Perhaps my Lenten discipline should be to stop paying attention to hip-hop artists and their drama. It is always so discouraging. But then that discouragement motivates me to be on a real mission with Jesus. If nothing else the drama excites to me to offer something real about which to Tweet. The endless narcissism helps me check my own tendency to do that, a plague that make American leaders face.
Exhibit A is the totally weird interaction between Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar. In 2012, Macklemore released The Heist which one Best Rap Album at the Grammy’s. Apparently, it’s common knowledge that Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is the best rap record of the year (maybe the best record actually). I think I agree. But it’s the Grammy’s. Like we like to say around here, they’re whatever.
Apparently, Macklemore, for whatever reason, felt bad about winning the award. I don’t know why. Maybe he thought it was racist. But it’s certainly that he was oddly ashamed.
That night, Macklemore apologized to Kendrick Lamar after winning his Grammy. How do I know? Well, then he Instagrammed his text saying how he wasn’t good enough or something like that and that Kendrick deserved it. Celebrities do weird things, right? Next year Macklemore might come out and say he’s been too hard on himself and all of us would agree since he just puked his emotions on Instagram. I appreciate Drake’s response.
“I was like, ‘You won. Why are you posting your text message? Just chill. Take your W, and if you feel you didn’t deserve it, go get better—make better music… It felt cheap. It didn’t feel genuine. Why do that? Why feel guilt?”
I can feel Macklemore’s anxiety—he’s white and he beat all of the other black rappers. He might get criticized and everyone might blog the next day about it. So he’s gonna get ahead of everyone. But at the root of his problem is a self-image issue. Come on, dude, Drake’s right, take the W and do better next time if you didn’t think you deserved it this time. What does poor Kendrick Lamar have to do with that? Maybe he wasn’t even thinking of that.
Bringing our anxiety to someone because we are worried about how they are going to respond ultimately guarantees that our worst nightmare will become true. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Apparently, Kendrick Lamar thought Macklemore’s win was “well-deserved.” Of course, he also thought race was a factor—as do I. That’s all I could think about when I pondered the circumstance. Of course, Macklemore apologizing just makes him look nuts and doesn’t really help us critically think about the Grammy voters and their prejudice.
Drake, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. I think his honesty about Macklemore’s bizarrely public text was right on. Macklemore is being disingenuous—almost like an angry boyfriend tweeting about something because his girlfriend didn’t get back to him right away. Keep yourself humble, bro.
Drake isn’t an expert at this, naturally. He also experienced a degree of racism when Rolling Stone passed over his cover in favor of Philip Seymour Hoffman, after the late actor died because of a heroine overdose. In some sense, it’s reasonable that Rolling Stone would do that, but there’s more to the story. Drake’s reaction seems wrong, right? He calls the “press evil,” saying he’s “done doing interviews for magazines.” He adds an “RIP To Phillip [sic] Seymour Hoffman.” But it all comes off insensitive.
Tough one for Drake. He reacts and seems insensitive to boot. He actually apologizes a day later. Questlove brings his wisdom to the situation to explain why an artist might react that way, especially a black, hip-hop artist. His best tweet:
well, @ERZEN PSH deserves tribute. but to not postpone Drakes to a later issue is criminal. i doubt a non hip hop act would get passed over
— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) February 14, 2014
For me that ends the discussion. It looks narcissistic, and it might be, but there’s more to the story. Drake is right, the press is evil. But it’s also racist and for me, just because Drake sounds like a moron, doesn’t mean that he isn’t a victim of oppression—even with ‘half a million for a show’ and a $35 million net worth.
The story as the press reports it isn’t always the truth. I’m not sure how the stars see it is either. But it’s worth it to think about it more than once.
I suppose I think that all of this could be a narcissistic cover-up: Macklemore, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar might be more image conscious than honest. But nothing is more obvious than this: what’s with Kanye West and wearing his Margiela masks for half of his set during the Yeezus tour? Say what you will about Drake’s narcissistic response to Rolling Stone cover, or even Macklemore trying to appear more apologetic then he should, but wearing a mask? That is the definition of image-consciousness. Art is supposed to be about “self-expression,” (I think it’s more about expressing God and the image of Him in which we were created), but for Kanye West it seems to be all about just portraying the right image.
I appreciate the moments where ‘Ye is humanized, last year’s Kimmel feud is an example, and even his interview with Seth Meyers (which includes a particularly fun SNL sketch that Kanye made up) made me see some of his normalness too. And to me, from my favorite artists, that might be all I can ask.
It’s amazing to watch them fumble in their own humanity, so image focused and wondering what the paparazzi will find or what the latest blogger will criticize them for. It’s unfair (but they did sign up for it), so I want to even extend them a little of Jesus’ grace. I want to learn from them. And I want to help other people get that grace too. We might think we are way different than those stars and would never fall into the same traps, but I wonder if sometimes we are as guilty as they are. Not wanting to own our success; not realizing that our friends are victims of racism; or even not wanting to show our real faces.