Macklemore Addresses ‘Black Lives Matter,’ Appropriation Criticism on ‘White Privilege II’

By Sameer Rao Jan 22, 2016

Macklemore just dropped his latest song, "White Privilege II," and the Internet is buzzing.

A follow-up of sorts to his 2009 song "White Privilege," the song was created in collaboration with multiple artists, performers, racial justice activists and educators. On the song’s dedicated website, Macklemore and frequent collaborator Ryan Lewis describe its message as follows:

This song is the outcome of an ongoing dialogue with musicians, activists and teachers within our community in Seattle and beyond. Their work and engagement was essential to the creative process.

Included among the 41 individuals credited are Chicago-based poet and singer Jamila Woods (who sings the song’s outro), trumpet player and stand-up comedian Ahamefule J. Oluo, and songwriter and community advocate Hollis Wong-Wear. Many of the contributors are featured on the song’s site with descriptions of their work, details of their involvement in the song’s communal creation and recommended reading lists. 

"White Privilege II" has four verses. They examine the confused perspective of a White person at a "Black Lives Matter" rally, the appropriation criticism that is often leveled at Macklemore, an interaction with a mother who praises his music’s positivity before revealing her own prejudice against Black protesters and his own feelings about his role as a prominent White figure in a genre created out of Black resistance. Here are a few choice lines from each verse:

Okay, I’m saying that they’re chanting out, "Black lives matter," but I don’t say it back/Is it okay for me to say? I don’t know, so I watch and stand/In front of a line of police that look the same as me

You said publicly, "Rest in peace, Mike Brown"/You speak about equality, but do you really mean it?/Are you marching for freedom, or when it’s convenient?/Want people to like you, want to be accepted/That’s probably why you are out here protesting/Don’t think for a second you don’t have incentive

You’re the only hip-hop that I let my kids listen to/Cause you get it, all that negative stuff isn’t cool/Yeah, like all the guns and the drugs/The bitches and the hoes and the gangs and the thugs/Even the protest outside—so sad and so dumb/If a cop pulls you over, it’s your fault if you run

My success is the product of the same system that let off Darren Wilson guilty/We want to dress like, walk like, talk like, dance like, yet we just stand by/We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for Black lives?

The song’s release was accompanied by a message that his company, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis LLC, is working with Black Lives Matter, People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism & Freedom School and Black Youth Project 100 to support anti-racist discourse and Black-led organizing efforts. 

The Twitter reactions to "White Privilege II" range from praise to dismissal:

The song will feature on the rapper’s upcoming album "This Unruly Mess I’ve Made," which drops February 26. 

Do you think "White Privilege II" is a good song? Let us know in the comments.