Macklemore tells MTV he'll tell 'grandchildren' about VMAs: The family side of hip-hop
Macklemore wants to tell his grandchildren he won an MTV video music award. Surprised he's already planning an extended family? Don't be. Rappers have always been fond of family.
Hip hop artist Macklemore raised some eyebrows when he spoke to MTV about his six nominations for the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year for the mega-popular track "Thrift Shop."Skip to next paragraph
James Norton got his professional start at the Monitor as an online news producer, before moving over to edit international news during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since leaving the Monitor in 2004, he has worked as a radio producer, author, and food blogger.
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Macklemore said he was particularly excited about potentially winning Video of the Year. It would, he said, be a story to tell the grandkids.
The line caught some observers off guard, but he was tapping into one of the great thematic wellsprings of hip hop – the motif of family, something that goes back to the genre's roots. Since the beginning of the art form, references to parents and siblings were used as a way to connect to the all-important theme of where you're from and what that means.
Here's Jay Z rapping on "December 4th":
"I was conceived by Gloria Carter and Adnes Reeves
Who made love under the sycamore tree
Which makes me
A more sicker M.C. and my momma would claim
At 10 pounds, when I was born I didn't give her no pain
Although through the years I gave her her fair share...."
Contrary to public perceptions that the genre is a collection of throw-away references to drugs and guns, rap has a rich connection not just to family, but to questions of social justice, the apparently arbitrary nature of life and death, and the ongoing struggle between the haves and the have-nots.
If you're a parent and you don't know rap, you're missing out – not just on a way to connect with your kids, but on one of the world's most vibrant, relevant, and powerful art forms.
Disclosure: a child of the early 80s, I grew up listening to Run-D.M.C. (particularly "Raising Hell") and the Beastie Boys. Their shared penchant for sharp, wry, blunt, New York City-centric music has guided my listening choices ever since.
I'm no rap scholar (and yes, they exist), but I know enough to observe that the popular perception of rap is tethered to the darkest stuff available –nihilistic so-called "gangsta" rap that glorifies violence, drugs, and sex ... which is to say, three of the most potent and perennial topics in popular music since the Rolling Stones wrote "Let’s Spend the Night Together" and the Beatles penned "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer."