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Rapper Tom MacDonald’s father took his son aside after he released the first of many “controversial” songs.
“You may be a rapper, but what you’re doing right now is rock ‘n’ roll. It’s more about the truth and less about the music,” MacDonald recalls of his father’s advice.
Tracks like “Fake Woke,” “Clown World” and “Cancelled” pack so much “truth” into their bombastic melodies they made MacDonald more than just a rapper on the rise.
He’s a musical revolutionary.
Sound hyperbolic? What other musician, in rap or any other genre, stares down Cancel Culture with such precision?
The list of subversive musicians daring to question media narratives on race, identity politics and more is microscopically small, and no one does it better, or bolder, than MacDonald.
Here’s a lyrical snippet from “Fake Woke,” which hit no. 1 on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart earlier this month, to go along with nearly 10 million YouTube views:
I think it’s crazy I’m the one who they labeled as controversial
And Cardi B is the role model for twelve year old girls
There’s rappers pushing Xanax at the top of the Billboard
But if I mention race in a song I’m scared I’ll get killed for it
It’s backwards, it’s getting exponentially dumb
It’s more difficult to get a job than purchase a gun
Eminem used to gay bash and murder his mom
And now he doesn’t want fans if they voted for Trump
It’s pure MacDonald, pulsing with raps that make you question what the media demands you believe. His songs crackle with rage and regret, spiked by humor and self-reflection. Plus, there’s a unifying theme to some numbers, an element of his music conveniently overlooked by his detractors:
So go ahead and hate the racists, I pray for their extinction
If you wanna hate the white people, just make a distinction
Between the ones who want the best for everyone regardless
And the ones who built the system just to smother you with hardship
His YouTube channel boasts nearly 2 million subscribers, with videos like “Clown World” generating more than 3 million views in mere days, with lyrics like:
I’m offended that you’re offended by me takin’ offense
Trump can’t build a wall, why does your house have a fence?
I believe in two genders, I’m not mad at the rest
I’m just confused when a dude has a beard and some breasts
Over at Spotify his songs score big, too. Some tracks, like “Everybody Hates Me,” boast 21 million listens. He does it all with no record label, marketing team, manager or PR firm at his disposal.
He’s attracted a fair number of enemies along the way.
They dub him racist, far-right and other pejoratives that don’t align with his music or lyrics. Veteran Hollywood journalist Roger Friedman called “Fake Woke” “dangerously stupid” and hoped radio ignored the rapper’s songs lest stations “normalize” him.
Meanwhile, conservatives embrace his no holds barred raps, along with what he calls a “massive” number of liberals soaking in his subversive streak.
MacDonald, who grew up in Canada but moved to Los Angeles several years ago, started out rapping like his favorite musicians. His work echoed themes explored by 50 Cent, Eminem and others — think guns, girls and other hip-hop staples.
“I didn’t have my own story yet,” he says.
He credits his artistic awakening to an emotional breakdown, one that lasted about nine months. He moved back home and went to work on himself, journaling the process and reading as much as he could.
“Sometimes when you go through your darkest hour you get to find out what you’re made of,” he says, his voice growing emotional. That found him quitting drinking, smoking and partying.
“I figured out what was important to me, what I wanted to talk about,” he says. “I have a much clearer head now.”
His new music felt different, more authentic as a result, but it took time for his current voice to emerge.
“I felt like I was broken into a million pieces,” says MacDonald, who approaches some questions with long pauses, collecting his thoughts for the sharpest response. “In the process of putting those pieces back together I made some music I wasn’t particularly proud of.”
Moving from Canada to South Central, L.A. taught MacDonald plenty about two cultures that, on the surface, appear quite similar.
“I assumed America was a bigger Canada,” he says. “It was a little bit of a culture shock. A lot of issues in America — political, social, racial unrest, economic unrest — these issues do exist in Canada, but they’re not as prominent as they are in America, not as volatile, not as polarizing.”
He credits his “outsider” approach to helping fuel his music, his sound. That voice is being cheered on the right, but it wasn’t part of any game plan.
“I’ve definitely been right leaning in a lot of my music and stuff … I’ve also been pretty radically left leaning [too],” he says. “It wasn’t really my intention, just thoughts I was having.”
He’s not ready to embrace an ideological party.
“There’s room for moderate voices in America,” he says. “You don’t have to pick a side.”
Do a quick Google search on “Tom MacDonald” and you won’t find pages, and pages, of interview features on him.
That’s on purpose.
“I’m very, very particular about who I speak with,” he says, hoping to add a dash of mystery to his image like rock icons of yore.
Plus, some interviewers bring an agenda to their pitches.
“A lot of the places that hit me up … are anti-right wing and anti-Republican. They have a preconceived notion of who I am,” MacDonald says. “’We’ll talk him into a corner and make him look like s***.’”
Another worry? His outspoken raps may inspire imitators who lack his attention to detail.
“I’m very careful with what I say, very calculated with how I say what I say,” he says. “People who love me might come out without the self-awareness and really say some radically unacceptable things.”
MacDonald doesn’t jump into his studio hoping to change the culture with each new track. Nor will he back down from his critics, whose numbers will likely balloon as his profile climbs.
“A lot of people will tear down what you’re doing, not necessarily because they disagree. They’re more interested in putting themselves on a pedestal. ‘Look at how woke I am.’ That’s all well and good, but it’s come too far at this point.”
Challenging media narratives is vital to both the American spirit and finding the best ways to evolve as a culture, as MacDonald sees it.
“It’s really important to talk about the uncomfortable things today,” he says, admitting it’s getting harder to do just that.
“I don’t know if there’s any amount of insulation that will protect you from the criticism of the Internet, or the people who subscribe to the mainstream narrative.”
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.