Tag Archives: macklemore

Individualism, Capitalism, and Whiteness: A Rhetorical Examination of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”


The biggest song of this last year is a travesty. It manages to further establish the cultural hegemonies of individualism, capitalism, and whiteness through the cultural myths of rags to riches narrative, the notion that more things will make us happy, and the concept that competition makes humans perform their best. In doing so, the song normalizes behaviors and identities that exist to support the existing structures of power. The most egregious aspect of the song’s popularity is that it masquerades as a celebration of resistance, an anti-consumerist anthem for a generation grown weary of brands and corporate worship. And the masses have bought it. They have digested Macklemore’s privileged, capitalist message as a text that represents rebellion. “Thrift Shop”, Macklemore’s party anthem about the fashion available in second hand stores, has managed to capture the hearts of a legion of devoted fans who have in turn furthered some of the United States’ most established cultural hegemonies.

To understand “Thrift Shop’s” ramifications, it is necessary to examine Macklemore as an individual and as an artist. One of the rapper’s largest calling cards is his independence; Macklemore, along with his producer Ryan Lewis, operates unattached to a record label. He has promoted his music self-sufficiently, reaching the top of the Billboard Charts and iTunes Best Seller lists without assistance from a corporate entity. His hit album, The Heist, is centered on the concept that he and Lewis are performing a “heist” on the music industry by reaching the top of the charts through self-promotion and individuality, acting as a self-contained entity separate from corporate record labels. At face value, Macklemore presents himself as a hard working artist who has climbed the mountaintop that is the Billboard and iTunes charts in a rags to riches manner. He has emerged victorious, outperforming and out-competing his contemporaries to reach the pinnacle of his craft. Without delving into the content of “Thrift Shop”, Macklemore’s story can be viewed through the lens of Marxism as a narrative that enforces the hegemony of individualism. Macklemore is a capitalist; he is the sole owner of the means of production of his music and he is, through mediums that are not solely his own such as record stores and iTunes, someone who profits through the distribution of goods as determined by competition in the “free” market. When examining “Thrift Shop”, is important to understand that Macklemore is a capitalist and has benefited from capitalism and as such, the structure that allows him to profit has an influence on the content of his musical output.

One of the largest Billboard hits of the year is a song that presents itself as anti-capitalist. More than two minutes into “Thrift Shop”, Macklmore rhymes: “They be like, ‘Oh, that Gucci – that’s hella tight’/I’m like, ‘Yo – that’s fifty dollars for a T-shirt’/Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition/Fifty dollars for a T-shirt – that’s just some ignorant bitch (shit)/I call that getting swindled and pimped (shit)/I call that getting tricked by a business/That shirt’s hella dough”. Presented without context, these lines can be interpreted as a strong statement against the capitalist system that encourages consumption of expensive clothing. Presented with context, Macklemore can be seen as a capitalist who is using an anti-capitalist sentiment to sell records. When examining the lyrics of this blockbuster hit, it is important to note that this message comes near the end of the song. It comes unprompted, as prior to these lines Macklemore has not mentioned a word against the values of consumerism.  He has instead spent a majority of the song rapping about how his quirky clothing is giving him attention and compliments, making him feel superior to others who are not wearing clothing as unique. He says that he is “stuntin’”, rap terminology for being demonstrative and brandishing style. He even suggests re-selling his cheap items when he raps: “I could take some Pro Wings, make them cool, sell those”. This is not consistent with an attitude of sticking it to corporate entities by purchasing previously owned items. This is consistent with a view of Macklemore as a capitalist attempting to profit and gain through his individuality.

One event in particular serves to underscore Macklemore’s inconsistencies as a capitalist who claims an anti-consumerism outlook.  “Thrift Shop” is not the only song from The Heist to spout a message at odds with consumerism; “Wings”, a tale about Nike sneakers, is a song that more explicitly clamors against its dangers and perceived ills. It should come as a surprise then, that Macklemore allowed the National Basketball Association to use “Wings” for a commercial advertising the league’s All-Star Game. The league used an edited version of the song that did not include the anti-corporate message, instead choosing to selectively frame the song as about just basketball and sneakers. A compromise of artistic integrity to this significant a degree does not happen without profit as the main incentive. When scrutinized, Macklemore wrote a blog post on his website that did not recognize the irony ensconced in his actions. He masks himself as an anti-capitalist renegade but does not do so convincingly enough for the image to hold under further scrutiny. The fact that masses of individuals have bought into his thinly veiled attempt at garnering support from anti-capitalist listeners is astounding and egregious.

This examination into what makes “Thrift Shop”s message a popular one causes us to look at the audience that has devoured the song so voraciously. Macklemore’s target audience is the privileged class that can afford to go to Goodwill or the Salvation Army to purchase items for fashion rather than using secondhand stores out of necessity. Racial assumptions be damned, it is impossible to dismiss this class as not having to do with the prevalent white ideology in the United States. While it may not be fair to call into question Macklemore’s race, in this instance his skin color is impossible to ignore, especially considering his role as one of the only white artists in the field of mainstream hip hop. Several elements of the video for “Thrift Shop” invite us to delve into racial elements that are at play. The video shows a mix of races, but it highlights African Americans. One such man is seen saying “Damn, that’s a cold ass honkey” when Macklemore walks into the club. The character’s use of a phrase complimenting Macklemore’s style, suggesting that the rapper’s attire is cool despite his race (as the use of the word “honky” implies), invites the audience to cast a discerning eye on the video’s inclusion of other African Americans. It sets a tone that is maintained for the remainder of the video in which Macklemore is seen attempting to gain the approval of a black audience who presumptively has a greater eye for style. This creates a distinction between white and black rather than blurring the lines of race. It heightens Macklemore’s sense of whiteness. Keeping in mind the song’s target audience of the upper class who can use thrift shops for stylistic purposes, the video seems to suggest to a white audience that thrift shopping is cool because the black kids agree. Using his whiteness as contrast to the black extras in the video, Macklemore sells himself as cooler and stylistically superior, effectively selling white as cool and reinforcing a dominant ideology.

 Macklemore presents himself as an incredibly genuine artist in a genre that often suffers from disingenuous personalities. He presents himself as a rebel at odds with corporate control and capitalist interest. He presents himself in a racially distinguished manner that serves to emphasize and celebrate his whiteness. That he has time and again demonstrated contradictions within his actions and words, capitalist leanings, and an unhealthy appeal to race should be surprising when given the image portrayed to the public by the rapper. When diving below the surface of Macklemore’s public portrayal through the lens of the “Thrift Shop” music video, it becomes readily apparent that he is not the radical artist taking the industry by storm that he believes himself to be; he is instead a musician that enforces cultural hegemonies through the use of time-worn ideologies. 

Damn Seattle, You Filthy

It’s OFFICIAL….. I’m running for Mayor of Seattle in 2025. Spread the word. We got a campaign to win.


Oh man, This should be good. The current king of the Seattle music scene right now dropping this little gift for us on the first day of 2013? This is flipping awesome. Yeah it’s in 12 years, but  that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited now! Whatever you make of his music, that’s fine, but I’m not really sure there’s anyone out there that can call him a bad guy. Yeah he’s been through some rough times, but to potentially have a mayor where you already know his shady past and that he has overcome it? Don’t see how anyone can be more connected to the public than that. Also with a history of cultural aware songs like “Same Love” or “A Wake”, I’m sure that he’d make a great mayor. Obviously there will be some backlash to this because he’s a liberal guy, but hey, who knows? No you can’t have him; He’s ours to keep.

Go like Macklemore on Facebook!

[Streaming Now] “The Heist” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

It’s a pretty simple concept. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are tearing ish up. The highly anticipated album due for release on October 9th is getting streamed from NPR now. And my god it sounds so good. Don’t even need to say anything. This album is going to blow up big. This will cement Macklemore as a fucking legend in Seattle. We will no longer be hidden from the country. Seattle! Listen now off of this playlist here. Enjoy it.

The Heist (via fistintheair.com)

[Must Listen] Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Going Harddd – “Thrift Shop” ft. Wanz

I’m sure y’all have heard of Macklemore, one way or another. He’s good huh? Yeah he doesn’t dissappoint with this fresh, new track called “Thrift Shop”. He’s been preforming it for a while now if you’ve seen any videos of live performances on youtube. But now we actually have the track and an awesome music video to go along with it. This track is a bit different from what we’ve gotten from Macklemore of late (especially his track regarding same-sex rights “Same Love”) but I dig this shit all the same. For real, on this one, Macklemore goes fucking HAAM y’all. Hard as a motherfucker. And hot damn is it flippin’ cool to listen to. Rockin’ the jazzy, horn beats gives you a different feel this time around. I actually prefer listening to this over his other songs to just kind of chill and groove to a beat. Enough about that though, it’s a fresh track, with Ryan Lewis always doing his thing and Wanz providing a nice lil chorus bit. Macklemore just does what he does best. Represents ALL of Seattle now. I mean it’s for all the hipsters out there. The lyrics are talking about thrift store shopping. The music video is just absurd as the concept of the song, but it’s still awesome and hilarious as shit. Macklemore just bounces around in those thrift stores doing whatever the hell he wants? haha. Best part has to be when he’s rocking the Batman onesie.

I can definitely dig the lyrics as well. They’re so insanely unique. Just fits exactly who Macklemore is. The part about the “cold ass honky” was freaking funny. Oh and did you catch that refrerence to R-Kelly and his pissing story? hahaha lyrics on this one are just so damn great. This is a track you HAVE to listen to. Way too easy to loop over and over.

Stronger Than Ever; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Latest: “Same Love feat. Mary Lambert”

Seattle needs to just bow down to Macklemore down. Regardless of the arguments about who is the best rapper in Seattle, you have to give credit to Macklemore for doing his business. Collabing again with Ryan Lewis to create this beautiful track about the inequality and unfairness directed towards the homosexuals in this world, he speaks about the hate and prejudice that is seen everywhere. From the hip-hop community to those that sit at home on their computers. Macklemore really speaks the truth and everything is down to earth and crazy deep. Ryan Lewis keeps that smooth beat going that just pulls you straight into the song and Mary Lambert? Damn that girl can really sing. I love everything about this song. Can you believe he had it done in April but waited so long for it? Doesn’t matter, this song is perfect. Great poem-like lyrics, beat, singing and best of all, fantastic message. From Macklemore himself, he says

This song is a humble submission to help bring this conversation to the surface, so that we can reflect on the language we use, and how powerful it can be. Rethinking, and understanding the gravity of how we communicate with each other. Change happens when dialogue happens. When we confront our prejudice and are honest with ourselves, there is room for growth, and there is room for justice. 

Read the rest of what he said about the song and others here

Read these lyrics and just appreciate everything about it:

[Piano Intro]

[Verse 1: Macklemore]
When I was in the 3rd grade
I thought that I was gay
Cause I could draw,
 my uncle was

And I kept my room straight
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like, “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-K”

Trippin’, yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she
A bunch of stereotypes all in my head
I remember doing the math like
“Yeah, I’m good a little league”

A pre-conceived idea of what it all meant
For those who like the same sex had the characteristics
The right-wing conservatives think its a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion

Man-made, rewiring of a pre-disposition
Playing God
Ahh nah, here we go
America the brave
Still fears, what, we don’t know
And God loves all His children
Is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written
35 hundred years ago
I don’t know

[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love, my love, my love

She keeps me warm [x4]

[Verse 2: Macklemore]
If I was gay
I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately
“Man that’s gay”
Gets dropped on the daily
We’ve become so numb to what we’re sayin’

Our culture founded from oppression
Yeah, we don’t have acceptance for ’em
Call each other faggots
Behind the keys of a message board
A word routed in hate
Yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender and skin color
Complexion of your pigment
The same fight that lead people to walk-outs and sit-ins
It’s human rights for everybody
There is no difference
Live on! And be yourself!
When I was in church
They taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service
Those words aren’t anointed
And that Holy Water
That you soak in
Is then poisoned
When everyone else
Is more comfortable
Remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans
That have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same
But that’s not important
No freedom ’til we’re equal
Damn right I support it
I don’t know

[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm [x4]

[Verse 3: Macklemore]
We press play
Don’t press pause
Progress, march on!
With a veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
‘Till the day
That my uncles can be united by law
Kids are walkin’ around the hallway
Plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful
Someone would rather die
Than be who they are
And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law’s gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever god you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up

[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm [x4]

[Outro: Mary Lambert]
Love is patient, love is kind
Love is patient (not cryin’ on Sundays)
Love is kind (not crying on Sundays) [x5]