Are Macklemore and other white artists taking advantage of historically black music genres?
That’s the question posed in Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ nearly nine-minute track White Privilege II, in which the singer ponders his role in the Black Lives Matter movement. The song is the sequel to the duo’s 2005 song White Privilege.
“This song is the outcome of an ongoing dialogue with musicians, activists, and teachers within our community in Seattle and beyond,” the pair explained in a statement on the song’s Web site. “Their work and engagement was essential to the creative process.”
After beginning the song by explaining that he’s not sure if he should join in on the Black Lives Matter chant, Macklemore wonders whether he and other artists are taking advantage. The song specifically calls out Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea for appropriating black music, saying that they’ve “exploited the music” and they’re “fake and so plastic.”
Macklemore is self-aware in White Privilege II, noting that he’s been able to succeed in part because of his race. “The DIY underdog, so independent,” says the rapper, referring to himself. “But one thing the American dream fails to mention / is that I was many steps ahead to begin with.”
The song ends with singer and poet Jamila Woods singing that “hip hop is not a luxury.” In a statement, Woods explained that it’s necessary “for white consumers of hip-hop … to embrace the opportunities and responsibilities that come along with engaging in hip-hop culture.” She hopes the song will inspire people not previously part of the Black Lives Matter movement to “view themselves as agents of change.”
White Privilege II comes from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ self-released LP This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, which will be released February 26.