‘White Privilege II’ is a nine-minute long rumination on race, with Macklemore namechecking white artists who he has been referenced alongside as adopting black culture for success and financial gain. Alongside Azalea and Cyrus, he also mentions Elvis Presley.
The lyrics read: “You’ve exploited and stolen the music, the moment, The magic, the passion, the fashion, you toy with, The culture was never yours to make better, You’re Miley, you’re Elvis, you’re Iggy Azalea
Fake and so plastic, you’ve heisted the magic, You’ve taken the drums and the accent you rapped in, You’re branded hip-hop, it’s so fascist and backwards.”
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Macklemore said that he was as indicative of the issue as the other artists mentioned.
“For me, that second verse is unpacking,” he said. “It’s an unpacking moment of internalised criticism and self-doubt, and ‘What have I done,’ and letting the criticism infiltrate who I am. ‘Why am I insecure at a protest?’ And I think that people get put into boxes, and the conversation around cultural appropriation – I was at the forefront of that, rightfully so. And that conversation also included Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea, and that’s why their names are on the record.”
“This song was a processing-out-loud,” the rapper added. “And it wasn’t, like, ‘How can we beat the critics to the punch? How can we exempt ourselves from this angle, and this angle, and this angle.’ You realise that you’re not going to beat it and you never could. And then it keeps coming back to: It’s not about me. Even though I am the subject, because I’m writing it from my point of view — which I thought was very important — starting the song at a protest, hearing ‘black lives matter’ for the first time, not knowing what to do, moving on to all of this internalised shit in my head that I’m processing, that I’m going through, hearing different people’s perspectives, coming to some sort of conclusion, still asking that question: Will I show up for black lives at the end of this?”
“I had to do all this out loud and come to the conclusion that this is not about me. So if I’m put on blast, critiqued, broken down, questioned — all those things will happen, and they are completely valid. That’s part of the design of the conversation. If there’s a bigger teachable moment through this record, at the expense of me potentially being like, ‘Oh, I should have said this,’ or ‘I shouldn’t have said this,’ or ‘I see where that criticism is coming from,’ that’s OK.”
“The question is, What type of human do I want to be? How do I want to use my platform? Do I want to be safe, under the umbrella of my white privilege? Or do I want to push back and resist? There’s not a right or wrong answer for any human out there, it’s just an individual question, and I think that, for a long time, we were safe. It’s easier, as a white person, to be silent about racial injustice. It’s easier. On paper. But it’s not easier on the whole, because injustice affects all of us, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. At a certain point, this song might affect sales, this might affect touring, but it doesn’t matter if I’m not speaking up – if I’m not pushing myself to speak truth.”
Responding to the Macklemore namecheck, Azalea accused the rapper of being two-faced. “He shouldn’t have spent the last three years having friendly conversations and taking pictures together at events if those were his feelings,” she tweeted.
Hear ‘White Privilege II’ in full below.