Being a rapper and, at the same time, trying to be an influential and inspiring figure in today’s world is an extremely difficult task. To figure out why, all you need to do is take one look at guys like Kanye West or Lil’ Wayne. You can vouch for their artistic talents all you like (more so with Kanye), but to say that these guys are legitimate role models for young people is laughable.
And yet, since they are such big names in the rap industry, it creates a stigma that trickles down to others in the genre. Even someone like Eminem, who is looked upon pretty favorably by the masses, endured a very troubled and highly publicized youth.
Although his movie, 8 Mile — a dramatization of his early life — was fairly successful (and even earned him an Oscar), it officially cemented the stereotype that all rappers hail from poor, urban communities with broken homes, are high-school dropouts, have a rap sheet of arrests and a 3-year-old daughter that they can’t afford to take care of.
Most celebrities enter public consciousness with clean slates, and it’s their prerogative if they wish to stain their reputation by doing something stupid. With rappers, it’s the opposite. By simply being in that line of work, they are instantly categorized, and pegged as being a “thug” or “uneducated.” It’s not right, but it’s the way it is. And guys like Lil’ Wayne are to blame for that.
Enter Ben Haggerty, also known as Macklemore.
Arguably the most famous white rapper to enter the game since Marshall Mathers himself, Macklemore burst onto the scene almost exactly one year ago, when his song “Thrift Shop” played pretty much everywhere.
It’s a catchy jam, no doubt. But as the first line of the song is, “Now I walk into the club like, ‘What up? I got a big cock!'”, it did very little to give us an endearing impression of Macklemore, the person. That, on top of his slicked back hair and penchant for wife-beaters, he never really had a chance.
But then I heard this song, and my viewpoint of him pretty much did a complete 180.
“Same Love” is a song that promotes the legalization of same-sex marriages. The cover artwork for the single shows a photograph of Macklemore’s uncle, John Haggerty, and his partner Sean. Reportedly, the song stemmed from Macklemore’s frustration with homophobia that exists in today’s hip hop.
Now you can say whatever you want about the song; that it’s a money-grab, that’s he’s trying too hard, and obviously I can’t attest to what his exact motivations are, but the main point here is that Macklemore is using his platform for the good.
People don’t realize just how influential popular musicians are. By saying one thing, or writing one Tweet, they reach millions of ears. People who devote their lives to advocate for a cause will never have the opportunity to speak to as many people as someone like Macklemore does every single time he steps onto a stage.
And I think that is what’s important. Rather than bragging about the size of his junk, he also took the time to preach something that should be obvious to everyone — marriage equality. Whether he truly has a Martin Luther King-like fervor for this issue or not is irrelevant. This track is more than enough advocacy that could be asked for from someone of his stature.
So that is what won him my respect.
But what won him my respect for a lifetime … was this.
Macklemore performed the song last week at the Osheaga Music Festival in Montreal, and invited Tegan and Sara onstage to sing the chorus. Tegan and Sara are sisters, popular indie rock singers, and openly gay.
The result? An absolute chilling and poignant performance. It’s hard to not respect a guy after he does something like that.
Although that could change if he continues to opine on the magnitude of his girth.