There was collective déjà vu felt when news broke this year that Eminem’s latest album contained gay slurs and lyrics of violence directed toward LGBTs. But there was something different this time, compared to 1999, when Em’s first gay-baiting album pissed us off: A rapper, just as popular, preached the opposite sentiment on radio stations across the country.
“Same Love,” the fourth single from Seattle artist Macklemore, landed on the Billboard Hot 100 in February, eventually ascending to number 11 in August and number 2 on the Rap Chart in July. The song didn't make waves just in the U.S., but charted from New Zealand to Denmark. “Same Love,” which featured lesbian singer Mary Lambert, wasn’t a vague testament to loving everyone, but a personal declaration of support for gays and an indictment of right-wing activists, mean-spirited online commenters, the term “that’s so gay,” and “America the Brave,” which “still fears what we don't know.”
Macklemore, real name Ben Haggerty, wrote the song in 2012 in support of Washington State’s proposed, and eventually passed, marriage equality law. He grew up with two gay uncles in the Seattle gayborhood of Capitol Hill, which made it hard for him to reconcile the ingrained homophobia of hip-hop. Even without his embrace of LGBT equality, Macklemore was always an unlikely rap star: The single that propelled him to stardom, “Thrift Shop,” was about rejecting the culture of consumerism so embraced by his peers. The fact that “Thrift Shop” is one of the most ubiquitous songs of the decade underscores the enormous influence of Macklemore’s messages, including that of “Same Love.”
But Macklemore didn’t just release “Same Love” in a vacuum; he performed it everywhere from The Colbert Report to the Video Music Awards, gave interviews about its impetus, donated proceeds to Music for Marriage Equality, and made an equally heartfelt video. While we likely have to endure Eminem for a few more years, Macklemore is our musical future.