Hip-hop has always been political. MCs have used rap as a medium to discuss social issues – often injustices faced by people of color – since the genre’s earliest days in the Bronx. Even when hip-hop began to explode into the mainstream in the 1980s, the political advantage remained. Rap groups such as Public Enemy, NWA and A Tribe Called Quest have released songs detailing the political concerns affecting their communities – police brutality, mass incarceration, poverty and the war on drugs. Over time, hip-hop and politically charged lyrics continue to go hand in hand, as evidenced by the work of artists like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino. Overall, however, it has remained a genre dominated by people of color with leftist ideologies. That was, until Tom MacDonald rose to infamy.
MacDonald has become one of the most talked about new hip-hop artists, with one of the most controversial characters the genre has ever seen. People either adore him or completely despise him and he has gained worldwide attention with song titles such as “No Lives Matter”, “If I Was Black” and “Coronavirus”. But MacDonald’s image hasn’t always been so provocative.
MacDonald started his rap career in a very conventional way, writing songs similar to popular artists of the time. At 18 he was just starting to learn hip-hop and that meant rapping about cars, drugs, girls, and guns. “I didn’t know much about [hip-hop], but that’s what my favorite rappers rapped, so that’s what I did, ”says MacDonald. “Four years ago, after a pretty long battle with alcoholism, I had a really huge mental collapse and bad depression that lasted almost a year. During the rehabilitation process, I cleaned myself up, understood what was important to me and what I wanted to talk about. It was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but also the best thing that ever happened to me. It taught me who I was, basically.
MacDonald hopes to one day be as recognizable as Led Zeppelin or the Beatles, and although this type of notoriety will take decades to build, his singles “Fake Woke”, “Canceled” and “People So Stupid” have already topped the Billboard charts. and garnered millions of views on YouTube. Given hip-hop’s rich history, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone with their political convictions struggled to find fans initially.
“There was a lot of negative comments early on because I didn’t have a fanbase when I started releasing music,” he says. “All it was then was people who hated and opposed what I was saying. It took me a few months to really catch on and find people open-minded enough to at least try to figure out what I was talking about. I’m still getting some resistance now, but the amount of support is overwhelming in comparison. ”
Once righties caught wind of MacDonald’s personality, it didn’t take long for them to hang on to every word he said. As America’s political and social climate became increasingly polarized, MacDonald saw an opportunity to become the tattooed spokesperson for a disgruntled demographic in return for musical success. “I’m an artist, so I would say most of what you see from most artists is performative in some sense,” he says. “I think people like to say, ‘Oh, he’s nervous for the sake of being nervous,’ because they don’t want to admit that these conversations are taking place in homes across America and the world. Anything I talk about privately with my friends or family, I put it into songs.
This shameless approach to authenticity, which hip-hop artists with leftist politics have employed for decades, has definitely put MacDonald on the map, both because of the people who love his songs and those who love him. hate it in the comments. And MacDonald doesn’t just go strong with his song titles for the sake of clicking, he’s committed to provoking audiences through every carefully constructed bar.
“I think [my music] is a difficult pill for people to swallow, ”he says. “I did a song called ‘People So Stupid’, which was basically only three and a half minutes of radical dots on abortion and other politics. The phrase most often quoted was “Tell me how it works, bacteria are life on Mars but a heartbeat is not on Earth”. There are centuries-old examples of little words that I don’t necessarily feel in my soul and that I said because I thought it was funny. But a lot of everything I say comes from my heart and these are real issues for me.
One of the issues MacDonald continues to raise in his music is the racial divide in America. MacDonald has spent most of his life living in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, which have very different social climates than Los Angeles, where he now resides. “I never had in me the burning desire to write about the plight of the white man or some lame shit like that,” he says. “Coming from Canada, these issues obviously exist, but they are not as volatile or as prominent in the media. Moving to the United States was culture shock because everything here is about race. It’s on TV, in the newspapers and all over the Internet. It seemed that one of the pillars of American life was this strange conflict over race and this extreme polarization between different races, which relates to different political ideologies. “
Coming to America made MacDonald hyper-aware of the political divide here and over time he realized he had the platform to stand up for “the little guy.” And according to MacDonald, “the little guy” in 2021 is anyone who feels like a victim of political correctness. “There are a lot of disgruntled people in America and I think disgruntled people have no voice,” he says. “I’ve been an underdog my whole life and I try to shoot for the underdog by throwing punches for people who can’t punch. ‘Fake Woke’ was my way of talking about things that a lot of people don’t have a voice to talk about.
MacDonald’s power grows day by day and as artists gain recognition, it is important for them to recognize the power of their influence. MacDonald is all about guiding his fans through conversations about politics, but he draws the line when it comes to his listeners by using his lyrics as inspiration for violence. “If you’re so easily influenced that you’re going to listen to a song and commit an act of violence, the bottom line is you’re a jerk,” he says. “You’re a fucking idiot if you listen to a song and go out in the world and act a certain way about it. I’m sorry, but you are a [redacted] That much.”
While Tom MacDonald may have appeared on several of our radars for the first time with his single “Fake Woke”, his career has spanned years. We live in a world where right-wing opinions are no longer sequestered for radio talk but permeate every aspect of our lives, including the world of hip-hop. Whether you like his post or not, his millions of views prove that there was an audience waiting for someone like MacDonald.