On NPR’s race-conscious Tell Me More talk show on Friday, they discussed the white rapper Macklemore’s cover story in Rolling Stone, where he claimed that his skin color allows him to swear his rear end off in his “Thrift Shop” song.
“Even though I’m cussing my a-- off in the song, the fact that I’m a white guy, parents feel safe. They let their six-year-olds listen to it. I mean it’s just…it’s different. And would that success have been the same if I would have been a black dude? I think the answer is no." Former NPR digital reporter Corey Dade applauded the admission of “white privilege” in profane rap music:
AMMAD OMAR, NPR (after a clip of "Thrift Shop"): So that's the clean, NPR-friendly version, but in the not-safe-for-radio version Macklemore swears a decent amount in the song. And he says in a Rolling Stone cover article that parents are all right with that because he's white. He says, quote, it's just different and would the success have been the same if I would have been a black dude? I think the answer is no, unquote. Corey Dade, you're a black dude. What do you think? (LAUGHTER)
COREY DADE: Well, thanks for that revelation, Ammad. All right.
OMAR: Just a fact.
DADE: You know, the truth of the matter is, yeah, he would not be as popular as he is now. I mean, music is bereft - I mean, is long - you know, has a long history of white singers, white artists, coming in and appropriating inherently black music or at least music that is dominated by black artists. This is nothing new.
But what I like is that he acknowledged -- as he put it -- his white privilege. And if, quite frankly, more whites actually acknowledged their white privilege outside of music and in the broader populace, we'd be better off all the way around when you talk about race relations. I think more specifically, you know, I think he's exactly right. I think people need to understand - even white parents themselves - why they feel good about Macklemore's music, why they feel good about letting their children listen to it because Macklemore looks like one of their kids.
Now Macklemore says himself, if you were to take his lyrics and put it in the mouth of Jay-Z or any other black rapper - Lil Wayne, etc. There would be an aversion to it, I think. I think at the end of the day, this is great. I like the fact that he acknowledges it. If he only had a flow, we'd be good.
National Review contributor Neil Minkoff represented the opposite view:
NEIL MINKOFF: I think that this has more to do with the record company than the fan base though. Because both Eminem and the Beastie Boys have talked about an opposite phenomenon. So when Run-D.M.C. took the Beasties out on their first tour, their particular concern that they've talked about in interviews was, could this group connect with a black fan base that was the heart and soul of the hip-hop movement. And Eminem has said that he felt that he was singled out for criticism for homophobic lyrics and cursing because he was white and that it was a double standard because it was acceptable for traditional hip-hop artists. So I think there's just this discomfort with it on all sides when there's somebody different entering into the market.
Macklemore used the term "privilege" about his race. "You have to acknowledge where the art came from, where it is today, how you’re benefiting from it," he explained. "At the very least, just bringing up those points and acknowledging that, yes, I understand my privilege, I understand how it works for me in society, and how it works for me in 2013 with the success that (our album) The Heist has had....I do think a song like ‘Thrift Shop’ was safe enough for the kids," he continued. "It was like, ‘This is music that my mom likes and that I can like as a teenager.'"