There is only so much room in this world for commentary on Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar.
I have Macklemore fatigue. You probably have Macklemore fatigue. The summary of a world of think-pieces is this: Kendrick Lamar is considered one of the best current hip-hop artists. He was nominated for seven Grammys but didn’t win any. Macklemore, an artist with questionable hip-hop cred, beat Kendrick for Best Rap Album. The Grammys are wildly out-of-touch and meaningless. Macklemore told Kendrick he was “robbed” by text, then Instagrammed it; that move was sort of self-serving.
If you want a full analysis, just google their names and read up. There are a lot of issues of race and the value of the Grammys to dig into. Since this column is running five days after the award ceremony, giving others plenty of time to rant, I’ll move on. (Just know: I am not OK with this nonsense.)
Instead, the following is a reminder of why you should love and respect Kendrick in the first place.
Underneath one of the aforementioned think pieces, someone commented that Macklemore should win over the violence and misogyny of other rappers. This person has never heard Kendrick Lamar.
Violence is inescapable on Kendrick’s impressive (award-worthy) good kid, M.A.A.D. city. That’s because violence was inescapable in his Compton upbringing. He’s not glorifying it. He’s not even casually enabling a shrugging acceptance of it. The record is documenting the reality and lamenting it.
And, yes, he spends a significant portion of “Backseat Freestyle” repeating, “damn, I got bitches,” but even that is meant to paint a picture. The album tells a coming-of-age story, ostensibly his, in an extremely troubled place. Those lyrics are a reflection of teenage bravado.
Connecting a lot of the tracks are voicemails from Kendrick’s mom — voices of reason and goodness. The album cover? A family photo.
Before you brush Kendrick off, know what this record is about.
Know, too, that Kendrick is a fantastic rapper and producer. Pitchfork (which gave the record a 9.5 and “best new album” designation) summed that up nicely: “But the miracle of this album is how it ties straightforward rap thrills — dazzling lyrical virtuosity, slick quotables, pulverizing beats, star turns from guest rappers — directly to its narrative.”
It’s OK to enjoy Macklemore. He makes fun music, despite the issue of white straight men making traditionally black music to speak up for LGBT rights. The problem with his Grammy win is that Kendrick is just plain better. It’s objective. You can prefer one artist to the other, but that doesn’t change. I believe that Macklemore’s own admission of this was honest, even if it felt grossly self-serving for him to immediately share it with the world.
Keep loving Macklemore, Boulder. But if you haven’t listened to good kid, M.A.A.D. city, do yourself a favor. (And don’t get me started on the Kanye omissions.)
Contact Ashley Dean at 303-473-1109. On Twitter: twitter.com/AshaleyJill.