If you are "wack," you probably think that the National Review doesn't know about rap music. You're wrong. It knows street culture. So, this week it had the following opinions on rap music: 1) Macklemore won Grammys because he is a liberal, and 2) Macklemore hates America. This is actually progress.
If you read literally any other article on the web since Sunday, you read that Macklemore (and his musical partner Ryan Lewis) shouldn't have won the Grammy for Best Rap Performance. Here is a Google search for "Kendrick robbed," which picks up the thread of the conversation: the artist Kendrick Lamar should have won, because Lamar is great and / or because Macklemore sucks. But the National Review's Betsy Woodruff, whose articles tend to focus more on Senate machinations than shaming Macklemore, has a different angle.
Macklemore "is not as good at rapping as fellow white rapper Eminem, but people still LOVE him," Woodruff writes. "Macklemore first burrowed his hip little way into the public consciousness with 'Thrift Shop,' a song about, well, how cool it is to buy clothing at thrift shops," she continues, with an eyebrow raised. Macklemore's ACLU PSA was "the kind of smarmy, willed naïveté that you can’t even get mad about because it’s so bland-facedly dumb." The very popular song "Same Love," about same-sex relationships, is "very, very preachy — essentially, the highwater mark … of politically correct, intellectually lazy hipster sanctimoniousness." She makes the argument that Lamar's much more raw album was better, which isn't exactly intellectually rigorous, but the point is this: Macklemore won because "the Grammys put politics before music." Also, she didn't like Ryan Lewis' outfit.
911...bush knocked down the towers— Macklemore (@macklemore) September 18, 2009
Not to play "c'mon, kids" or anything, but: C'mon, kids. The first "update" to BuzzFeed's post offers that maybe the reference is to a 2005 Immortal Technique track in which the rapper says, "Bush knocked down the towers." It's a pretty classic hip-hop track, the most popular (but not only!) version of which has Mos Def on the hook. One YouTube version of that version has been up for more than eight years. BuzzFeed missed that. Cooke missed it too — of course.
Both sites also picked up on other anti-Bush messages from an old Macklemore album. For example: "Kill those f****** Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives." Oops, nope. That was the line NRO got mad about at the end of 2012 when someone found it on an old Psy "Gangnam Style" Oppa song. What Macklemore said was this: "And y’all still think it was Bin Laden / When it was us and the Masons, plottin on oil profits." If Macklemore actually thinks the Masons did 9/11 for oil profits, the proper response is pity, not anger or dismissal. Regardless? These are nine-year-old lyrics by a musical artist. Even if he were running for president this is borderline important. (Some blamed the Psy outrage, by the way, on a lousy translation.)
This is why it is always helpful to actually know what the hell you're talking about before talking about things. (Not that we are any of us immune!) But a similar lack of familiarity with urban culture offered one of the highwater marks in NRO's history. Jonah Goldberg, two years ago last week, made a correction to his "observations" about one of the Republican primary debates. Mitt Romney didn't say "shock caller," it seems!
[I]t turns out that the term is “shot caller” as in “he who calls the shots.” I’ve always heard “shock caller” when watching such shows as Sons of Anarchy. … Before I wrote that last night I even googled “gang” and “shock collar.”
That's a terrific paragraph for a lot of reasons.
The first mention of hip-hop in the context of the Grammys I could find on the NRO website, by the way, was this, from 2002.
Country superstar Alan Jackson's "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning" was a moving elegy to September 11. It also probably carries the distinction of being one of the few hit contemporary songs (outside of gang-banging rap) that contains a lyric about reaching for a gun.
In the intervening 12 years, the site has moved from why-do-kids-like-this-gangster-rap-garbage to the-Grammys-should-have-given-the-award-to-the-hardcore-rapper-instead-of-the-liberal. NRO may have missed some rap history on the way, but at least it's progress.
Correction: Woodruff points out that she was fine with Macklemore's outfit, but that Lewis' houndstooth get-up was not good. We regret the error.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.