During an hour-long conversation, the Seattle rapper was brutally honest with his perspective on racism as a “white person” and being nervous to touch the subject. “For me, as a white rapper, I’m like, how do I participate in this conversation?” he said. “How do I get involved on a level where I’m not co-opting the movement or I’m not making it about me, but also realizing the platform that I have and the reach that I have and doing it in an authentic way?”
He decided that there’s no better way than to just jump right in no matter how tense the dialogue. “White people, we can just turn the TV off when we’re sick of talking abut race,” noted the Grammy winner. “It does not work that way for everybody, and the thing for me is, like, white liberal people wanna be nice. We don’t wanna mess up. We don’t wanna be racist.
“I was talking to somebody and they said silence is an action and it’s my privilege that I can be silent about the issue, and I’m tired of being silent about it because I didn’t want to mess up, didn’t want to offend anybody,” he continued. “But it is so imperative right now that we have this race conversation in America if we’re gonna progress, if we’re gonna move past this.”
From his experience, the 31-year-old said that he's “absolutely” benefited from “white privilege,” especially in music. Skin color allows him to sidestep the stereotypes that follow rappers and crossover into different mainstream lanes. “The privilege that exists in the music industry is just a greater symptom of the privilege in America. This is just a byproduct. People see me, they resonate with me, America is predominantly white … there’s relatability there.”
The discussion moved on to Azealia Banks’s emotional interview with Hot 97, along with Iggy Azalea and the subject of cultural appropriation. Without taking on Azalea specifically, he made a point about artists knowing their positions in either helping or hindering the authenticity of hip hop. “You need to know your place in the culture. Are you contributing or are you taking? Are you using it for your own advantage or are you contributing to the culture? And that's subjective, but I think it's clear who has contributed and who is taking."
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(Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for GQ)