joke of a ceremony run by a bunch of stogy old white men deciding what music gets the gold seal of approval and gets passed on to the masses. But that doesn’t take into account the fact that Macklemore + Ryan Lewis are seriously the second musical artist IN HISTORY to make it to the top of the charts without a major record label backing. Yes, his songs can be over-the-top warm-hearted (“Ten Thousand Hours,” looking at you) and make me a more than a little embarrassed to say that I enjoy them. But you can’t claim that he’s part of the system he’s thwarted.
I’ve watched “Otherside” over and over and over trying to figure out why I like it, what I think makes it great. At Slate, writer and critic Jack Hamilton asserts, “It’s the lowest sort of middlebrow, an art-like commodity that shallow people think is deep and dull people think is edgy.” You’re talking about a post-black (read: white) hip-hop pop rap artist who did a lot of drugs, made some really god-awful music, got clean and got hooked up with a brilliant producer, defied the system and rose to the top independent of a) a record label and b) any sort of endorsement from the hip-hop game, busted out two catchy (if silly and harmless) No. 1 hits and “robbed” some of the best rappers in the business of a Grammy.
He raps about stupid shit – about thrift store shopping, ancient cars, not doing drugs, playing basketball, a dead announcer for the Seattle baseball team (OK, seriously, vom). But he also flies in the face of everything that non-hip-hop lovers (read: white people) assume about hip-hop in addition to what hip-hop aficionados claim they love about the genre. What’s not edgy about that?