Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Macklemore wrestles with his white privilege (again); Trae tha Truth shows Young Thug his slug collection; and B.o.B. thinks the world is flat.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Jamila Woods: “White Privilege II”
Rapper Macklemore and his producer Ryan Lewis have released a song called “White Privilege II”. The roman numerals are there because Macklemore released a song called “White Privilege” back in 2005. The sequel is eight minutes and forty-two seconds long. That’s a really song! There’s no word on whether it will appear on the duo’s forthcoming LP, but there are some details they’ve shared about the release: It’s called This Unruly Mess I’ve Made and it’s out on February 26.
AARON: What the fuck is this, a Broadway show?
LEAH: The first “White Privilege” was released on Macklemore’s first treacly, preachtastic album, The Language of My World, in 2005. Then, it was re-released after The Heist to ride his gay thrift shop marriage success; and now here’s the technical-sequel-but-de-facto-third-release in the last ten years where Macklemore asks to be patted on the head and told he’s one of the “good whites” – one that can speak with, for, and at the communities of color and get thanked for it. But what he’s missing is that you don’t get brownie points or album sales for doing the right thing, and the more you congratulate yourself for it, the more egotistical and pandering you look. Please stop.
MARCUS: I don’t trust Macklemore. I think that’s where my problem lies with this song.
I trusted Eminem. I trusted 3rd Bass. Hell, I even trusted Asher Roth. But I think that Macklemore is representative of what happens when we stop making white people earn hood passes to do black-aimed rap music.
Macklemore was fine with me when he was making funny songs about thrift shops and songs about how awesome gay marriage is. I think that rap’s universal and ubiquitous now, so using rap as a bridge to create a space for cultural criticism and applause that’s not specifically linked to black people is perfect. However, that’s kinda where I wanted Macklemore to stay.
Yeah, I said it, stay.
There’s still a part of me, and probably a lot of other black people too, that just don’t trust Macklemore handling massive issues of black culture for white people without getting his hood pass first. Yes, I know, Miley Cyrus has a hood pass, and that’s probably not cool. But I’m okay with her talking about wearing Jordans, masturbating, and smoking blunts with her hood pass, because on some terribly fucked up level, that’s ultimately a stereotype-fulfilling prophecy that people are really okay with having happen. We’re okay with that if for not other reason than people in general get to have mock outrage and black dudes can secretly want to have sex with her… which as black dudes, is this affliction when it comes to white female pop stars that we’ve had for like, two generations now. But that’s a whole other story…
Macklemore talking at black people’s problems just smacks of the worst form of white savior-itis. And I think that black people are at a point where we’re wanting a white person to talk to and with us, and not at us with this air of gee golly, I’m so sorry.
When I hear this, I just want to say “fuck you” to Macklemore, and stomp him out in my Doc Martens. Like, if you’re going to do this, there’s a way to do it that involves, like, calling Kanye and Kendrick, and being like, “Okay, I have this idea for a collaboration.” Doing this shit by himself with some well-meaning black woman wailing on the hook just makes him look like the wackest, most chickenshit dude on the whole entire face of planet Earth.
If Macklemore wanted to do this song, there was one way to do it. And because he can’t be trusted with that rap job (because it’s not his rap job… his rap job is making socially relevant music that appeals both to and past the black/white American rap construct), he shouldn’t have decided to take on the “whitesplaining black angst” rap job, because he was definitely going to fail, which he has.
Macklemore has one job. Why he decided to do another job is far beyond my comprehension. It’s a safe job and and easy job and a job where he can release one bullshit rap song a year and make a trillion dollars doing it, too. I’m all for “artistic development” – just not from fucking Macklemore.
AARON: Is this what the inside of my white ally’s head sounds like? I had no idea. It’s like five white guys having a guilt summit in a piano lounge.
It’s like a rich high school theater production.
It’s like how white people talk over me when I am trying to agree with them, and then I just get mad and they say, “You mad, bro? We’re cool, right?” and then I get more mad because I can’t tell if they are fucking with me or actually learning something, and then I have to say, “We’re cool, bro” because if you say anything else it just starts all over again.
Why is post-racial society so hard? It’s only been eight years and I’m exhausted.
Look. He seems like the nicest guy on the planet. He seems like the kind of guy you wanna have a non-alcoholic beer with in a safe space. I would let him babysit my imaginary mixed race babies with no background check.
But this is smothering and pandering.
Don’t get me wrong: I would rather have this than bullets and trap music. I’ll take compromise over conflict, etc. Peace, love all, that shit. But this song makes me uncomfortable. It makes me squirm and there’s no revolution gonna be sparked by this anti-heater.
Great message. Bad song. Too long ding dong.
PHELPS: Marcus and Aaron have already honed in on the issues of a lack of trust from and suspicion of pandering towards the black community. I believe Macklemore’s heart is in the right place, but in this track I hear manifestation of when people count how many black friends they have during discussions of prejudice or racism. Focusing issues inward just move conversations backwards at the most, nowhere at the least.
Deray McKesson, a divisive but nevertheless looming voice of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, showed up on Colbert the other night and gave tips on recognizing white privilege: “You know, it’s about role, it’s about access, and what you can do is extend that privilege so that you can dismantle it. You can create opportunity for people, you can amplify issues in a way that other people can’t, and you can use your resources to create space for people.”
With this song, Macklemore only creates an opportunity for himself to amplify issues of insecurity, of feeling weird at a Ferguson march. It creates space solely for him, his very own “Macklemore’s Room”. Civil rights, racism, and how you address those issues is a deeply personal thing and I’m sure it was moving, cathartic, and emotional for him whenever and wherever he’s done it. But, making a song as a multi-platinum artist about it just begs for the attention on one hand that he decries in the other.
The innocuity of this track can perhaps be measured by the lack of response, formal or otherwise, by those who decry these movements and defend or deny white privilege. Is there a risk here for Macklemore? Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino was asked to show up to a Rise October march, paid for families of those victimized by police violence to attend, and had his movie boycotted immediately by police groups nationwide immediately. And when pressed about it, he didn’t make it about himself so much.
In summary, I don’t want to hear about white privilege right now from a privileged white person unless it’s White Boy Day. Is it White Boy Day?
JOSE: Macklemore has succeeded in making the two biggest civil rights issues of the last decade about him, even though neither one applies to his person. I understand the desire to be an “ally,” and that in the grand scheme of things, his songs might be helpful and might broaden hearts and change minds due to his broad appeal. But fuck if he isn’t patronizing and corny as hell.
CLYDE: Macklemore took an L on this one before he even stepped in the booth.
In terms of songcraft, my beef with Macklemore is well-documented and remains the same: Dude is mad literal. I dunno if he suffers from a lack of imagination or fears that his audience is just that dumb, that even the slightest metaphor will fly over their heads. This song does nothing to change my opinion.
The closest analog to “White Privilege II” is obviously “Same Love”. I like that song and genuinely think it was a risky move for him to make it. But where “Same Love” is actually about marriage equality and broader acceptance and love of gay people, “White Privilege” is 90 percent about Macklemore’s tortured conscience and his struggle to find his place in the Black Lives Matter movement. This song is not for black people. This song is for a very narrow group of white liberals who feel the same discomfort Macklemore feels, of possibly being a fraud but slamming down like 20 espressos a day in an effort to stay constantly woke.
But let’s keep it real: If this dude was dope, this would all be mute. People love Eminem because he’s one of the illest to ever touch a mic. I laughed at Macklemore’s shading of Iggy, Miley, and Elvis to distance himself but interestingly enough, Eminem just straight up said “I am Elvis.” And yet Marshall would more subtly acknowledge how he benefited from being white from time to time, like in “White America”, a song just as self-important as “White Privilege”: Let’s do the math / If I was black, I woulda sold half.
I dunno much about Macklemore’s background but I know he’s from Seattle where I’m pretty sure the Seahawks make up 50 percent of the black population. And Eminem had to prove himself in the Detroit underground where there probably isn’t a Whole Foods south of 10 Mile.
The first time I heard this song was with my roommates who are white, urban Democratic operatives, which is to say they are fairly woke people. I think they are ashamed to have this dude speaking for them. And when I heard that DeRay McKesson flipped over this song, the first thing I thought is that DeRay has never listened to rap music.
This song will divide people into two camps: people who just want to hear a white person say they have an easier time in America, and people who like good rap songs.
Trae Tha Truth ft. Young Thug: “Slugs”
Trae the Truth released Tha Truth – his eighth LP (and first for T.I.’s Grand Hustle) – last July. It had 16 tracks and clocked in at over 62 minutes. But, apparently, there is more truth to spread. On February 5, the venerable Houston rapper will put out Tha Truth, Pt. 2. Among its 17 tracks is “Slugs”, his latest single. It features Young Thug. “Every song on Tha Truth 2 fits in a certain way. ‘Slugs’ fits musically with the vibe of the dark, melodic feel,” Trae told Billboard recently. “With the combination of Thug’s high energy and my laid-backness and the combination of my melodies, it’s one of those songs that gets you amped up, but you can also ride to it.” OK!
MARCUS: I’m really okay with Tip getting back to the work of uplifting his ne’er do well hoodrat friends with Grand Hustle instead of co-signing white Australian runaways with silicone in their asscheeks.
This will sound crazy, but I love how clean the mixing and mastering is on this. Most of these Southern trap tracks just sound so dirty coming through the speakers, which I think is part of the appeal. Trae and Thugger’s voices really cut through the din here, and it gives this something more. Like, I hear them. I feel them. Like, without the aid of the music fully cultivating and coloring the mood of what they’re conveying, and that’s actually kinda cool. They pop off like artists instead of disembodied turn up sounds. On some level, I think that will hold it back from really making a dent with people, because I think that there’s a love of following Young Thug’s voice somewhere in the middle of a mix that makes being a fan of his music so much fun. It’s like, there’s something amazing about having a professional engineer that’s not high on anything sitting down at a multi-track board putting together this track that actually holds it back from being really dope.
To extrapolate this further, the argument about this song’s ability to excel mirrors the same argument that people have about the era when Phil Spector produced and engineered The Ramones’ punk rock records in that the rougher, not-so “professional,” Ramones cuts are “better,” because they break the rules. That argument also says that “Rock and Roll High School” was a top-40 charter because of money pushing it down people’s throats more than it actually being any good. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that great trap is like punk rock, and is better with that flaws than without them.
AARON: Damn. Young Thug just kills the vibe on this track. Trae has the most menacing voice in hip hop and will always be one of my faves. His raps make me a little scared and if I heard his voice coming out of the bushes I would faint like an old white lady with a heart problem -but I’m not feeling Young Thug and his jibber jabber.
My man raps like Scooby Doo. I swear he said “ZOINKS” in there somewhere. I don’t know how he could be doing all this dirt and not get caught out there like Daffy Duck bouncing off walls and shit, like you can hear him coming from a block away. No chill.
I understand that songs like this are inevitable in 2016. Young cats need cred and old cats need a check,so I guess shout out for that at least. It used to be that you could put an Atlanta dude and a Houston dude on track and sleep at night knowing it was probably the best song evar for a minute or two.
This is good but it could be more John Blaze with a better guest. Why the fuck is Tip not on this, haaaaanh?
PHIL: Grand Hustle’s attempts to give Trae the Truth these chic, contemporary makeovers are as noble as they are laughable. That’s not to say “Slugs” doesn’t work – it does! – but like a lot of Tha Truth, it feels like playing dress up with E.T. We’re just never quite able to forget the fact that we’re looking at an uncomfortable alien in a wig and dress.
But Young Thug zipping all over a John Carpenter score? I’m here for it. This is essentially his song anyway. And the interplay of his acrobatics and Trae’s sing-song sorta-chorus gels, too. Against the odds – and in contrast to, say, Future – Thugger has turned into a reliable D.H.
This week, pop rapper B.o.B. revealed that he thinks the world is flat. He wasn’t joking. He was serious. Neil DeGrasse Tyson took issue and called him out on Twitter. In response, B.o.B. has dropped a diss / truther track called “Flatline”, which samples a Neil DeGrasse Tyson lecture. Also, the astrophysicits’s nephew has put out a response track named “Flat to Fact”. Again, this all actually happened. Let’s talk about “Flatline”.
MARCUS: Either B.o.B,’s trolling the world or he’s discovered LSD. I hope it’s the latter, because I could totally appreciate him heading in this disenfranchised pop icon/pop-accessible Lil B clone direction. I hope that Funny or Die or National Geographic sees this because an actual debate about whether or not the Earth is flat on either of their YouTube channels is a worthwhile idea to consider.
Somewhere along his pretty much unchecked rise to pop stardom, we never really stopped and asked B.o.B. any questions about a.) what he was doing with his money, or b.) if he was the kind of person who was psychologically and emotionally prepared to handle wealth and/or power. What happens when we don’t do these things is that we let these people have their money, and then, as of out of nowhere, they pipe up after fading away from all humanity and say (or do) some really off the wall shit. There’s a long history of this in music but this is the first time that we’ve ever had a scientist get checked in a battle rap because of it.
I mean, the only logical solutions are either a.) that aforementioned Youtube battle, or b.) Neil deGrasse Tyson opening a Youtube channel and scoring science lectures to trap anthems. If the U.S. Department of Education, Red Bull, some well-meaning science-loving private entity or any one of us with deep pockets wanted to pony up the bucks to get Neil a Pro level Soundcloud account, we could easily buy him some trap tracks for dirt cheap from Soundclick and make this happen.
Listening to this a third time and, yeah, I’m convinced BOB’s definitely dropping acid.
LEAH: Let’s also not overlook B.o.B.’s line: “Do your research on David Irving, Stalin was way worse than Hitler, that’s why the POTUS gotta wear a kippah.” I’m pretty flabbergasted he’d encourage anyone to look into preeminent Holocaust denier Irving. Is this an attempt to get everyone on the tin foil hat conspiracy train to crazytown? Does he think Obama is part of the Jewish Illuminati? What is he even suggesting/smoking?
AARON: Holy shit. I just listened to this track with my face in a freeze-frame silent scream for three fucking minutes.
Where to start with this corny motherfucker? I’m trying to calm myself down by chalking this up to the current trend of American anti-intellectualism and that we are all made of stars and everyone’s gonna die but we really live for eternity.
I can see how how some of these rappers think the world is flat from the way they keep falling off. *pops collar*
I think B.o.B. just took one of the greatest L’s of all time. Like, he was wack anyway before this song but this is next level, old world dumb. I am glad Neil DeGrasse Tyson got sucked into this bullshit because we might actually need an astrophysicist to calculate exactly how large and dense this L is.
It’s not the LSD, Marcus. This kid just has garbage brain. Acid always made me acutely aware that science was real as a motherfucker and we are germs on a living spaceship.
You can’t even get on that level without basic 9th grade science class. Oh what’s that, Bobby? You dropped out to follow your dreams of being a wack rapper?
You are right though, Marcus: Shoulda never gave him no money and why didn’t we send a social worker by the house to do a welfare check? We all failed him.
I am a connoisseur of modern conspiracy and it’s like this dude went to a conspiracy garage sale and all that’s left is trash-lizard people and holocaust revision.
How do you beef with an actual scientist on some flat earth shit? How do you step to the smartest man on earth with this baby talk? How do you not know that Immortal Technique is the only one allowed to even speak on the holocaust and/or fucking reptilian shape shifters in the same track? KNOW YOUR HISTORY, SON.
I hate it.
The first thing that should happen is Neil Degrasse Tyson needs to sue for sample clearance and get in this kids pockets for being dumb. If he doesn’t comply, Tyson has no choice but to show up at the next Wack Rapper Awards and pistol whip him like it’s the 1990’s. Then B.O.B. needs to quit rapping, get a J-O-B and a G.E.D. and FOH.
CLYDE: Oh man, how has he not collaborated with Lupe Fiasco yet? I can see them making a song where they just scream “Obama is a terrorist!” repeatedly on the hook and get into excruciating detail about the thermodynamics of jet fuel.
This is the most annoying kind of person, a dude who thinks only he is special enough to have gained some type of insight that somehow the sheeple who blindly follow NASA have failed to pick up on.