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Queer Rapper Le1f Speaks Out Against Macklemore: Why “Same Love” Doesn’t Speak for the LGBT Community

Here’s a confession: before writing this paragraph, I hadn’t listened to “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. It’s not because I make a habit out of avoiding pop music; rather, the notion of a straight white man rapping about how it’s OK to be gay didn’t seem like the kind of thing for me. I mean, I know it’s OK to be gay. Most of those I know in the LGBT community know it’s ok to be queer, too. And here’s a surprise for the heterosexual world: most of us didn’t learn from you anything about understanding and appreciating ourselves. “Same Love” is Acceptance for Dummies, essentially, a song for those who need to be told by one of their own that those who are different from them are human beings, too, and deserving of the same respect as anyone else. 

This is how marginalized groups gain acceptance from the mainstream, apparently. It’s not all of the work that we do — it’s the work of the majority that brings awareness and understanding. Of course, that is patently untrue, and it’s certainly infuriating to see those who fit into the status quo — that is, straight white guys — be rewarded and pat themselves on the back for accomplishing something that those of us who have felt alienated, ridiculed, and discriminated against have worked so damn hard on for years.

When Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won two Video Music Awards on Sunday, one for Best Hip-Hop Video and one for Best Video With a Social Message (the fact that such a category exists is probably part of the problem here, by the way), most of the gay men I know reacted with a collective “meh.” So I was excited to see queer hip-hop artist Le1f openly tweeting his distaste for Macklemore yesterday morning, which was perhaps eclipsed by Miley Mania. Here’s a sampling of Le1f’s thoughts:

le1f 1 le1f 2 le1f 3 le1f 4 le1f 5

After all of this post-VMAs debate about cultural appropriation and when it is and isn’t OK, when will we get the think pieces about the irony of a straight rapper complaining, in a very popular song, about how the hip-hop community is generally homophobic when there are queer artists making very similar (and, in my opinion, better) music? Is it because the people who are listening to this kind of music would rather hear a song with a “social message” come from one of their own? It certainly makes it more convenient when you can feel all fuzzy and warm because there’s someone like you spreading watered-down positivity rather than some Other suggesting that your passive acceptance isn’t really doing much to change a damn thing.

It’s complicated, obviously. Sure, we need people like Macklemore to promote our causes, because there are unfortunately a lot of people who need to be validated by someone who looks and acts like them. So I can concede that the success of “Same Love” is a positive thing, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. When there are queer artists striving to make interesting and thoughtful art that represents them and their ideals, feelings, and experiences, it’s a true shame to watch what feels like a calculated bid for cheery, yet benign, mass appeal outshine the artists whose community these more popular acts are apparently representing.

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