Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Macklemore. AND Mary Lambert.

You guys, I hate it when the Internet makes me mad! Because I get all Hulk smash ragey, like can't-focus-on-anything-else ragey, all the while even MORE mad at MYSELF for being mad because I know that being mad about things on the Internet is about as useless as eating celery! You burn more calories in the event of taking it in than the calories you actually consume! And it leaves stringy shit all in your teeth! Useless! But I still get mad at the Internet ALL THE TIME, and I keep coming back to it because I LOVE IT. The Internet is like the worst abusive relationship of all time.

In particular, it is REALLY hard being a queer writer on the Internet, not because of conservative people telling me I am going to hell or whatever, because that actually doesn't happen that often, and if it does, it's just sort of amusing, because you know that they're on the losing team and sometimes it feels good and smug to be on the winning team. Sometimes it's okay to be smug.

But the hardest part of being a queer on the Internet is all the other queers that have so many opinions about the best way to be queer. And how if you do or do not do or like these certain things, you are ignorant and offensive and wrong. To the point where I cringe before every single word I type because I know every single word I type is going to come off to someone as wrong wrong wrong.

The latest conundrum if you're queer is apparently whether or not you can like Macklemore. I mean, I guess. I didn't know it was a conundrum until recently, but the Internet says it is.

Kathy and I have liked Macklemore for quite some time, since our friend Scott, who is tuned into local Pacific Northwest rappers, told us about him, back when he was pretty much just a Pacific Northwest rapper. We were impressed a white dude from Seattle had such well produced, well rapped, catchy yet powerful songs with such astoundingly smart lyrics. Our favorites were "Wings" and "White Privilege."

The evils of marketing and branding and capitalism when you're a poor kid in America. And adorable children singing the hook!

What I like about "White Privilege" aside from articulating white privilege in hip-hop so well is how non-defensive he is about it. It's not like, this thing exists and it's horrible but it's NOT MY FAULT. It's like, this thing exists and it's horrible and I'm a part of it and I don't know exactly what to do about it but I can't stop myself from being myself and I have to give props to the people who allowed me to be who I am in order to authentically be myself, and listen, if you listen to me and only listen to other white rappers too, stop doing that. It is, in my opinion, as perfectly crafted and thoughtful a song can be about such a fantastically messy issue as race, race in hip hop specifically.

It is also hard not to love "My Oh My," even if I'm not the biggest baseball fan.

He loves Seattle SO MUCH you guys. I love when anyone is unabashed about loving anything so much. It is literally my favorite thing in the world.

So when he blew up in the last year, I was super duper happy because 1) I had already seen his ability to be super catchy and commercial, a la "Can't Hold Us," which is godsmackingly good, and 2) "Same Love" burst a billion heart strings with its gay equality message, but really it's not that surprising at all coming from him, being that so many of his previous songs are so deeply rooted in social messages. He is genuine.

From what I can gather, these are the issues that have been stirred up within the queer community, particularly since his wins at the VMAs this past weekend.

1) He's a white, straight, cis-gendered man, and it is hard to say that anything people in that category do is good, I guess.
2) His success and his wins at the VMAs are taking success and wins away from black hip hop artists, whose art he is shamelessly appropriating from.
3) He didn't even let Mary Lambert talk at the VMAs, even though she is a queer woman, and she should be the voice standing for queer equality, not the straight man.
4) He isn't promoting Mary Lambert's new video enough.
5) By saying that hip hop as a whole is anti-gay, he is shutting out other artists who came before who in fact either ARE queer or queer friendly.
6) He says he's an ally and basically allies are bullshit.

Here is that lovely Mary Lambert video, where she extends her refrain of "She Keeps Me Warm," the hook of which is included in "Same Love." You will Muppet arm flail at its adorableness.

Ugh I know she is the most adorable, right? Ugh. Like literally the cutest thing I have ever seen.

AfterEllen also had the Mary Lambert hook up during the VMAs, which was pretty rad, and from almost everything I saw, she was SUPER SUPER excited about everything. Excited about being on the red carpet, about being on stage, about singing with Jennifer Hudson. Excited! Adorable!

I watched Macklemore's acceptance speech for "Same Love," and it looked like he did actually want to give both Ryan White and Mary Lambert speaking time at the end, but you know how award shows are with awkwardly cutting people off if you talk too much. And I don't think it was weird that he took the mic first and gave a little speech, because, like, it's his song? And I thought his speech was good? And all around it was a good thing and everyone was happy? And I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that hip hop as a whole is anti-gay, because while there are always exception to every rule, if I was a gay kid, I WOULD think that hip hop hated me.

And he could spend more time promoting "She Keeps Me Warm," but he is really under no obligation to whatsoever. He is not Mary Lambert's PR person. He also just won some VMAs and is preparing for a blockbuster tour. He is a little busy. But I think his association, and in particular having Mary Lambert with him at the VMAs, has catapulted Mary Lambert into more fame than she ever, ever would have had otherwise. I saw people posting that adorable video all over my Facebook and Twitter. I never would have heard about it without "Same Love" being a success first.

He acknowledges his appropriation upfront and truthfully. If someone asked him if he thought he's gained more attention this year than other black rappers just because he was white, he would say yes. You can't bring the blame of an entire system of inequality down on the head of one talented and good-hearted guy. I think there's a difference between acknowledging that appropriation is a thing, and OUTLAWING it from being used ever. Because I've also seen Asian hip hop artists who are really, really good. Because I think the entire world is grateful for Eminem. Because I don't think there's anything inherently evil about a nation of white people trying their darndest to dance like Beyonce. Because probably every single day of my life, I am able to use or do something that was first brought into the world by people who look nothing like me, from the food I eat to the books I read and the act of writing itself and the house I live in and the streets I drive down and the music I listen to. If we are damning people for appropriation, we are all damned. We can honor the originality of people who created the world, while still wanting to be ourselves and like what we like in this world.

And there is so much about how allies are troublesome, and it always makes me so flipping mad. Because you know what? I think allies are awesome, no matter who they are. Even if they use the wrong language sometimes, even if they get things wrong. And I'm okay with a straight man being the loudest voice for marriage equality. Because his straight man voice is REACHING people. It is reaching a LOT of people. Jay-Z coming out for marriage equality, Obama coming out for marriage equality, and on and on, reaches SO MANY more people than other smaller, queer voices. Their straight voices don't drown out the smaller, queer voices, it just widens the sphere of tolerance overall. Because if you were only allowed to speak about experiences that you yourself lived, then we would just get partitioned into smaller and smaller boxes, and no one would listen to anybody except people who were exactly like them, and the world would be so, so, so sad and a billion times more full of injustice than it already is.

And that's always what it comes down to, and why I get so mad. No one is perfect. No one person can be the perfect minority, and say the perfect thing, and write the perfect song, and know every single thing there is to know about the history of the world and being queer. But if people are trying to make the world better, why the fuck would we get down on them about it? Why can't we love Macklemore AND Mary Lambert?

That is all.

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