Macklemore Explains Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus References in 'White Privilege II'

Kyleen James

The rappers says the lyrics weren't intended as a dis.

Macklemore's latest record "White Privilege II" immediately sent tweets flying, especially after he name-checked Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus. While the Australian rapper issued a response via her own Twitter timeline (among others, like Talib Kweli and Azealia Banks), the Seattle MC tells Rolling Stone that his bars weren't intended as a dis.

"For me, that second verse is unpacking," he says. "It's an unpacking moment of internalized criticism and self-doubt, and 'What have I done,' and letting the criticism infiltrate who I am. 'Why am I insecure at a protest?' And I think that people get put into boxes, and the conversation around cultural appropriation — I was at the forefront of that, rightfully so. And that conversation also included Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea, and that's why their names are on the record."

The Jamila Woods-assisted track — the follow-up to 2005's "White Privilege" off Macklemore's The Language of the World album — was a mental exercise for the white rhyme-slinger, who put his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and his internal self-doubt on wax. 

"It's easier, as a white person, to be silent about racial injustice. It's easier. On paper," he adds. "But it's not easier on the whole, because injustice affects all of us, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. At a certain point, this song might affect sales, this might affect touring, but it doesn't matter if I'm not speaking up — if I'm not pushing myself to speak truth."

While the track was born from a Seattle protest following the 2014 non-indictment of Darren Wilson — the white cop who fatally shot an unarmed black Ferguson teen named Mike Brown — Macklemore also says that a veteran rapper (whose name he kept off the record) inspired him to create "White Privilege II."

"It was a long night. And that ended up getting news coverage. Then I got on the phone with an O.G., whose name I want to keep off the record. A hip-hop artist I'd never talked to before," recalled Macklemore, who sought out criticism from fellow artists, intellectuals and activists for the track.

"He sent me a DM on Twitter and then he called me, and he said, 'I see you, I see what you're doing.' He was very complimentary about the music we've made, and it led into him saying, 'You have a platform, but silence is an action, and right now, you're being silent," he continued. "You're not saying anything about what's going on, and because you're a white rapper you have perspective and an insight into these issues that you need to be speaking about. It's very important that you engage your audience.'"

This story first appeared on Billboard.

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