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
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.