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Macklemore proves hip hop can carry positive message

There’s no denying that Macklemore is one of hip hop’s most prominent musicians. His 2012 album, The Heist, produced by his partner, Ryan Lewis, has sold more than 1,042,000 copies as of September. Two singles from the album – “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” – reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. His popularity, especially among teenagers and young adults, is stunning.

But Macklemore is no ordinary rapper. At least some of his success can be attributed to the powerful lyrics that he uses as the backbone of his songs. These lyrics often address current social issues instead of the usual pit of “girls, drugs and money” that so many other artists fall into. He refuses to be caught up in the trappings of sexism and violence that have gained rap music so much negative press.

Topics he covers include consumerism, gay rights, racism, drug abuse and gender roles. In his popular song, “Same Love,” Macklemore rails against homophobia by comparing it to other minority struggles, saying: “It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion, gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment . . . it’s human right for everybody, there is no difference!” In perhaps his most moving song, “Otherside,” he shares personal experiences with drug abuse while recognizing the influence role models have on impressionable kids: “There’s no way to glorify this pavement, Syrup, Percocet, and an eighth a day will leave you broke, depressed and emotionally vacant. Despite how Lil Wayne lives, It’s not conducive to being creative.”

In order for people to appreciate and understand these lyrics, they need to move past misconceptions about rap music they may have. In my own family, there have been numerous occasions in which my parents have told me, “Rap rots out your brain.”

This is a blind judgment on their part, not having taken the opportunity to truly hear what artists such as Macklemore are talking about. My sister used to share my parents’ opinion until I introduced her to The Heist. Now she too is a fan who enjoys his music and the influential messages behind it.

It is always important to understand a topic before making a judgment about it. Stereotyping only leads to negativity, stigma and close-mindedness. This extends even to music, where rap has been pigeonholed as glorifying violence, drugs and prejudice. Macklemore is breaking out of this box by showing people that mainstream rap can be positive too, just like any other genre. But it is impossible for people to hear this message if their ears are shut.

(Samantha Cave is a future anthropology major hoping to study indigenous peoples in East Africa. A senior at Concord High School, she has applied to several universities outside New Hampshire.)

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