Across the globe, thousands of people continue to line the streets to protest the unjust killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. Celebrities from all industries are joining the worldwide demonstrations. They’re speaking out in support of Black Lives Matter and eradication of anti-blackness in all spaces. However, those in the hip-hop and rap industry have been especially vocal about their support of BLM. They’ve worked to highlight the effects of racism and police brutality on black people.
Some have made new protest songs that embody their support of the movement. These include Trey Songz’s “220 Riots: How Many Times” and YG’s “FTP” (an updated version of N.W.A.’s 1998 classic). Some have been donating large sums of money to bail funds such as Drake and Kelhani. Others have been spotted marching along in the fight for justice, spreading important messages along the way. Examples of this are rappers Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) and Vic Mensa.
Machine Gun Kelly, a white rapper from Cleveland, has been actively engaging in all of these aforementioned actions in a time when some white rappers stumble to figure out how to support BLM. This is significant. The movement supports the people who gave these white rappers the culture that they profit off of and participate in.
MGK came into prominence after a highly publicized feud with Eminem in 2019. However, MGK has been able to create a platform in which he is able to advocate for fighting racial injustice against black people in addition to creating rap that bends genres and touches on raw topics such as parental abandonment and depression. Rap has long had a fraught history with BLM. Support has been split between more successful rappers and those that Pharrell termed “new blacks.” This term refers to those that choose not to blame non-blacks for the issues that plague the black community.
This choice that some rappers make to sit on the sidelines during times of civil unrest can cause non-black fans to deny the existence of racism altogether. Adding onto this denial, fans like white rappers as long as they don’t make their support of BLM known. Some other white rappers who have only chosen to be partially vocal, such as Eminem. However, MGK has publicly supported the movement since the killing of Michael Brown. With his show of support on various social media platforms and in the streets of LA, the rapper has shown white people both inside and outside of the hip-hop community how to be a true ally.
Here are some principles from MGK’s actions that everyone can use to truly stand in solidarity with the movement:
1. Vocalize your support for BLM across your social media platforms and call out racists when necessary.
Following the death of George Floyd, MGK took to Twitter to denounce white privilege and systemic racism. It was retweeted over 10k times and liked by 44k people. The rapper also shared a video to Instagram on May 29th, imploring everyone to stand with our fellow human beings. He also called out a fan on Twitter who claimed that they were on the way to deleting all of his albums with the quip, “Good, I don’t want your racist money.” MGK is showing artists and fellow white people that BLM is about a fight for the human rights of black people everywhere. He’s making it clear that being anti-racist when famous isn’t only possible, but necessary.
2. Make music and other art that speaks to the times we’re living in and shows your support of political causes.
MGK teamed up with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker to produce a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name of” for Black Lives Matter. Shared via MGK’s Youtube channel, the song quickly became viral. It became one of the highest trending videos on the platform as of June 5th. With the video showing footage of an LA protest that the two artists had attended together the day of recording, the artist speaks out about current events in real time. He captioned the video, “They wrote this song in 1992. It’s been 28 years and every word still applies.” Moreover, the video ends with a message telling its viewers to end systemic racism. MGK is clearly showing his understanding and support of the movement.
Draw or paint pictures of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other victims of police brutality that show their beauty and humanity. Write articles, essays, or poetry that advocates for anti- racism and halting the killing of unarmed black people. Contribute your voice to the movement in whatever way you know best without drowning out black voices. It can all go a long way.
3. Make the movement personal to you and your community.
MGK has always been an ally as it pertains to racial injustice towards black people and other marginalized groups. The rapper shares an adolescent daughter with his ex-girlfriend, a black woman, making the ability of black girls and women to live in safety personally important to him.
In all of his posts, the rapper emphasizes the need to see black people as fully human and equal. He frames the black lives lost to state sanctioned violence as those that are worth mourning and fighting for. He also elevates black joy and accomplishment, shouting out rappers whom he’s proud of and black people he admires. Anyone can do this. Always make sure that all forms of black life is celebrated when addressing stereotypes held by others.
4. Remain a tireless advocate for black lives on your social media and in your daily life.
MGK has been protesting and standing in solidarity with the movement since the protest started and has not let up. In a recent tweet, he shared a video of NYPD police chief Mike O’Meara speaking to reporters calling him “stupid as hell” and stating that he would “let him catch the fade one time” in response. He’s still protesting and calling out racism as he’s working on his newest album “Tickets to My DownFall”. He befriends and hangs out with fellow protestors, portraying himself as someone who is humble despite his fame. Links to organizations that you can donate to and other resources can be seen on his Instagram stories and other social media.
Understand that fighting anti-black racism isn’t a weeklong effort. It takes more than performative allyship to accomplish it in full. Make recurring donations to organizations. Educate yourself and those you associate with as you move through your life. Long-term solidarity leads to long-term changes.
White rappers have long brushed up against a problem of not standing with the black community who gave them the culture that they love. However, in the current times of civil unrest, it’s heartening that a new generation of rappers are changing that. It is time for white people of backgrounds to aid in changing a system that has been created by them. With white rappers like MGK leading the charge, those inside and outside of the hip-hop community will be able to propagate the kinds of change that have long been necessary.
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