Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “White Privilege II” caused quite the stir when it debuted last month, with critics and fans debating its themes about the Black Lives Matter movement and cultural appropriation. Now, the debate can be extended to the duo’s first TV performance of the song, from Monday night’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Macklemore edited his verses down from the nine-minute recorded version, rapping beneath a stark spotlight in a black hoodie. But after taking two verses to reflect on his white guilt -- backed lightly by a trumpet, piano and backup vocalists -- he exited the stage completely and ceded the spotlight to a trio of black voices.
Poet Nikkita Oliver took the mic first to speak about black empowerment, and poet Danez Smith followed with stirring references to the murders of Tamir Rice and Emmett Till, among others. Singer Jamila Woods, who also appeared on the track’s recorded version, stunningly capped the performance by repeating “Your silence is a luxury, hip-hop is not a luxury” while the choir surged behind her.
“White Privilege II” is a sequel to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ 2005 track “White Privilege.” It’s expected to appear on the duo’s upcoming sophomore album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, which arrives February 26.