TAK­ING THE RAP

Viewed as the white faces of Amer­i­can rap cul­ture, Mack­le­more and Ryan Lewis see their sta­tus as an open­ing to talk about racism

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE & LOUD - CAMERON ADAMS

Mack­le­more and Ryan Lewis may have re­turned to the top of the Aus­tralian charts ear­lier this year with party an­them Down­town, but they’ve got big­ger is­sues on their mind.

Their lat­est al­bum, This Un­ruly Mess I’ve Made, fea­tures a sec­ond in­stal­ment on a topic Mack­le­more has writ­ten about be­fore – and is now the pub­lic face of for many – White Priv­i­lege.

The US duo have been seized on as the white face of cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion af­ter their blend of hip hop sold mil­lions on 2012’s The Heist, spawn­ing global hits Thrift Shop, Same Love, Wings and Can’t Hold Us as well as a di­vi­sive Grammy for Best Rap Al­bum.

On White Priv­i­lege II Mack­le­more, aka Ben Hag­gerty, holds a near-nine­minute con­ver­sa­tion with him­self. He starts at a Black Lives Mat­ter rally won­der­ing if it’s right for him to join in chant­ing against po­lice bru­tal­ity.

“That song took the long­est we’ve ever taken to make any record,” Hag­gerty says. “It was im­por­tant not to jump into the dis­cus­sion seem­ing like an ex­pert. I’m far from that.”

He ex­pected the song to be po­lar­is­ing, which is ex­actly what has hap­pened af­ter it was re­leased in Jan­uary.

“We knew there were more wrong ways to make that song than right ways, but we felt it was ex­tremely im­por­tant to en­gage in the cur­rent con­ver­sa­tion,” Hag­gerty says. “We had been silent up un­til that point. We re­alised we have a plat­form to reach peo­ple – par­tic­u­larly our de­mo­graphic, which hap­pens to be young white kids – and en­gage them in the con­ver­sa­tion about sys­temic op­pres­sion and white priv­i­lege and white supremacy.”

One verse mir­rors a con­ver­sa­tion he says he’s had “nu­mer­ous” times where white fans will tell him Mack­le­more & Ryan Lewis are the only hip hop they let their kids lis­ten to. He’s hon­est enough to ver­balise the fact that when it comes to hip hop, white Amer­ica feels safe with his mu­sic.

“That’s the way a lot of peo­ple in Amer­ica feel, that they think our hip hop is the only stuff that’s pos­i­tive,” Hag­gerty says.

Be­tween al­bums, Hag­gerty and wife Tri­cia welcomed daugh­ter Sloane last year – the sub­ject of the new record’s Ed Sheeran col­lab­o­ra­tion Grow­ing Up (Sloane’s Song).

“My daugh­ter def­i­nitely helps re­mind me what’s im­por­tant,” Hag­gerty says.

Mack­le­more and Ryan Lewis, Brisbane En­ter­tain­ment Cen­tre, Tues­day

Mack­le­more and Ryan Lewis head to Brisbane next week.

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