Macy Gray's latest single "White Man" tackles racism in America
"(Trump's) an old, white dude from New York ... he says what he thinks," Gray said
Editor’s Note: This interview was condensed for clarity.
Macy Gray is known for her edgy, enigmatic voice and her soulful music about love and life, but in her 10th studio release, which will be out this summer, the Grammy-winning singer is getting political in a way she hasn’t before.
“For me, being a black female, that puts me right in the thick of all the racism that’s going on and all the misogyny,” the R&B singer told CNN.
Fans got a taste of what’s to come when Gray released “White Man” in February – an anthem about racism in America. The video features a tense yet harmonious dance between a black woman and a white woman that represents both the deep divisions and the unity that characterize race relations in America.
Gray’s decision to address politics and social issues is part of a larger trend as musicians – even those who are traditionally apolitical in their music like Katy Perry and Zedd – have recently made political statements.
The “I Try” singer, who backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential election, talked with CNN’s #GetPolitical series about what inspired her new music and what she thinks about President Donald Trump.
CNN: How was your upcoming album inspired by the political climate?
Gray: “For me, being a black female, that puts me right in the thick of all the racism that’s going on and all the misogyny … So all of the back and forth has kind of put people like me right in the middle of all the controversy, the disagreement, the fights and all the protests. As an artist, it’s hard to go into the studio and not be affected by that.”
CNN: What’s the message behind “White Man”?
Gray: “‘White Man’ was inspired by all the things that are going on right now in our country and I felt like it was needed. I just feel like we’re in a time with a lot of divisiveness and people not understanding each other. (There’s) a lot of dissent and protest and people being angry and a lot of opinions and ‘White Man’ was just my contribution to bringing people together.”
CNN: How is your new album different than other music collections you’ve released?
Gray: “The record is amazing. It’s really, really fresh music and lyrics. It’s a little bit politically driven. I just think in this climate and what’s going on it’s hard to be an artist and not be inspired by all the issues, especially when it’s personal to you.
This album will definitely be more about the world, more about politics than my past albums just because of the environment that we’ve all been forced into. But I think that’s a good thing, you know. I think really think that’s how we got from 60s to the 80s, because of music. Because you had people like Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron speaking about the times and about revolution and what needs to be changed and I don’t know if music saves the world but it definitely … inspires people.”
CNN: Would you like to see other artists get political?
Gray: “I hope other artists get involved in the whole – not so much preaching to people, but just making it known that the issues are right in front of us and it would, I personally think it would be just neglectful to let it be, to let it just come out however it comes out, to not be involved or to not pitch in in some way and make sure things go in the right direction.”
CNN: Who did you vote for in 2016?
Gray: “I did not vote for Mr. Trump. I actually wrote in Bernie. I never got over Bernie. That really broke my heart.”
CNN: How do you assess Trump’s presidency, so far?
Gray: “My biggest problem with (Trump) is he’s an amateur. He’s never done this before … this dude has never even been a mayor and I think that’s dangerous, that’s dangerous for our country when he talks to other world leaders who have devoted their entire careers to politics …
With all his craziness and tweets – that’s whatever, but the fact that he has no idea what he’s doing is scary to me. I’m just thinking like, you know, f— it! Let’s give, why don’t we let 2 Chainz be the Supreme Court justice, lets give Meryl Streep the surgeon general. I mean, who cares at this point? We have a leadership that has no experience and that’s wild to me … that’s my biggest problem with Mr. Trump. Other than that, he’s an old, white dude from New York, that’s what they do. He’s old school, he’s from New York, he’s loud, he says what he thinks.”