There are two names dominating the week in rap: Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore. Somehow, Ryan Lewis has remained unscathed through all of this, but that’s another conversation because he hasn’t received his fair share of the credit for The Heist either. All anyone cares to discuss is how Kendrick didn’t win and how Macklemore…I don’t know, people are just angry at him for winning four Grammys they thought should have gone to the good kid from the mad city.
XXL was the first to catch up with K. Dot to get his thoughts on the whole matter and, true to his nature off the mic, he handled it all very diplomatically by downplaying the importance of the awards ceremony.
On Macklemore’s win:
“It’s well deserved; he did what he did, man,” Kendrick said. “He went out there and hustled and grinded. Everything happens for a reason; the universe comes back around, that’s how it go.”
On Hip-Hop being undervalued at the Grammys:
“I definitely feel like they should always have more of the culture up in there, for sure, because we definitely stand out just like any other genre,” Kendrick said when asked if he thought the Grammys undervalued hip-hop. “We part of the world. We part of the movement. So I think any awards, including the Grammys, should always push for more hip-hop because it’s music as a whole, it’s not just splitting different regions. Everything moves as far as sound and vibrations, and that’s how it goes. And we are a part of that.”
Kendrick understands how the Grammys function, just like we all do even though we act surprised, flabbergasted and outraged over the notion that an artist who made a lyrically sharp, heady album couldn’t win against the likes of an artist who made music that radio devoured. Unless Kendrick decides to change his content and approach in order to chase down a Grammy – that Mary J. Blige bonus cut is an example why he shouldn’t so I pray he doesn’t – he shouldn’t prepare an acceptance speech to be used any time soon. I don’t want Kendrick to apologize for that.
And I don’t want to hear Macklemore apologizing either.
I’m going to take you there real quick.
Nobody – well, most people at least – wants to acknowledge that Mack and Ryan made a strong album. In fact, I’d bet a cool $5 that most people criticizing them haven’t even heard The Heist outside of what made it to radio. I also found it f***** laughable that some Grammy voters were unsure if it even qualified as rap just because it was insanely popular. Unless they heard a different version of than I do, the sh*t sure as hell was rap to me.
I’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t discuss it much publicly, but internally we had multiple convos on The Heist, who Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were and guessed what kind of impact the LP would have. Beware wrote a really lengthy piece praising the project but I think it flew under the radar. For my personal tastes, nah, I wasn’t necessarily campaigning for it. Still, I wasn’t oblivious to the appeal it held over mainstream audiences. Similar to Chance’s progression from 10 Day to Acid Rap, Ryan and Mack finally found their sound on their 2012 release and it wasn’t something that happened on a whim.
Those who know Macklemore’s story know that he didn’t achieve any form of overnight success. I won’t waste time here droning on with info you’ve heard before. Instead, I’ll share a personal take on how I know Mack’s story and have managed to follow his career from afar.
Back in, maybe January or February of 2011, me, eskay and the homie Berk from Knuckle Rumbler were involved in conversations for our annual Bootleggers and Tastemakers stage at SXSW. As we were filling in the lineup, Berk mentioned a promoter friend of his was trying to land a performance slot for Macklemore – again, Ryan Lewis wasn’t even mentioned lol – and Berk wanted to know if eskay and I were cool with it.
At the time, I knew Macklemore was a white dude from Seattle and he had a track called “Wing$.” I’ve been around the block a few times so I can sniff out a cat who likes kicks versus one of those dudes who loves kicks. There’s a difference, trust me. Mack passed the sniff test.
We added him to the bill, giving him an early slot opening up for, you guessed, Kendrick Lamar*, amongst others. I can’t even remember if I saw his set or not since I was either outside taking one of a million smoke breaks or running around trying to keep the show running smoothly. I do recall either MZ or TC telling me that he nailed his little 15 minutes on stage.
Regardless, Mack’s earned his stripes so he shouldn’t have to say sorry for making the music he wants to make. And whether we accept it, rap music is popular music at this point. I remember years and years, artist upon artist once complaining about being accepted and allowed to tell our stories to a larger audience**. Well, we can’t have it both ways where we want to be included but want to bow out if we don’t like how the dance card looks.
Or, maybe we can since Macklemore and Kendrick are part of a larger conversation that isn’t sequestered off in the back of a classroom, at the barbershop, etc. Everybody knows who our artists are and they’re making quality music that encapsulates our story. The spotlight is on our culture now, more than maybe ever before. Now it’ll be interesting to see what we do with it.
* — As long as I live I will never forget when I saw Kendrick for the first time at Bootleggers. He absolutely shut the building down.
** — Think about it – Fox News dug up his old tweets to put him on blast. How many rappers have made similar statements? Even better, how many of us have said the same things about Bush and the Towers though? He’s reppin’ for us, yo.