White rapper Macklemore released “White Privilege II,” a self-flagellating 10-minute song apologizing for the oppression of white privilege. Criticism for the song came quick, and the judgments have been harsh.
Fusion put it this way:
White Privilege II is eight minutes and forty two seconds of a white man critiquing other white people for their problematic whiteness. Macklemore quite literally commits the same kind of cultural appropriation he accuses Miley, Elvis and Iggy of by rapping his lyrics.
The Los Angeles Times seemed to suggest a warning before listening. “Macklemore’s ‘White Privilege II’ is so self-flagellating that it hurts,” the paper’s headline read.
The ultra-progressive New Republic said, “As often is the case with Macklemore’s music, the biggest problem here is his mediocre talent.”
A writer at Deadspin concurs and adds context:
The song, which is accompanied by a website, is earnest and ostensibly aims to acknowledge and condemn the very white privilege from which Macklemore profits. It is a bad song.
Macklemore hears the critics and haters saying that it is tragic and/or enraging that he, a white man, has a successful career within a black space. This is wrong. Macklemore’s career is tragic and/or enraging not because he is a white man, but because he is a bad rapper who makes bad songs and yet has, because he’s white, achieved more success than black rappers who make better songs.
Macklemore isn’t embraced by rap fans because he is bad. When he makes these songs attributing the criticism of his success to his race or his sexuality, he is insinuating that he is a good rapper who, all else equal, would be embraced if he were black, when he is actually bad, and would be laughed at if he were black. He is cloaking himself here, dismissing criticism by acknowledging it. One could even call it an appropriation.
The Atlantic has “sympathy” for the white rapper, adding “White Privilege II” bravely tackles difficult truths about race, but that doesn’t make it a good song.”
The Guardian, another leftist outlet, had a headline that read, “Macklemore raps about White Privilege – while reaping its rewards.”
The paper continued:
The rapper who beat Kendrick Lamar to a Grammy has criticised cultural appropriation – the third instance in a week of white performers paying little more than lip service to structural racism
Macklemore’s latest effort to inject himself into the civil rights conversation isn’t gaining much support on social media either.
— Jess Oh (@jcobayan) January 22, 2016
Colbert and Macklemore are talking abt white privilege on global media platforms. Cool. Call us in when you're ready to move beyond talk.
— Rebecca Shuri She Ready Carroll (@rebel19) January 22, 2016
@Karnythia it shouldn't be lost on people that Macklemore decided to "check his privilege" the month before his album drops. 🐸☕️
— Vandal a.k.a. Reggie Trimbach (@iamvandal617) January 22, 2016
Macklemore chose a route that has no financial risk for him & plenty of potential reward. John Legend & others are paying bills for BLM
— ❄Mikki Kendall❄ (@Karnythia) January 22, 2016