For those who don't know, Macklemore is a white, college-educated rapper who has found great mainstream success in the rap industry. Some of his songs have made it to the top of the charts, and he has an enormous fanbase comprised mainly of young white people from the suburbs.
If Macklemore wants to rap, good for him--but even here, there are some issues with cultural appropriation that could form a whole thread of their own. What I'd like to discuss is Macklemore's insufferable fanbase. Most of Macklemore's fans seem to be crossover fans that are typically more interested in other genres of music, listening to Macklemore because they find him relateable.
The reasons many of these fans cite for preferring Macklemore over other artists, however, are really problematic. These include the (untrue) claims that:
1) Macklemore discusses "real" issues, as opposed to black artists who only speak about drugs, money, sex, etc.
2) Macklemore is more technically talented as a rapper
I take major issue with both of these claims. Not only do they reflect an ignorance of the genre and its history, but they embody some rather racist themes as well:
1) Long before Macklemore even picked up a mic, black artists had addressed issues of social justice ranging from women's rights to poverty to racism to drug abuse. Although such music is overrepresented in mainstream radio-rap, many of these artists also rapped on the topics Macklemore fans tend to criticize. Again, this is an entirely different thread of its own, but this is also hugely problematic. Besides overlooking the exact same material in classic rock and other white-majority genres, these fans don’t seem to consider the factors that lead many black artists to these topics. When you grew up on food stamps and didn’t know if you were getting Christmas gifts, money probably took on a significance that someone who grew up wealthy can’t really understand.
In any case, Macklemore has made a few songs dealing with such topics as drug abuse and homophobia. This is good, but I don’t understand why he’s touted as some sort of social revolutionary within rap when black artists have been doing this for much longer and have addressed a much broader spectrum of issues. Here, Macklemore fans may be either discounting black artists’ contribution to social justice awareness or, even worse, dismissing the challenges black Americans face as unimportant. Either way, it’s hugely problematic.
2) This may seem less important, but I can’t help but feel that Macklemore fans think he’s some sort of rap genius because he’s white and college-educated. FYI, for those unfamiliar with the genre, this is not true. Compared to top black rappers, he’s not technically skilled or lyrical in the least. This is not to say he’s a bad rapper; I just want to highlight the fact that many black rappers, without education or safe upbringings, manage to surpass him in every aspect of music production.
It’s as if these upper-class white fans dismiss black artists because they don’t have the same academic training or opportunities that they had, even if these black artists are very skilled in their craft and often use their music to promote good. I often hear Macklemore fans touting him as the “next greatest rapper” or the counter-Lil’ Wayne, someone who is taking rap to new heights both technically and content-wise. By doing so, these fans are totally discounting more talented and accomplished black artists who have contributed much more to the genre.
Taking this a step further, it seems like these Macklemore fans are perhaps intimidated that black artists so clearly outpace white artists within the rap industry, and crowning Macklemore the “king of rap” or w/e is one way to work around this issue. Even worse, perhaps they can’t even conceptualize how poor black artists could outperform white artists in a technical genre that requires wordplay, lyricism, and other such skills.
Music elitism tends to be very rife with racism and sexism. Typically, it consists of wealthy teenagers ripping on minorities and women currently in the music industry (browse /r/lewronggeneration) while blabbering about how all-white bands from the 70s were the last guardians of “real” music. I find this a bit less worrisome because I think most of thewe music elitists will grow out of it, but the Macklemore fandom seems to be pretty well accepted among white people of different ages, and it also seems quite entrenched—the snobbish fans are pretty confident in Macklemore’s superiority.
Any thoughts on this or relevant connected issues?