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Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - Rap Stars or Fine Young Troubadours?

February 27, 2014

by Ann VerWiebe, for FolkAlley.com

As I was live tweeting the Grammy Award ceremonies, I couldn't help but notice that the most-folkie song on the mainstage came courtesy of rapper Macklemore and his big hit Same Love. You may not know the duo, but they won multiple Grammys and their songs are topping the charts. There is a standing argument that rap is the new folk - a genre that relies on personal observation and reflection on real-world situations. But, there's something extra about Same Love that builds on that premise.

If you haven't heard the song, it's basically a message rap supporting same-sex marriage. Macklemore, who is straight, has been interviewed as saying that he originally wanted to write the song from a gay person's perspective, but his musical partner, Ryan Lewis, convinced him to tell his own story to add to the authenticity of the lyrics. A lot of press covered the mass wedding that took place at the Grammys during his performance, but while it was obviously a stunt, the event illustrated the truth of marriage equality in the U.S. - like snowflakes, no two couplings are truly alike.


And, isn't truth at the core of contemporary folk music? When Pete Seeger died, I was grateful that the sad event could have a positive effect as we were once more reminded how powerful purpose-driven music can be. One of the reasons folk music became the music of a generation in the '60s was its ability to add power to the protests as it brought like-minded people together in a cause. As folk grew in popularity, the songs were able to reach out into the mainstream and work their subtle magic in offering the world a different point of view.

Gay marriage has been a controversial topic and discussions surrounding its legality often become divisive. But, aren't the best conversations strongly felt? Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' Same Love takes hold of the best traditions of folk activism and moves the music to the mainstage to expose their message to the largest audience. In 40 years, will this be a watershed moment in folk music?

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at February 27, 2014 3:49 PM


Comments

I think in it's early days it was a new form of folk music. Kids rigging turntables and old records to create music was an inventive way to create music. Public Enemy, Arrested Development, and Michael Franti's Disposible Heros of hiphopracy were groups that fit into the role of spokespeople for social change advocacy. I am glad that this returning to rap. It is a powerful genre that can help to inform it's listeners. I was saddened that it had become what we think of it today. More power to those who use it to promote human rights.

Posted by: Charlie Mosbrook at February 28, 2014 12:32 PM

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