“I want to take a stance because we are not free/and then I thought about it/we are not we/am I on the outside looking in/or am I in the inside looking out/is it my place to give my two cents/or should I stand on the side and shut my mouth?” —Macklemore
Those words have been a heavy topic of discussion over the past week since Macklemore & Ryan Lewis dropped “White Privilege II,” a nearly nine-minute opus addressing his position in mainstream Hip Hop, racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. In the song, he slams Iggy Azalea, Miley Cyrus and even Elvis, using them as examples of artists who have benefited from cultural appropriation. On the other hand, he attempts to take responsibility for his own role in the grand scheme of things, suggesting he feels guilt from being able to benefit from the color of his skin.
Legendary emcee and pioneer of Hip Hop culture Big Daddy Kane has always been supportive of Macklemore, ever since he helped orchestrate Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz and Kool Moe Dee’s roles in Macklemore’s song/video for “Downtown,” released in August 2015. In an exclusive interview for The Source, the Long Live the Kane mastermind discusses white privilege, not discrediting Macklemore and why the pioneers deserve respect no matter how they’re introduced to younger generations.
The Source: Macklemore’s “White Privilege II” has been in the headlines a lot recently. What are your feelings on the song?
Big Daddy Kane: To be honest with you, I only heard it once. From what I was hearing, I wasn’t crystal clear on what he was saying. To me, it sounded like if he was condemning the white privilege; the privileges white people have in Hip Hop. It kind of sounded like that, but then again, because he’s a clever thinker, it could be the type of thing where he’s spoofing what Black America thinks of white artists. It could have been that. I’m not really sure what he meant by it.
There are a lot of mixed emotions. Some people are saying it’s him just further capitalizing on the Black Lives Matter movement, but there are other people who think it’s brave and glad he’s using his platform to address such issues.
It’s like this. In all actuality, if you’re white then yes, you have white privilege. It’s there for the taking if you choose to use it, you know, just keeping it 100. With that being said though, I mean that’s no reason to look down on white people in society. It’s a reason to look down on the laws of this country because that’s the way its structured and the way these people work. It’s like this, you can go to a city that has a predominately Black police force and because they’re told these are the people to profile, a Black person can be profiled by their own race. They’re told these are the people to profile. It’s like do white privilege exist? Absolutely. In the case of passing judgment, you have to make sure that you’re passing judgement on the right person.
I like that.
There are white people that know their advantages over a Black person or any other minority over this country and they are taking advantage of it. Then there’s also some white people that will use their so-called white privilege to help a Black person.
I hope I fall in that latter category. When I was little, my parents taught me never to see in color. I am probably going to get s*it from someone for saying that, but that’s just how I am. Makes me happy to support Hip Hop no matter what color you are. Just be a good person.
I completely agree. I don’t think there has ever been a form of music that was created for a particular race. Even like when you listen to Asian music, they singing in Chinese, but I don’t think it’s just meant for the Chinese, you know?
Hip Hop was birthed out of diverse culture, was it not? I mean it started with toasting in Jamaica, then Kool Herc brought it from Jamaica to New York and boom, this cultural explosion.
If you go back and talk to people like DJ Hollywood, people like Afrika Bambaataa, people like Melle Mel, even Crazy Legs, they’ll tell you there’s always been white people involved in Hip Hop. There were white break dancers. One of the first Hip Hop clubs, Disco Fever, was started by a white man name Sal Abbatiello in the Bronx. There’s always been white people involved in Hip Hop. It’s not like it’s something just for Black people. There’s been Blacks, Latinos and white people, all types of people always involved.
I watched an interview with you where you were saying you didn’t even think to do that back in the day, you know, bring out the Melle Mels, Kool Moe Dees or other pioneers of the culture, but here Macklemore comes along and blows people away. You thought his heroes would be Tupac and Biggie, but he took it back to the beginning. Have you embraced him in a sense because of this?
Absolutely. Caz is like my hero. Caz, Melle Mel and Kool Moe Dee; those dudes are my heroes. To see them shine, I think that’s beautiful. At this point in their career, I think it’s just wonderful. It’s such a beautiful, powerful move and I’ve very happy for them. If someone else is going to come along—it’s like you don’t understand what you’re doing, discrediting Macklemore. You’re taking away from Moe, Melle Mel and Caz’s shine. If you’re going to sit there and say that someone else is doing something just to gain credibility in Hip Hop, you’re belittling them. You’re turning into a hypocrite. Isn’t it kind of hypocritical of you to try to destroy the shine these brothers haven’t had since the ‘80s? Like Caz has never had?
If you support the culture so much then why would you do that to them?
Exactly. It’s like this, I can even respect someone that said, ‘I only listened to the song to hear Mel, Caz and Moe. F*ck Macklemore.’ If that’s what you want to say, I’m cool with it. If you’ve got something against him as an artist, cool, but…
Don’t take it away from the pioneers.