Was Macklemore’s Text Message to Kendrick Lamar A Ho-Bag Move Or A Diss On The Sly?

January 28, 2014  |  

Four time Grammy-award winning rapper Macklemore has apologized to zero Grammy-award winning rapper Kendrick Lamar for robbing him for the best rap album category.

According to the New York Times, a couple of hours after the Grammys on Sunday night, Macklemore sent a text to Kendrick Lamar, which reads:

You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you. I was gonna say that during the speech. Then the music started playing during my speech and I froze. Anyway, you know what it is. Congrats on this year and your music. Appreciate you as an artist and as a friend. Much love.”

Macklemore has a point. Anyone with a working sound system and at least one ear knows that Lamar was snubbed in a major way by the Grammys. However as the Times article mentioned, what is unclear is whether his Instragam note was “a cleansing and an admission of guilt.”

Hoping to clear up the confusion, the Thrift Store-praising rapper called into Hot 97 to elaborate further on his public-private text message to Lamar, saying:

What makes it awkward for me is the fact you never want to be the person that is robbing somebody else,” he said. “I think if you look at what the Grammys are, I think that what people don’t understand is what the Grammys are a bunch of people that are on the Grammy committee or in the industry [that get] a ballot. I got a ballot this year. Now, as I’m filling out the ballot, I’m realizing I don’t know much outside of the genre of Hip Hop in terms of who should get what award. So I’m like, ‘I don’t really know about singer-songwriter or country music or whatever,’ but people are filling out bubbles of genres that they don’t know about. And that’s the process of it”

Like many across the Internet, I found the whole “personal message on Instagram”-thing to be rather peculiar, to say the least. At first I thought my uneasiness was a result of my general disdain for Macklemore and his brand of feel-good politically progressiveness-on-wax, which doesn’t do much to really challenge the status quo other than telling everyone to just hold hands and sing “Same Love.” And I think the gossip news site Gawker made an amusing point when it called the text message apology a “ho-bag” move, saying that there were a number of other actions (including not showing up to the bias award ceremony or giving the award to Lamar) Macklemore could have taken if he truly felt bad about “robbing”  Lamar instead of posting a private text message to Instagram.

But that was a critique on Macklemore rather than the system itself, which is always worthy of scrutiny. Allies are great. White allies, in a white supremacist society, are even better. However those allies are no replacement for actual diversity. The only thing an ally can do is presume the struggles and injustice of the oppressed, which is exactly why this hype around Macklemore is even more bothersome. It’s almost like a slight-of-hand card game where we are told to pay attention to the shuffling card while the other hand is rifling through our distracted pockets. In other words, if the Grammy nominating committee was really interested in sending a message on equality then it should look to actually nominating diverse artists instead of the six same acts for each category. I mean, if you feel like Lamar was robbed, consider the fact that The Internet, the Odd Future sub-group comprised of Syd tha Kyd (who is a lesbian) and Matt Martians, who hands down had the best albums of last year, didn’t even get a nomination.

All those are worthwhile points but then I read the text again, which jarred my memory about the comments Macklemore made last year about Lamar’s verse on Big Sean’s “Control”:

Every single rapper, when that record dropped, spent that night writing angry battle raps,” Macklemore said. “I was definitely one of them. I wasn’t pissed, but for like 48 hours, I was like, ‘Hell no. I’ve gotta step my game up.’ That’s what it is. That’s the beautiful thing about that record. It has people talking. Everyone knows it. Everyone’s competitive…”

What if this whole text message apology wasn’t just Macklemore falling on his white savior sword but rather a diss? I mean, Lamar did call out the entire rap community, which would include Macklemore (although I’m certain most were not thinking about him) to battle him for the title of best emcee. Despite the hype from fans, few actual rappers have responded. For a while, it certainly looked like this rap battle between Lamar and the entire industry was going to fade off into the sunset. But what if Macklemore couldn’t let it go, being competitive and all. I mean, who apologizes by saying, “It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you?” While definitely “weird” that doesn’t really sound very remorseful at all. In fact, it sounds rather boastful and antagonistic – in a shady “Real Housewives of Some Gated Communities” sort of way.

Maybe I have been watching too many old episodes of Conspiracy Theories with Jesse Ventura but you have to admit that the entire exchange seems rather self-serving. So is Macklemore getting a raw deal from the internet or is there something else lurking beneath his thrift store bargain bin?


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