From the Archives: Dear Mr. Local White Rapper (2016)
(...and other white individuals who benefit from hip-hop culture.)
For starters, I love you guys (and girls).
I’m grateful for the diversity and fresh perspectives that many of you bring to the hip-hop genre. From the great lyricism of Eminem, to the blooming evolution in musicality of Mac Miller, to the vibrant bounce and grittiness of Machine Gun Kelly, it’s amazing to see how the white spectrum of the genre influences and makes strides in pushing the culture forward artistically. Nevertheless, while I love many of your artistic contributions to the culture, I’m a bit concerned about your sensitivity to our (read: black) social matters.
I’m pretty sure that by now you are aware that hip-hop was invented by black people and is a product of black culture. However, I’ll spare you that rich history lesson here, encourage you to study its origins another time, and get straight to the point: your voice is needed. Whether you realize it or not, you have influence, and you wield the ability to sway the opinions and thoughts of many.
We live in an era in which music, specifically hip-hop music, is thriving and impacting the world. From commercials made for mainstream brands, movie soundtracks and entire other genres of music, hip-hop’s artistic imprint is spreading like wildfire. Just look at Marvel Comics. Have you seen the variant hip-hop covers they’ve been doing for various heroes in the Marvel universe? Hip-Hop is universal. It now has the ability to speak as loud as any politician, scientist, or intellectual on this planet.
Macklemore posed a great question in his song, “White Privilege II”: “We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?” As a black man within the culture, I ask you the same question: When will you use the power of your white privilege and artistic abilities and cry out with us? Or will you continue to take from us, benefit from our culture, whether it’s on a large or small scale, and remain silent? While I believe that some instances of silence are not betrayal, I also believe you can say something that shows you care.
I get it. Some of you don’t know what to say. Police brutality (terrorism) is a very sensitive subject and you may not know how to “cry out for us.” But you have a conscience. Technology has done us a deed and given us the ability to visually record what’s happening and display it to the world. I know you see the injustice. I know some of you who don’t speak do care. Sometimes, it’s as easy as saying, “I see the mistreatment, I see black lives being wrongfully taken, I acknowledge my white privilege and I’m sorry that his is happening to you all. It’s wrong.” Compose tweets, write a blog, have a Facebook or Periscope chat with your fans, march with us…do something! Make it clear to us you care. Use your voice to spur your white fans and friends to action against injustice.
I get it. Some of you don’t know what to say. Police brutality (terrorism) is a very sensitive subject and you may not know how to “cry out for us.” But you have a conscience.
The longer you wait to say anything, the more it makes me think you don’t really give a shit. It makes me think that you’re more concerned about losing your fan base and hurting your pockets than our social matters — more than black lives being wrongfully taken. And I’m pretty sure some of my other black peers probably think the same, too. It’s very frustrating to watch you wield your power only for your own good, failing to acknowledge the culture that has given you much of that power, when others are dying from acts of terrorism in our own country. So I ask again, will you use your influence to speak up for us?
A concerned black artist,
Note: I would like to say thank you for all of those in the local area and beyond who take the time to speak up for black people when necessary. Your efforts do not go unnoticed. This letter is addressed to local white rappers because all progress (universally) starts at home.