Monday, February 18, 2013

Macklemore Soled Out

I loathe the label “sold out." Such an ugly, loaded term, ambiguous in meaning and impossible to shed once accepted as a narrative truth. And as a big Metallica fan – a band that’s been shackled with that label more than anyone – I've always seen it as my duty to defend those branded with those scarlet letters of "S" and "O." And when I first got wind that independent Seattle recording artist Macklemore might have cashed in his cred already, I was ready to get down to defending.

But in this instance I see no way around it. Macklemore has sold out.

Exhibit A:


That was Macklemore’s music video for the track “Wing$” off his debut LP The Heist. A powerful message of anti-consumerism: It's not the shoes, kids. Try the genetic lottery, but thanks for the $300. My parents wouldn't buy me Nikes because I was pigeon-toed and I’d wear out the soles faster. Only off-brand kicks from Payless for me. Not cool. How would I get my wings and fly?

The only pair of Nikes I ever wore I borrowed from a friend during summer of 8th grade. It was the height of my basketball fever, every day I'd race down to the eight-foot rims at the local elementary school right after watching playoff NBA games. Reggie Miller! Patrick Ewing! Spike Lee! It's the NBA on NBC! We got into a huge fight on the court one day and I was so pissed off I ripped them of my feet and walked home in my socks. I knew then of the bad ju-ju of the sweet nectar of  illicit Nikes shoes.

So to say I identify with Macklemore’s point here is an understatement. And I love the narrative! Independent artist fights commercialism of the sport he loves. For the kids even!

On to exhibit B:


I’m trying to follow the logic here. An anti-basketball shoe culture song - a pretty big downer of a jam as well - used to promote the NBA's All-Star Weekend, which is a 72-hour commercial for the league's business interests? Did a TNT exec bark at an intern: “Get me a song about fucking shoes and do it NOW." What happens when new fans stumble on to the original track?

The message of “Wing$” has been flipped, chopped and screwed. Now the shoes an object of desire without consequence once again. How much money did Macklemore need to neuter his message that much? Hope it was enough to buy him at least a couple of pairs of the new Lebron X.

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