Macklemore wants to make one thing very clear: he never meant to cause offense to anyone when he donned a black beard and wig and fake nose during a surprise two-song set at Seattle’s EMP museum on Friday.
After denying claims that his costume at the event was meant to resemble a stereotype of any ethnic person in a tweet earlier in the day, the rapper went a step further Monday night and penned a longer note explaining the genesis of his onstage get-up.
“Family, friends and fans alike who know me well, know that I’m absolutely not the person described in certain headlines today,” wrote Mack of the numerous stories that suggested his attire was meant to mimic a stereotype of a Jewish person. “There is no worse feeling than being misunderstood, especially when people are hurt or offended.”
He went on to explain that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were invited to do a surprise mini-set at their hometown museum on Friday and he thought it would be fun to dress up in a disguise and go incognito at the event, so that he could walk around and mingle with the crowd before surprising them with a few songs. So, he picked up a “bunch” of fake mustaches and beards and packed a wig that was left over from the band’s recent tour of Japan.
“As it turns out the fake noses they sell at the costume store are usually big (my nose didn’t fit most of them),” he said. “So I ended up with a big witch nose. I went with a black beard, because that’s the furthest color from my natural hair. Disguise was the intention. I personally thought I looked very ambiguous in terms of any ’type’ of person. Some people there thought I looked like Ringo [Starr], some Abe Lincoln. If anything I thought I looked like Humpty Hump with a bowl cut.”
Macklemore – who along with partner Ryan Lewis has been a tireless supporter of marriage equality and tolerance thanks to such hits as “Same Love” and advocate work on behalf of people with HIV – said he put on his gear, went to the show, played a pair of songs, took a few pictures and went home after having a great time and surprising everyone.
“I’ve always loved dressing up and have been doing so my entire career,” said the rapper, who often changes into several different outfits during the duo’s shows. “The character I dressed up as on Friday had no intended cultural identity or background. I wasn’t attempting to mimic any culture, nor resemble one. A ’Jewish stereotype’ never crossed my mind.”
After trying to have some fun, he said he was surprised and disappointed when the images of his costume were “sensationalized” and painted as anti-Semetic. “I acknowledge how the costume could, within a context of stereotyping, be ascribed to a Jewish caricature,” he said. “I am here to say that it was absolutely not my intention, and unfortunately at the time I did not foresee the costume to be viewed in such regard. I’m saddened that this story, or any of my choices, would lead to any form of negativity.”
“I will let my body of work and the causes for which I’ve supported speak for themselves,” he said. “I hope that anyone who may question my intent take a few moments to discover the human and artist that I strive to be. I respect all cultures and all people. I would never intentionally put down anybody for the fabric that makes them who they are. I love human beings, love originality, and… happen to love a weird outfit from time to time. I truly apologize to anybody that I may have offended.”
Editor’s note: After this story was posted, the Anti-Defamation League (the civil rights/anti-bigotry organization that Macklemore shouted out in his letter) issued a statement on the incident in which it accepted that the rapper had no ill intent. It read, in part: “The costume, which included a dark beard, a large hook-nose and a black jacket, reminded many people of the stereotype of the greedy hook-nosed Jew, which was popularized in anti-Semitic caricatures in Germany during the Nazi era. Macklemore apologized for the costume in an online post to his fans.”
“Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor, issued the following statement: We welcome Macklemore’s apology for wearing a costume that, regardless of his motives, reminded many people of an anti-Semitic caricature. We take him at his word that he did not have any ill-intent and unreservedly accept his apology.”
Recognizing Macklemore’s past efforts to stand up against intolerance, the ADL called the matter “little more than ‘a tempest in a teapot’ over an unfortunate choice of wardrobe.”