3.08.2013

The Bar Loves Homo Hop

Georgian rapper Rae Tyson, a.k.a. "Look Alive"
(Strongly) Recommended

The Bar Loves God-des and She

Race + Hip-Hop + LGBT Equality: On Macklemore’s White Straight Privilege

From Racialicious (linked above):
Much of the nation was introduced to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis this past weekend, thanks to their appearance on Saturday Night Live, a major accomplishment and promotional tool for any musical artist. Considering the indie-rap duo’s already growing popularity with their chart-topper and multi-platinum seller, “Thrift Shop,” it is important to examine the impact of their success.

Macklemore has already been touted by several media outlets as the progressive voice on gay rights in hip-hop since the release of “Same Love,” his second single to chart on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The song, which peaked at No. 89 last week, tries to tackle the topic of gay marriage and homophobia in media and US culture, focusing specifically on hip-hop with lyrics such as, “if I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me.”

Though Macklemore is not gay, “Same Love” has gotten many accolades from fellow straight supporters, as well as members of the gay community. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed it on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where DeGeneres introduced them by saying, “Here’s why you need to care about our next guest. No other artists in hip-hop history have ever taken a stand defending marriage equality the way they have.”

But, how can this be the case when there is already an entire genre, Homo Hop, comprised solely of queer hip-hop artists? Whether it is intentional or not, Macklemore has become the voice of a community to which he doesn’t belong in a genre that already has a queer presence waiting to be heard by mainstream audiences.

We should also examine the song’s hook, performed by lesbian singer-songwriter Mary Lambert. Lambert first gained notoriety as a spoken-word artist, and it is important to remember that spoken word, like hip-hop, is rooted in Black culture. They are both a response to white supremacy.

However, Lambert, like Macklemore and Lewis, is a white artist. This begs the question: what does it mean to have three white people–two of whom are straight–be the beacon of gay rights in hip-hop?

In “Same Love,” Macklemore does not address these concerns. Instead, he raps about hip-hop as if it were his. The song lyrics even take it a step further by conflating Black civil rights and gay rights, which are both about identities he does not possess and oppressions he does not experience...

....is it revolutionary for white people to get mainstream recognition for talking about homophobia in hip-hop, when queer hip-hop artists of color are routinely ignored? The fact of the matter is the success of “Same Love” is largely due at least in part to white audiences being more receptive to white straight men talking about oppression than oppressed people, as well as the comfort of being able to remove themselves from misogyny and homophobia because the oppression at hand is the fault of Black people in hip-hop. What could be more revolutionary than that? How about listening to queer people of color?  What do you think?

Hel Gebreamlak is the co-founder of Writing Resistance and author of the blog Black, Broken & Bent.
Melange Lavonne, "Gay Bash"


Deep Dickollective, "For Colored Boys"


THEESatisfaction, "Deeper"


I also want to add Look Alive, pictured above, with her hit song "Go" that I've had on repeat for weeks now.


You can purchase the whole song from Bandcamp.com.

Since music and storytelling go hand-in-hand, check out Rae Tyson in Between Women; I posted the entire first season at the Black Girls Club (Season 2 premieres March 12, 2013!!!  Yay!!!).

I first learned about THEESatisfaction (along with Ayo Leilani & Syd tha Kyd) from watching The Peculiar Kind; the entire first season and the first ep of the second season are also posted.


19 comments:

  1. Now how's that for a music post!

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  2. "Here’s why you need to care about our next guest. No other artists in hip-hop history have ever taken a stand defending marriage equality the way they have.”

    Uh Ellen, I love you but that's incorrect. Jay-Z has spoken out in support of marriage equality and other hip hop artists have.

    Unfortunately, most people don't pay attention until a white person tries to qualify something.

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    1. Like I said, racism sells.

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    2. " Unfortuntely, most people don't pay attention until a white person tries to qualify something."

      Very true. These days, it seems that they're trying to make us seem more homophobic. I guess when Frank Ocean told the world about his sexuality, the hip hop was going to go on a warpath and disown him--NOT! Yes, you may find a few people that are against it,but as a whole the Black community have been more supportive of the gays.

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    3. Talk about doing more for the genre than "anyone else" - Frank came out. He actually came out. He could've stayed closeted forever and played along with hip hop's heterosexist/homophobic narrative but he didn't.

      the success of “Same Love” is largely due at least in part to white audiences being more receptive to white straight men talking about oppression than oppressed people, as well as the comfort of being able to remove themselves from misogyny and homophobia because the oppression at hand is the fault of Black people in hip-hop

      This will always stand. I'd be more impressed with Macklemore if he were a country singer from Wayne County, West Virginia singing about gay rights and denouncing the heinous hate crimes committed against gays quite comfortably and conveniently way out in the hills and hollers.

      Let's see how receptive his white audiences would be then.

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  3. Macklemore has a song called 'White Privilege', and in The Heist, he makes quite a few mentions to the fact that he's very well aware of his status of a white rapper in hip-hop. He knows he sells more records because of it, even while arguing that it isn't fair. I can really get behind him as an artist. And I really appreciate this post, because you've helped me find so many new ones. :)

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    1. Just FYI, here's my point: as is the case with Diplo, people like Macklemore don't contradict the accolades heaped upon them. When Ellen praises him as being a pioneer in hip hop & gay rights, he doesn't contradict. He just goes right along with it, and though he may acknowledge his own white privilege, he's still uses to his own advantage, and the hype around songs like "Same Love" continue to feed into that privilege.

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    2. I don't think his privilege invalidates his message, though, or makes him less qualified to speak his mind about the issues he notices. Of course the fact that he's a cis, hetero white male works to his advantage in a society run by cis, hetero white males. But I don't think his existence invalidates POC artists who are also LGBT advocates. There's room for both.

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    3. You'd think there'd be room for both. The mainstream adulation and attention showered on the cis, hetero white male who raps about gay rights, however, while an entire culture of gay rappers goes ignored lets you know there (apparently) isn't.

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    4. he makes quite a few mentions to the fact that he's very well aware of his status of a white rapper in hip-hop. He knows he sells more records because of it, even while arguing that it isn't fair.

      Which raises another question: why tell me you're aware the game is rigged in your favor, and that whatever advantage you possess is most likely unearned...and yet still play the game and expect my respect?

      Tim Wise caught flack for this too. He had the chance to work from behind the scenes, raising money for black speakers and writers but he wanted the limelight. Yes...he has a good a message (great in fact), and yes, he's allied with a righteous cause, but the fact that a straight white male continues to evoke the struggles of others - and gets rich and famous of it - is repulsive.

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    5. "I don't think his privilege invalidates his message"
      It does in my book...becos he stands upon it. He don't get the cake and eat it too. Imperial mind much?
      That said, every human being is appreciatively complex, but this post is about the structure of power. I don't take kindly to anyone that treats me like second class, and I don't expect anyone else to either. Feel free to enjoy what you enjoy of course, it's nice to be able to enjoy.

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    6. It does in my book...becos he stands upon it. He don't get the cake and eat it too. Imperial mind much?

      Ooh girl, preach.

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  4. And Ellen is really starting to bug me with shit like this - you're telling me she can't have a duo like THEESatisfaction perform "Deeper" on her show???? Did God-des & She not want some exposure/a paycheck?

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    Replies
    1. *pssssst* they're not white ergo they aren't queer. you can only be an lgbtq if you're white.

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    2. God-des & She are white and they've been around for forever!

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  5. I can't swallow this. Revolutionary? AHAHAHAHAaAAa Where have I heard THAT one before?
    With one hand, give out free bread, with the other, drop napalm and Agent Orange.
    What's new, white power?
    Woooosa.

    Another appropriation of hip hop and furthering of stereotypes that were started and perpetuated by white people to widen their grasp upon power (oooo! RACIST!). What's new, white power????

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/opinion/coates-the-good-racist-people.html
    I am done with the good people, I have had all the good people I can take....

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  6. I have some suggestions for other black ladies you can cover. One is Connie Mitchel who was the lead singer for a rock group called Primary. I believe she now does the EDM thing with Sneaky Sound System. There is also a Japanese/black transwoman with her sister in a group called Ziyoou-Vachi in Japan. They do kinda like a visual kei thing with some pretty amazing rock music. I think if you look you can download their first or second album.

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    Replies
    1. I forgot to thank you for these. Thanks!

      Delete

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