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Same Love: Macklemore Provides the Soundtrack for the Gay Rights Movement

In Culture, Music

In the months since Seattle hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released their debut album, The Heist, last October, their rapid rise to pop stardom has been fueled primarily by the sleeper success of their single “Thrift Shop.”

Equipped with a catchy hook and infectious sax melody, and a playful video tailor-made for a viral world (it currently sits at 250 million views on YouTube), the song and group are now inescapable.

But Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are more than just the latest meme to score a few million hits on YouTube and fade to static. The duo has emerged as one of the loudest voices in pop music to stand in support of gay marriage with its latest single, “Same Love.” The track has become an anthem for the cause for straights and gays, alike.

The unlikely pop stars make a stop in San Jose on May 9 at HP Pavilion as part of Wild 94.9’s Wild Jam, an unlikely pairing with Chris Brown headlining. It’s quite the upgrade considering their last local gig was at Santa Cruz’s Catalyst in October.

Love Supreme

Chances are, those who have followed the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis video trail on YouTube have already seen the particularly potent video for their fourth single, “Same Love.”

The humanizing clip follows a gay man throughout his lifetime, following him initially coming to terms with his sexuality, finding love with another man and enjoying that partnership through his final days.

“When I was in third grade, I thought I was gay / ’cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight,” confesses Macklemore in the song’s opening lines. As he’s quick to note, though, his mother soon shot down his hypothesis. “I told my Mom, tears rushing down my face. / She’s like ‘Ben, you’ve loved girls since before pre-K.'” This important childhood moment helps the rapper better understand his young perceived reality. “I remember doing the math, like ‘Yeah, I’m good at Little League,’ a pre-conceived idea of what it all meant.”

It’s a fearless statement properly contextualized by Ellen DeGeneres when she declared, “No other artists in hip-hop history have ever taken a stand defending marriage equality the way they have, ” before their Ellen performance. Released last July, the video currently has 37 million views.

“I cried and listened to it three times,” says San Jose Pride CFO and publicist Eydie Mendoza when asked about her initial response. “It was very exciting to hear a very current, modern, beautiful representation of that struggle.”

When gay marriage equality profile pictures started popping up on Facebook after the U.S. Supreme Court first heard the case arguing California’s Prop. 8, Mendoza used the song to help promote the campaign on SJ Pride’s Facebook page.

“Same Love” has struck a chord at an important crossroads for marriage equality, with the Supreme Court Prop. 8 decision due soon, and the recent news of NBA player Jason Collins announcing that he is gay.

Nori Herras, who works in administration and outreach at the Billy DeFrank Silicon Valley LGBT Center, admits she and many in the LGBT community have been “white-knuckling it” the past two years. From the possibility of Mitt Romney taking presidential office to the upcoming rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the court fight over Prop. 8, it’s been an uncertain road toward equality. Yet the success of “Same Love” looks to be helping.

Herras, who identifies as transgender, says the song’s recent recognition has been a big deal for the community. “Same Love” has been mentioned many times among youth at the center. She remembers being blown away when she first heard the song on the radio.

“This song has the ability to have a major shift in consciousness toward the current negativity toward the LGBT community as well as same-sex marriage,” she states. “Hopefully, it can reduce bullying in schools as well and it can give an opportunity for growing and burgeoning gay-straight alliances to be stronger.”

In the Bay Area, the song has received overwhelming support. According to Live 105 on-air DJ Dallas, the station has only received one negative response since it hit Bay Area radio waves. “It’s one of our most requested songs, and it gets a lot of people thanking us,” he said.

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