Eric took off for Lollapalooza this weekend, but he left us with this post about an important song. Play it loud outside Chick-fil-A.
Macklemore’s subject matter as a rapper is all over the map, whether it’s prescription drug addiction (his own and others’), yoga practice, Irish heritage, the trappings of materialism in the shoe-obsessed Jordan era. Although I’ll admit my personal experience lines up with the yoga and Air Jordans on the brain, no matter the topic, I always find him engaging, thought provoking and inspiring. His straightforward, autobiographical style is something that’s refreshing to me, that “rapper as storyteller” role that I feel like I see much less in today’s hip-hop than when I was growing up.
If you’ve checked out Seattle indie station KEXP at all the last couple of years, you’re sure to have heard Kevin Cole sing his praises at least once or twice, and with good reason. A growing figure in the Seattle music scene, Macklemore, along with collaborator/DJ/producer Ryan Lewis, look to continue their upward trend with the release of The Heist on Oct. 9, the first single from which happens to be one of the bolder, braver choices I’ve seen made in music in awhile.
“Same Love” is a beautiful, impassioned dart thrown directly at critics of marriage equality, a topic we hear politicians addressing from one corner of the ring or the other on a daily basis at this point. Rappers … not so much.
Hip-hop has never had a great track record in the tolerance department. This is not to say that every faction of hip-hop exudes the degree of machismo or misogyny as the gangsta rap of the ’90s, but suffice it to say that its lyrical content, or at the very least the public perception of that content, hasn’t exactly approached a warm and fuzzy approach toward homosexuality. Just as we still, in 2012, have don’t have openly gay athletes in the similarly heterosexual male macho world of professional sports, sexual preference has been a taboo in the world of hip-hop.
Recently, though, there have been signs of a dialogue opening up. Last year, Fat Joe, conspiracy theories aside, was surprisingly candid in encouraging gay rappers to come out, proclaiming that hip-hop is “the greatest gay market in the world.” On July 4, up-and-coming R&B artist Frank Ocean, a member of Odd Future, raised many an eyebrow in the hip-hop community by proclaiming that his first love was with a man.
“Same Love” is an emotional, beautiful track. Bolstered by piano and string arrangements, horns and the soulful voice of Mary Lambert, Macklemore matter-of-factly takes homophobia head-on, examining not only the religious and political agendas that he feels propel hate, but also taking on the perception within the hip-hop community toward gays: “If I was gay, I would think that hip-hop hates me/ Have you read the YouTube comments lately? / ‘Man, that’s gay’ gets dropped on the daily.” Lambert’s soulful voice punctuates his plea for tolerance: “I can’t change/ Even if I tried / Even if I wanted to… / My love, she keeps me warm.” Again, the autobiographical is discussed. While straight himself, Macklemore discusses an early childhood assumption that he was gay for the silliest of preconceived notions, mentions the fact that his uncle is gay and has a longtime partner, calling them collectively “my uncles.”
As a straight person who’s grown up with gay friends and decided long ago that gay marriage makes a lot of sense, I’ll admit I’m easily sold here. He’s preaching to the choir. But my hope is that we’ll see this spirit of inclusion and tolerance in hip-hop become a real trend. MURS recently added another voice in support of gay rights with “Animal Style,” a tragic/powerful song complemented by a video that features the L.A.-based rapper kissing another man.
As part of a partnership with Music for Marriage Equality campaign – seeking to pass a referendum to protect same-sex marriage – Sub Pop has released “Same Love” digitally on iTunes and Amazon and released a 7-inch (limited to 2,000 copies) on Tuesday. All proceeds will benefit marriage equality in Washington state.