Is Macklemore a Sellout?

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 15 2013 3:10 PM

Macklemore’s Strangely Self-Censored NBA Promo

Macklemore rose to fame in 2012 on the strength of his frugal anthem “Thrift Shop,” a catchy hip-hop tune with an anti-consumerist bent that managed to get serious radio play. After its release in August, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 in January, and still remains there today. Those who associate hip-hop with commercialism hailed the rapper as a radical new voice in the genre—while others pointed out that plenty of rap artists have challenged consumerism before, even if they didn’t have number-one singles.

Success is rarely simple, and Macklemore’s anti-consumerist fans may want to watch his three-minute promo for the NBA’s All-Star week, featuring “Wing$,” the second single from the rapper’s debut album, The Heist. In its original form, “Wing$” is a critique of Nike and the obsessive sneaker culture that triggered $200 shoe prices. “I look inside the mirror and think Phil Knight tricked us all,” Macklemore declares, “Will I stand for change or stay in my box?” In the song, Macklemore describes his realization that expensive footwear didn’t make him cooler, as he once thought as a kid.

Advertisement

Given those lyrics, you may be confused why the NBA, a key player in the rise of the big-time sneaker industry, would choose the song to hail its product. But that’s because it’s not the same song anymore: In the promo, Macklemore drops all the lyrics that criticize Nike and consumerism. The compromised version finishes with Macklemore sitting on top of a hoop rapping, “They started out with what I wear to school/ That first day, like these are what make you cool/ And this pair, this would be my pair of shoes/ Gonna make me fly.” The last line was edited in from a different part of the song; in the original, the verse ends: “Consumption is in the veins/ And now I see it’s just another pair of shoes.” That sentiment presumably didn’t quite fit with the NBA’s marketing program.

Macklemore is clearly a fan of basketball and the NBA. But ultimately, All-Star weekend is a glossy infomercial for the league and its best employees. Reporters will interview players about their new sneakers; Q scores will rise; money will be made. Adapting a formerly anti-consumerist song in order to promote that endeavor is what some would call selling out. The song is still catchy, and if that’s what matters most to you, then the spot serves its purpose. But those who loved Macklemore for his smart, socially conscious lyrics may want to revise the tune they’re singing about what the rapper supposedly represents.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.