Politics, Love, Religion, and Hip Hop

This piece was originally published on the Kenyon Observer blog on October 15, 2012. In the wake of the ongoing Supreme Court hearing regarding Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, and a lively debate about attacking oppression within those marginalized communities advocating repeal of these laws, Macklemore’s message of inclusion remains as timely as ever. 

Many Kenyon students are familiar with the Seattle-based hip-hop team of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (who played a show at the Horn Gallery a while back). When the independently released track for their newest song, “Same Love” (featuring Mary Lambert) hit YouTube two weeks ago, social media sites flared up as many reacted to the song’s powerful messaging. The video is part of a larger project, Music for Marriage Equality, whose list of supporters includes the Sasquatch! Music Festival, numerous record label executives, and bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam. In the video description section for “Same Love,” Ryan Lewis writes,

We support civil rights, and hope WA State voters will APPROVE REF 74 and legalize marriage equality.

The song provides a split attack on cultural conservatives and the “Religious Right” and the hip-hop industry’s persistent homophobia. The lyrics calls to task those who use religious justifications for bigotry, and invert oft-invoked Scriptural defenses for queer-rights positions by looping a famous quote from 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, Love is kind.” Kenyon graduate and current seminarian at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Jared Ruark ‘11,  recently wrote,

“When your personal beliefs are the justification for a system of laws that has direct bearing on the day to day lives of people completely removed from your personal sphere of influence, that’s no longer a matter of personal belief. That’s a public policy position. So you’ll have to excuse those of us who don’t buy it even a little bit when people who bring their views into the public sphere cry personal religious persecution at the first sign of significant pushback. Religious freedom doesn’t mean you have the right to dictate public policy according to your own personal religious convictions.”

The lyrics of “Same Love” reflect Ruark’s sentiments, and the song’s affiliation with the campaign to pass Washington State Referendum 74 this November further demonstrates them. Macklemore rhymes, “If you preach hate at a service, those words aren’t anointed,” emphasizing that gay rights are a civil rights issue, not one of morality.

The song also calls out the hip hop community for its stagnation and persistent use of derogatory language. This reflection by rapper Brother Ali on homophobia in the hip hop community sheds light on what is too often an overlooked issue in the musical genre. In the song, Ryan Lewis is more explicit:

“If I was gay
I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately
“Man that’s gay”
Gets dropped on the daily
We’ve become so numb to what we’re sayin’
Our culture founded from oppression
Yeah, we don’t have acceptance for ‘em
Call each other faggots
Behind the keys of a message board
A word routed in hate
Yet our genre still ignores it”

Though calling to task two large communities, the ultimate message of “Same Love” is of unity and empowerment. The battle for LGBTQQ equality will be won through the changing of hearts and minds, a tuning of the conscience and a framing of the question as one dedicated to justice and equality for all. Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert say it best:

“And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law’s gonna change us
We have to change us.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s