Rapper Macklemore joined the Fairfield University community on Thursday, Jan. 28 by engaging in a webinar hosted by Fairfield students. Kaitlyn Drake ‘23 moderated the event with the assistance of panelists Jared DiPietro ‘22 and Eden Nibbelink ‘21, who took turns asking the rapper questions submitted by the student body about both his career and views on social justice issues.
Over 300 participants logged into the webinar, and a handful of students even participated in a virtual meet-and-greet afterwards.
As Macklemore sat in his studio, the grammy-winning artist, who rocked a stylish University of Notre Dame snapback and a somehow subtle cheetah vest, did not withhold anything in the conversation. His introspective commentary touched on a lot of existential and philosophical topics, but there was plenty of wit and humor to compliment the more serious insights.
“It was a truly unique experience to be able to speak candidly with someone who is so successful in their industry and passionate about their work in a creative space,” said Emily Carra ‘24, an attendee of both the webinar and the meet-and-greet. “Macklemore fielded questions from our community insightfully and thoroughly, and I feel that I learned a lot about him as both an artist and a person.”
The tidbits about his creative process included a list of artists that inspire him, how he goes about selecting collaborators and the trickiness of commercialized music.
“Human beings can tell immediately when something sounds inauthentic and forced,” noted the rapper. “The general public is a lot smarter than labels give them credit for.”
“He definitely stuck out as an individual who values following one’s own unique, creative mind, and not just cashing in or following what is trendy, but really pushing boundaries to craft something great,” observed Pedro Garcia ‘24.
While Macklemore encouraged those in attendance to pursue their dreams and stay true to themselves, he also acknowledged the temptations of conforming to popular, successful trends. This mentality connected to his comments on selfhood and how he incorporates service into his everyday life.
“The secret of life is to serve others, and it keeps me from insanity,” declared Macklemore. “It keeps me outside myself. It’s right under our nose, but it requires work to go against that internal thing that’s me-me-me.”
The struggles of addiction, as well as all the burdens that come with fame, plagued Macklemore when he first reached success. This struggle is something he spoke about in its own right, but the rapper learned a lot of lessons from this period, which are applicable to life in general.
“When you become grateful for everything, even the little things, life becomes a lot more manageable and more enjoyable,” said Macklemore.
“Macklemore was way more vulnerable than I thought he would be with us,” said Drake. “I was so grateful that we got to deep dive into racism, white privilege, mental health and just being present in life.”
As a white artist who openly acknowledges benefitting from a system and country designed to favor people of his likeness, Macklemore emphasized the importance of uplifting Black, Indigenous and all voices of color. His platform allows him to reach a wide audience, but he insisted that private conversations also hold immense value in the fight against racial injustice.
“We are so afraid, I am speaking from experience, to speak up and say something, to do it wrong, to say something publicly and make a mistake,” noted Macklemore. “It’s okay for the reaction to not be perfect. It’s okay to just be angry.”
Financially supporting black-owned organizations and having difficult conversations serve as two of the ways that Macklemore said everyone can work against racial injustice. His own discovery of his white privilege occurred around 2002, and this realization sparked him to do lots of reading and deeper reflection on the reality that people all around him have been suffering because of their skin color.
“Hip-hop comes from oppression. It’s lineage stems from a struggle that I knew nothing about, that I had never experienced firsthand,” remarked Macklemore.
His well-known song, “White Privilege,” touches on this very subject, and Macklemore actually wrote parts of this song years apart from one other.
“I need to pay homage to the people that came before me and make sure I understand my place in the culture, and my place is a conversation,” stated Macklemore. “White people’s place in the culture will always be a conversation.”
Overall, Fairfield students had very positive reactions to this conversation.
“He truly seems like someone who wants to do his part in making change, specifically with the systematic mistreatment of black people in America. It was great seeing someone do his absolute best to be a positive influence using his unique platform,” remarked Garcia.
The message seemed as relevant as ever, and this focus on uplifting others really resonated with the audience.
“He was authentic in what he said and how he said it, and it was so important for him to come onto a pretty conservative campus to speak about inequality and our role, as a predominantly white campus, in it,” commented Drake. “I could tell he puts a lot of heart into his activism, and that is exactly what we need right now.”
*Kaitlyn Drake ‘23 is a staff writer for the Mirror.