Macklemore has good intentions in his hit song “Same Love.” They are intentions I won’t bother rehashing or defending because you’ve heard the song blasted in every store, car, bus, boutique, and street-corner you’ve stood on for the past couple months–but they are also intentions that do not translate to real life and social change. Like other people with good intentions (the pilgrims, the missionaries, Michael Jackson, etc.), Macklemore does more harm than good by failing to take into account the socio-historical climate he is attempting to address.
See also: Critics Need To Lay Off Macklemore
Which is not to say that music championing equal rights for people of all genders and sexual identities isn’t absolutely necessary–after all, the arts are supposed to lead culture–but the manner in which these messages are dispersed is just as important as the content of the message itself. So when it’s a white and wealthy, non-rap rap-sensation proclaiming that we are all human and deserving of the same rights and respect because “there is no difference” on a languid, piano-driven hip-hop track, sorry, we got a fuckin’ problem.
And yeah, this problem has to do with race.
It’s no secret that the black community has had difficulty accepting homosexuality at home and in music. As our ancestors were indoctrinated into Christianity and stripped of their families and dignity upon arrival in the United States, masculinity–and the protection of it–rightly or wrongly became something to desire and defend. It’s more than a matter of Christian dogma. To this day in the black community, any hint of homosexual inclinations is frequently ignored or denied. Our gay black men are relegated to lives on the “down low” for fear of judgement and retaliation from family members and friends. The situation is only worsened by the culture that a warped rap scene has created, in which musicians are applauded for extreme dismissals and degradation of homosexuality (hey, Tyga!), or quickly forgiven when private conversations cross the line (hello, Busta Rhymes!)(No homo).
So, when Macklemore–that white and wealthy, non-rap rap-sensation–bursts on the radio airwaves with a hip-hop song about all love being the same, he’s not wrong–he’s just not doing it right. There’s much more to the issue of why “YouTube comments lately” are so hateful and why “‘Man that’s gay’ gets dropped on the daily.” There’s a lot more pain and history to unpack about why it seems that “hip-hop hates” homosexuals than the simple belief many within the genre have in a paraphrased “book written thirty-five-hundred years ago.” It’s all rooted in a socio-cultural past whose wounds still bleed and have yet to be openly addressed. The desperateness with which we cling to a conventional understanding of masculinity and the fear we have of letting it go have resulted in creating an entirely new brand of suffering.
I won’t deny Macklemore’s song has helped people and given loads of inspiration, but it’s necessary to address how the same song really doesn’t hit any of its intended marks when it comes to changing the things he complains about. The assertion he makes about all love being the “same love” is an argument that ends up carrying little to no weight in hip-hop. It’s the sad but true reality that until more Frank Oceans appear and begin a long overdue discussion about sexuality and gender and its place in hip-hop and rap, little progress is going to be made. Because the fact remains, the people in the genre Macklemore seeks to change don’t listen to Macklemore. A rich white kid who goes thrift shopping in Seattle and has some ideas about homosexuality won’t lift nearly as many interested heads as a black man with some major sway in the music game who isn’t afraid to start preaching about equality addressing the current situation in terms of a second-wave civil rights movement.
It’s days like these I really miss Tupac.