Probably the least surprising aspect of the Grammy nominations announcement was the fact that rapper Macklemore is well on his way to a huge night at America’s biggest music awards show. It’s been clear for months that Macklemore was headed towards the Grammys – he and producer/collaborator Ryan Lewis were nominated for seven awards including best new artist, record of the year and album of the year.

At his core, Macklemore is a rapper, and a pretty good one at that. He’s also a hard-working MC who has hustled for close to a decade to get where he is now, setting the stage for wildly successful (and rich) independent musicians going forward. However, thanks to anti-hip-hop posturing and shallow-minded generalizations, Macklemore is being used as an example of ground-breaking “civility” for rap. A pseudo-gentrification that undermines decades of artistry hip-hop culture has provided.

We’re all familiar with the stigma surrounding rap music: misogyny, homophobia, violence and drugs. Young African-American men perpetuating the violent communities they grew up in by leading other African-American men to commit crimes they hear in lyrics. And, naturally, there is always a sector of the genre that offers nothing remotely positive to society, but hip-hop is a vast genre. For every Chief Keef promising to raise the murder rate with his new album, there’s a thoughtful artist like Dee-1 donating his video budget to feed the homeless.

However, some are using the Macklemore story to paint a narrative of one singular example of rap’s potential for positivity in a sea of endlessly destructive music. Take, for example, this article from the Dallas News website with the headline “Macklemore shows hip-hop doesn’t need to be homophobic, violent in Dallas concert.” As well as the opening paragraph:

What if someone like Macklemore had hit it big 25 years ago? Would hip-hop have still become a genre marked by homophobia, violence and a mind-numbing obsession with weed, booze and bling? Probably. But watching Macklemore thrill 5,000 screaming fans Saturday night at Verizon Theatre left you hopeful that his kinder, more cerebral brand of hip-hop will flourish in the future.
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