February 4, 2014 / 10:43 am

Macklemore’s Problematic Fans

Another year, another Grammy awards. The typically controversy filled event once again didn’t fail to provide. From the nominations to the questionable categorization, all of it paled in comparison to the sweep of the rap awards by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The Internet was set aflame as various fan bases complained and debated. How could the newcomers beat veterans like Jay Z, Drake and Kanye? How did Kendrick Lamar lose Best New Artist? What turned out to be a great day for the independent sweethearts also turned out to be a truly disturbing night for rap as a whole. Through Macklemore, we have been introduced to new audience:  the casual rap fan and their insidious logic.

Let’s set one thing straight before we go on:  I think Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are great. However, I never thought in a million years that they would win a Grammy, let alone beat Kanye West or Jay Z. The Heist was an average album with a strong start and a strong finish but a weak middle. By no means was it a Grammy quality album in comparison to Drake’s  Nothing Was The Same or Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city. However, the Grammy’s are said and gone. History is history. Yet I can’t turn a blind eye to these troubling results. How did two white guys manage to sweep the Grammy’s in a category predominantly ruled by black artists? Macklemore’s die-hard fans have the “answer” for us.

“The difference between Macklemore and the rest of the rap game is that he raps about real life instead of just doing drugs, killing people, and sleeping with women. Also he made it to the top with no label. That deserves respect.”

When asking fans why Macklemore is so good, this is the answer that most people gave me. When I hear this, two words come to mind: ignorant and casual. To say Macklemore is the only one who raps about “real life” is ridiculous. The general opinion of the rap industry is that it is filled with codeine addicts, murderers and sex crazed gangsters. This is why casual rap fans believe only Macklemore is “real.” The rapper who grew up in the ghetto raps about gang violence and drug dealing is rapping about his life. It is all he has ever known due to his living condition, but according to Mack’s fans, this isn’t “real.” Life to them is fighting for gay rights and thrift shopping. To call the lives of anyone fake, let alone the lives of the less fortunate, is appalling to me. Yet it is this life that Macklemore speaks of that appeals so much to the casual rap fan.

The casual rap fan as always existed in shadows of the rap community. It wasn’t until Macklemore’s recent success that they were put into the limelight. These devout fans of Hoodie Allen and G-Eazy were finally represented, but what is it that makes these fans so crazy about these average rappers? One can argue that it is a color affair, but it goes beyond just the color of one’s skin. It goes into their musical content. The majority of casual rap fans are a part of the white middle-class, like Macklemore himself. To these listeners, Macklemore’s music about thrift shopping is a lot more comfortable and familiar than the harsh realities of life in Compton depicted in Kendrick Lamar’s music. It is the life that they are familiar with. They go out and thrift. They don’t sell crack and participate in gang activity. To be blunt, Macklemore makes white hip-hop.

I am all about successful artists. They wouldn’t be making money if they had no talent. I just want this to be a call to criticize artists based on their music and not their ideals. These rappers, bands and singers all are paid based on their music, not their ideals. It is only fair that we uphold them to the same standards. Especially when saying one artist has better ideals is extremely ignorant. Art imitates life, and it is art that gives us a view into another life. Instead of being afraid and bashing it, embrace it and learn. Music is a universal language after all. You just have to make the effort to understand.