With the release of their latest single, “White Privilege II,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis attempt to give an honest look at the position they’re in as popular White rappers in the midst of a turbulent time for most Black Americans.
Throughout the nearly nine-minute track, Macklemore touches on an array of hot-button issues, including the non-indictment of Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the privilege that he and other White rappers have shared since hitting the mainstream.
During a recent interview on “Sway In the Morning,” the duo talked openly about coming to grips with their White privilege, while Sway, who believes the song to be one of the most “powerful” he’s ever heard, asks if White privilege is something that is understood among Whites when they are alone.
“I think it depends on where you go,” Lewis said. “I think in our community a lot of people would understand the concept of White privilege and it would end there in terms of recognizing it and being silent, being comfortable in your privilege, which is what I think we’ve done in the past two years. So I think that song is an attempt to participate in this conversation in an authentic way and sort of face the White silence that we’re comfortable in.”
According to Macklemore, he felt an obligation to use his position to shed some light on things to White kids who may not take as easily to a Black rapper conveying the same message.
“We can be silent,” he says. “We can sit back behind the veil of White supremacy and still be comfortable. But that’s never going to change anything. We had to step up.”
Macklemore went on to discuss wanting to take part in a Black Lives Matter protest in the wake of Wilson’s non-indictment but second-guessing as to whether his presence would be “distracting” and how the situation helped in part to inspire the song.
“I think the song starts out with the non-indictment of Darren Wilson and feeling that frustration and feeling that ‘This is happening again and I can’t believe it,’ ” the 32-year-old rapper says. “I was driving my car and I was driving by the ninth precinct in Seattle where they were starting to protest and I drove past. I drove to a meeting and I sat down in the meeting and I just felt like I needed to crawl in my skin and I was just not comfortable in his place. I parked my car and got into the protest. That’s where the song starts.”
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ second studio album, The Unruly Mess I’ve Made, is scheduled to be released on Feb. 26.
Check out “White Privilege II” featuring Jamila Woods below.