"what kind of person is this?"


Nov 15, 2013
@ 4:14 pm
61 notes

Macklemore as “post-black”

You probably already know that a lot of people on Twitter — most of which appear to be black, though not all — are outraged at Jon Caramanica for calling Macklemore "post-black." It seems like many of the responses are basically asking "what does this even mean?" which is a fair question and an issue that has probably been exacerbated by people instantly reacting to the quote —”Macklemore is the first contextually post-black pop-star rapper” — before reading the entire piece, or even thinking about the idea therein. It also seems like a lot of people are reading the sentence as an endorsement, which is a prime example of how Twitter can distort a conversation pretty quickly.

(Also, it looks like a lot of people are reacting instantly against the phrase “post-black” which is a separate conversation that I’ll leave up to people who the term implicates.)

But I think Jon is right. My interpretation of the sentence is essentially two-fold:

1. Macklemore is the first “pop-star rapper” whose music caters first and foremost to white people. Macklemore isn’t the first white rapper and he isn’t the first rapper with a huge number of white fans, but he is essentially the first rapper to reach mega-stardom despite bypassing the traditional ecosystem (to steal a term from Jon) of hip-hop and, as a result, black audiences. This is totally new. Eminem came up through battle rap culture and was shepherded to popularity by a black artist in Dr. Dre. I’m too young to remember what it was like when Vanilla Ice was around, but my sense is that though he was a divisive figure, he also rose to popularity through the same channels as any black rapper at the time.

Also, Eminem and Vanilla Ice presented themselves like black rappers did. There was a pressure — either externally or internally — to not appear different. The current pop climate has rewarded Macklemore for doing the opposite: nearly every single one of his songs positions him against hip-hop. Songs like “Thrift Shop” or “Same Love” or “White Walls” or “Otherside” explicitly say “rappers are like this, but I’m like that.” This is precisely his appeal and it has made him a star.

2. The word “contextually” is an important one, I think, in Jon’s sentence. I read “contextually” — and I could be wrong, I’m not trying to speak for Jon — as referring to pop music, and arguably the story of pop in 2013 has been the ascension of white artists at the expense of black artists. This has happened on a general level — only a select number of black artists can break into the Billboard Top 10 right now — and also on a very specific level: Baauer (who is not white but whose audience is) going number one thanks to a meme that bastardized the Harlem Shake, Robin Thicke and Daft Punk (and even Justin Timberlake) being the white faces at the front of classically black songs, Miley Cyrus’ entire existence. We’re ending the year talking about whether Lorde’s number one single is an explicit critique of rap while it gets played on rap and R&B stations and then of course there is Lily Allen. And at the center of this storm is Macklemore.

"Post-black" as it refers to pop music at the moment isn’t absolutely accurate in the strictest sense — Jay-Z and Chris Brown and Drake and Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne are all very popular, and even Macklemore’s number one hits have hooks by black singers, though I don’t think there are any expectations that those looks are gonna birth pop careers. There are a select few black artists who are comfortably pop stars, but that number is dwindling, and it’s way down from where it was 10 or even five years ago. The opposite is true for white artists, and the gap is widening by the week.

  1. pessimisticsatire reblogged this from jordansargent and added:
    ……the story of pop in 2013 has been the ascension of white artists at the expense of black artists. This has happened on...
  2. stuartirvine reblogged this from jordansargent and added:
    That so true
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