Macklemore Apologizes for Costume Criticized as Anti-Semitic

"I wasn't attempting to mimic any culture, nor resemble one. A 'Jewish stereotype' never crossed my mind."

Macklemore, Jewish, stereotype, apology
Macklemore Photo by Getty IMages
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

Over the past couple of days, Macklemore has found himself at the center of controversy after Seth Rogen pointed out the rapper's costume during a recent performance looked a whole lot like a Jewish stereotype with an awful history. The "Thrift Shop" rapper said on Twitter that the getup — a hooked nose, dark beard, and matching bowl-cut wig, plus a shoddy suit  — was just a "random" costume, but the situation was still puzzling.

While anti-Semitic stereotypes have a long and unfortunate past in rap lyrics (see this 2010 piece in The Awl), it didn't make sense that the earnest-to-a-fault MC behind marriage-equality anthem "Same Love" would engage in them. The best SPIN could figure out, he was probably telling the truth about just thinking his "witches nose" was an innocuous costume  — which isn't exactly an argument in his favor, because it shows a gross lack of cultural awareness, but there you go.

That's still the best, unfortunate guess we can make. Last night, Macklemore apologized, reiterating that he didn't intend his costume to represent any Jewish caricatures but acknowledging that he now understands where his critics where coming from. "The character I dressed up as had no intended cultural identity or background," he wrote in a post on his website, published after musical partner Ryan Lewis went on Anderson Cooper's CNN show to talk about his HIV-AIDS charity efforts. "I wasn't attempting to mimic any culture, nor resemble one. A 'Jewish stereotype' never crossed my mind."

Revisit Rogen's tweet below, and scroll down to read Macklemore's full statement.

Family, friends and fans alike who know me well, know that I’m absolutely not the person described in certain headlines today. There is no worse feeling than being misunderstood, especially when people are hurt or offended.

On Friday night we had a surprise show at the EMP Museum in Seattle. Earlier in the day I thought it would be fun to dress up in a disguise and go incognito to the event, so that I could walk around unnoticed and surprise the crowd with a short performance. I picked up a bunch of fake mustaches and beards and grabbed a left over wig from our recent trip to 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). 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, some Abe Lincoln. If anything I thought I looked like Humpty Hump with a bowl cut.

We showed up to the event, I hit the stage in the outfit, rocked two songs, took pictures and went home. We had a great time and it was fun to be a surprise guest in a costume. I’ve always loved dressing up and have been doing so my entire career. 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.

My intention was to dress up and surprise the people at the show with a random costume and nothing more. Thus, it was surprising and disappointing that the images of a disguise were sensationalized leading to the immediate assertion that my costume was anti-Semetic. I acknowledge how the costume could, within a context of stereotyping, be ascribed to a Jewish caricature. 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. 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. I hope this better explains the situation and my point of view.

With love,

Ben

PS - Out of a negative can come a positive. Through this situation I’ve got hip to some incredible groups like the ADL and I encourage people to check the great work they, and others like them, do: http://www.adl.org

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