Okay, so I refuse to jump on the “Macklemore’s too white for his music” bandwagon. I’m not telling you to agree with me. What I am going to do is tell you why I feel this way.
I think hip-hop, rap, and everything that came from that moment in time is just as relevant now as when it came to life. I think these are awesome ways to address societal ills. People keep asking “Where has our protest music gone?” and I keep pointing to it. It comes from throats of color as well as white throats, but it comes out sounding like a moment that some people hold as uniquely (true) and forevermore only (debatable) black.
What if the way into this dialogue, for the people you have previously dismissed, is through white voices? What if the people you have dismissed then hear those white voices collaborating with voices of color, and then they hear a track by a voice of color — say a black voice. Say that’s the hook and they look for more like that and it doesn’t matter who sings it, just that it’s hitting where it counts.
Say your sixty-mumble-year-old dad wants to hear more of The Heist because he can relate. Say it makes him willing to trust you when you play him Lyrics Born, Faithless, Jay-Z and Kanye, more. More. And he sees that Pete Seeger isn’t totally dead if the spirit of this particular music, by these particular folk, lives and grows.
What do you prefer:
a world in which we pick our music by the color of our skin
or a world in which we pick our music by what makes sense to us?
And do you prefer that we only make the music the people of our color have made? Or are you willing to accept that people of different colors can find their own voices inside?
The voices that spoke to me when I was a rebel immigrant teenage girl spitting nails into the eyes of the jingoistic masses were black voices. I dressed like a sad white girl but I listened to black voices, too. They said things that made sense to me. Why should I have rejected them? Because my place in the scheme dictated that their music was not for me? But I thought music was for everyone.
I survived being a rebel immigrant teenage girl spitting nails because music made everyone equal, erasing clique lines, quashing bullying, just people working toward higher goals.
So I’m going to use music as springboards into more music, dragging people through a world of sound that is all races at once and none at all.