On my way home from work, I decided to hit up the top 40 station. I usually avoid listening to this station because a) the music these kids listen to today is crap and when I was your age and yadda yadda, and b) because it makes me feel all sorts of old. Occasionally, just to keep in touch with the world, I’ll torture myself and see what the number 1 song of the day is.
As the number 2 song, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj’s “Autotuned Bullshit” (I think that’s what it was called, anyway) ended, I shook my head, my hope for the future detroyed. But then…Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” came on as the number 1 song.
I had heard of these guys already. They’ve been all over the internet, and they’ve been making appearances on various TV talk shows. However, I had managed to avoid listening to them until today, and I was really surprised by what I heard.
What is that? A Hipster anthem? A call for the poor to make the best of what they can afford? A subversive, anti-corporate, anti-label tract? Is it all of these things?
At first, it would almost seem to be a joke. This white dude dressed in a kind of homeless parody of what pimps look like in blacksploitation movies starts rapping, which seems like the makings for some seriously ironic-on-purpose crap. The thing is…Macklemore actually has flow. He’s got that Kanye West cadence going on, and his lyrics are clever:
Rolling in hella deep, headed to the mezzanine
Dressed in all pink except my gator shoes, those are green
Draped in a leopard mink, girl standing next to me
Probably shoulda washed this, smells like R.Kelly sheets, pisssssssssssssss
But shit, it was 99 cents!
And that’s the difference between this being a novelty song and a humorous-but-legit hip-hop song in it’s own right; while Macklemore, AKA Ben Haggerty keeps things light, he has the skill to be a great MC and writer, and both come out in this song, even when he’s being funny.
Through this humor, though, we also get a serious message about the need to impress vs. the wisdom of buying impressive things. He sings:
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 business
It’s a message I can get behind.
So what we have here is a song about a serious issue (materialism) addressed in a way that is skillful enough to hit the message home, yet humorous enough to not sound didactic.
This is the good shit.