Macklemore Has Released A Track Called “White Privilege II” And It’s Something

Here are some opinions.

1. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released a new song for free on iTunes, titled “White Privilege II.”

It’s almost nine minutes long and discusses Macklemore’s position as a white artist working with music created by people of colour, and the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter conversation.

2. The initial response to the track was varied, as some people were very positive about it.

3. And were happy with his intentions.

4. Others, however, were unhappy with every aspect of it.

5. The opening lyrics reference Macklemore’s participation in the Black Lives Matters protest in Seattle after the death of Michael Brown.

“Pulled into the parking lot, parked it / Zipped up my parka, joined the procession of marchers / In my head like, “Is this awkward, should I even be here marching?”

6. He then explicitly mentions #BlackLivesMatter, and his own uncomfortableness around it. “OK, I’m saying that they’re chanting out, “Black lives matter”, but I don’t say it back / Is it OK for me to say?”

7. People praised him for the use of his own white privilege to raise awareness of the wider issues.

Macklemore Is A Perfect Example Of Knowing White Privilege Exists And Uses His Platform To Tell People Yes This Exists OPEN YOUR EYES

— namjoomin stan (@keixolanay)

Macklemore is recognizing and speaking out against white privilege as a white artist and y'all have a problem with it. I don't get it lol

— J (@Youngg_White)

9. In the next verse he links these struggles with white artists who’ve been accused of cultural appropriation in their music - “The culture was never yours to make better / You’re Miley, you’re Elvis, you’re Iggy Azalea.”

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

10. At around the time of the track’s release Iggy Azalea tweeted this, which some people took to be a comment on it.

hmmm... bitchy, bitchy.


11. Then she talked about pasta a bit.

the pasta i ate tonight was a little dry. thanks for asking.


12. But Macklemore also makes reference to his previous album, The Heist, which was commercially very successful, saying “you’ve heisted the magic”, implicating himself in cultural appropriation as well.

13. Charlamagne Tha God did not think that this mea culpa was particularly effective, however.

I like the message in "White Privilege 2" but what's the point of dissing other white artist when the same could be said about you?

— Charlamagne Tha God (@cthagod)

14. That verse finishes by returning to the period immediately following the death of Mike Brown, and seemingly asking whether white artists are only supporting movements like #BlackLivesMatter performatively, to improve how they’re perceived.

15. One criticism of him is that his socially conscious music could actually be very cynical.

Macklemore exploits social issues for relevance. Don't @ me.

— Dion (@QuickTime_)

Macklemore new album track list leaked

— Tim Ross (@TimRossComedy)

17. The new album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made is scheduled for release on Feb. 26, the proximity of which has made some people suspicious.

@Karnythia it shouldn't be lost on people that Macklemore decided to "check his privilege" the month before his album drops. 🐸☕️

— Vandal (@iamvandal617)

This new track is a direct sequel to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s previous 2009 song, “White Privilege,” which talked about similar issues.

18. A later verse uses language very similar to the older track. “If I’m aware of my privilege and do nothing at all… So what the fuck has happened to my voice if I stay silent / when black people are dying / Then I’m trying to be politically correct?”

19. There are also commonalities with a well-received interview Macklemore gave to Hot 97 at the end of 2014, where he described how he saw his position in the industry.

20. This self-awareness, however, did not stop the opinion that his innate white privilege could never be fully extricated from the music he was making.

Macklemore Uses White Privilege to Dis White Privilege Via a Macklemore Song.

— Mark Campbell (@MrWordsWorth)

21. Which means that he is still using his advantages to make money.

Macklemore will get a paycheck for making a song on White Privilege. that in and of itself is White Privilege. think about it yall.

— papi at the bodega (@ayypollo)

While the song was actually released for free, it’s easy to see that increased prominence could help his income for other projects.

22. There are also explicit references to the system that maintains his position.

23. A number of people said that the wider refusal to listen to “the voices of millions of Black people” was equally at fault.

So Macklemore wrote a song on white privilege and now people believe it exists. But won't listen to the voices of millions of Black people?K

— W-H-I-T-N-E-Y (@ThatAfricanGurl)

24. As other artists who said similar things were unlikely to get the same amount of coverage.

What's sad is that people like Kendrick Lamar has been PREACHING exactly what Macklemore said in White Privilege II. BUT NOW they'll listen

— Indigo Jane (@ImaneNicholas)

25. So while Macklemore accepts the help he got from the system, he continues to benefit from it.

I have a problem with the system that allows macklemore to reach the acclaim he has in such little time. Not macklemore himself.

— Nevada, Las Vegas (@moisturizeds)

26. However, there is still a fundamental problem that makes people angry.

Macklemore literally got behind a mic to spend 4 minutes explaining that hip hop is being co-opted, he's part of the problem & he won't stop

— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia)

27. The track ends with a hook from the singer and poet Jamila Woods.

28. Deray McKesson defended Macklemore for making the track, and repudiated the claims that he was “Columbusing” the concept of white privilege.

Macklemore didn't discover white privilege, y'all. & in this song he isn't purporting to say he did.

— deray mckesson (@deray)

29. He also warned against reading more into the track than was actually there.

Macklemore is not a hero, a savior, or a prophet for discussing white privilege. & he is not saying he is. & you shouldn't either.

— deray mckesson (@deray)

30. However, he also raises the thought that it is possible too limited in it’s scope.

Does it go far enough? Perhaps not. But I'll never accept that changing minds is not disruptive.

— deray mckesson (@deray)

31. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis also released the song on its own website, which describes some of the process of its creation.

The website also says they support black-led organizations, listing Black Lives Matter, People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism & Freedom School (a project of AFSC and The People’s Institute), and Black Youth Project 100 as those they are currently engaging with.

32. A number of collaborators, both musicians and activists, are also included describing how they came to be involved in the song and recommending further reading.

Nikkita Oliver, a Seattle-based anti-racist organizer and performance poet, said, “Ultimately, this song is birthed out of black struggle to break free from oppression and white supremacy. It is not a song to be celebrated. Rather, it is opportunity for an important and necessary dialogue. This song is by no means the end of anything. It is merely a piece of the conversation. I hope it gets people talking about the right things in a creative way.”

33. However, there were still comparisons to Sam Smith, who recently received a significant backlash for “whitesplaining racism.”

Sam Smith and Macklemore gotta drop some kinda "clueless white guy" Best of Both Worlds now. That needs to happen.

— Stereo Williams (@stereowilliams)

34. Some people just really, really didn’t like the track.

Gonna listen to that new Macklemore track tomorrow at work. Cuz you really should be giving me money to listen to Macklemore.

— Larry Beyince (@DragonflyJonez)

Like, is anyone going to say that, whatever you think of the lyrics, White Privilege II is just a really bad song.

— Rachael Krishna (@RachaelKrishna)

Macklemore is the human embodiment of a liberal arts college in Seattle.

— Abrams (@abramsss)

37. Others made reference to the fact that there was likely to be a lot of discussion of it, and there were inevitably going to be a fair few thinkpieces about it.

38. And finally, some people found Macklemore to be, well, too Macklemore.


— shrillmatic (@theshrillest)

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Luke Bailey is a senior editor for BuzzFeed UK and is based in London.
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