Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore&Lewis


“It’s well deserved; he did what he did, man,” Kendrick said. “He went out there and hustled and grinded. Everything happens for a reason; the universe comes back around, that’s how it go.

I definitely feel like [the Grammys] should always have more of the culture up in there, for sure, because we definitely stand out just like any other genre,  we part of the world. We part of the movement. So I think any awards, including the Grammys, should always push for more hip-hop because it’s music as a whole, it’s not just splitting different regions. Everything moves as far as sound and vibrations, and that’s how it goes. And we are a part of that.”



You have to love quiet inroads.

The refreshingly respectful post-Grammy exchange between Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore&Lewis hopefully signals the beginning of the end of the Pat Boone approach and the dawn of the Justin Timberlake era, where white pop artists, critics and audiences at least acknowledge African American musical influences (where relevant – which is almost all the time in pop music, but for the sake of argument).

Boone was a good rock and roll artist. He did what artists do. He made the black music vernacular his own. Because of racism, he benefitted much more than those black artists to whom he was indebted. But his refusal to honestly and fully acknowledge those musical roots and seeming disrespect for black culture remain hugely problematic reminders of cultural appropriation.

cul-tu-ral ap-pro-pri-ation:: where someone else gets props and gets paid for your blood, sweat and tears

This tradition continues cheerfully today with singers like Robin Thicke and his multiple “homages” to Marvin Gaye.

So when Justin Timberlake openly thanks gives props to the Memphis soul tradition, I cheer. And seeing Mackelmore voluntarily walking a tightrope to implicitly concede the difficulties inherent in white privilege? Encouraging.

It does make me wonder why more African American artists aren’t celebrating their roots and why older African American artists (cf. Betty Lavette) can count on white hipsters more than powerful black and brown A&R executives.

At the same time, I’ve seen black documentary filmmakers struggle to make projects with black subjects where white filmmakers seem to have a much easier time. Cf. Could a black filmmaker have made Central Park Five with as much ease as Sarah Burns? Is it a question of backing? Credibility?

If we depend on others to uphold our heritage and legacy, we are in more trouble than we thought or bargained for.


About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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