Up@dawn 2.0

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Poppin' Philosophies: Part 1 (Quinlan Odom H1G1)

"Hey Macklemore, can we go thrift shopping?"

From radio station to radio station, the song "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis has slowly been invading our lives. At first listen the song seems to just be about fun and have no serious message. Like many top-charting songs today, we brush the song off without giving it a second thought. What we don't realize, particularly in the case of "Thrift Shop," is that there are sometimes deeper meanings to these songs. 

In Ben Haggerty aka. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' case, that's how it is for most of their songs. Some are more blatant than others while some, like "Thrift Shop," have a more hidden meaning. 

"What you know about rockin' a wolf on your noggin?
What you knowin' about wearin' a fur fox skin?
I'm digging, I'm searching right through that luggage
One man's trash, that's another man's come-up" 
-"Thrift Shop"

At first I didn't see it at all. I was on Youtube when a comment pointed out the meaning of "Thrift Shop." I'd already found meaning in tons of their other songs and I listened to "Thrift Shop" only as a guilty pleasure. I'd never considered it to have meaning but what it is saying is so obvious. You don't have to look like everyone else or dress like everyone else in order to be "unique."  All it takes is you, your personality. You don't need anything else. Labels, designers, prices- those are all useless. That's what their trying to say. 

"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 ...
I call that getting tricked by a business"
-"Thrift Shop"

Instead of letting our consumerism drive us and our decisions, Macklemore and Lewis encourage people to be themselves. Don't be let society or businesses define who you are or who you are going to be. Be what you want to be. According to Macklemore and Lewis' words and music, being yourself is so much better then being the same as everyone else. 

"And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don't"
-"Thrift Shop"

In one of their lesser-known songs Macklemore really expands on this philosophy of their's. In "Wing$" he raps about the first pair of Nikes he ever owned. How those Nikes, just shoes, made him feel invincible and how they defined him. As the song progresses he details how the shoes began to cost so much more than money. Through his story he exposes his hatred for consumerism and how we let it drive our decisions and how we let it define us. By the middle of the song you see how consumerism ends up consuming us. 

"On the court I wasn't the best
But my kicks were like the pros
Yo, I stick out my tongue so that everyone can see that logo
Nike Air Flight, book bag was dope
And then my friend Carlos' brother got murdered for his fours"

"Wing$" goes beyond the message of "Thrift Shop." It dives into the issue of people letting labels and things consume their lives. We let things define who we are and control our lives. That's not okay, not in Macklemore and Lewis' mind. The desire to fit in is one almost all of us have but, because of society and media, "fitting in" no longer means finding a group of friends that accept who you are. No, know it means shaping and forming yourself to fit with a particular group of people. 

"I was trying to fly without leaving the ground
Cause I wanted to be like Mike, right
Wanted to be him
Wanted to that guy
I wanted to touch that rim
I wanted to be cool
And I wanted to fit in
I wanted what he had, America, it begins"

Who we are shouldn't be defined by our shoes, our clothes, our bank accounts. No. We should be defined by what we are. Our personalities and our actions should be the only things we allow to define us. Not shoes. 
"We want what we can't have
Commodity makes us want it ...
Look at me, look at me
I'm a cool kid
I'm an individual, yeah
But I'm part of a movement
My movement told me to be a consumer and I consumed it ...
We are what we wear
We wear what we are..."

The final verse, most of it written directly above, shows how the shoes get inside the kid's head. How he thinks he can't crease them, he can touch the laces, he is so careful with the shoes that he leaves them in a box under his bed never to see the light of day. He has become defined by the shoes. So many people today let themselves be consumed by things that, when we're all dead and gone, won't have mattered at all. To me, the final words of the rap are the most powerful:

"But I look inside the mirror and think Phil Knight tricked us all
Will I stand for change
Or stay in my box
These Nikes help me define me
And I'm trying to take mine 

Through their lyrics, Macklemore and Lewis' spread their philosophy and ideas. There is so much more behind Macklelmore and Lewis' than the charts. There is meaning and hope and inspiration. There's a desperation for change that, through their music, they hope to see happen in the world. Fighting society's definition of who we are is only the beginning. 


  1. Much catchier way of repeating Emerson's old message: "THINGS are in the saddle, they ride mankind."

    A tip for thrifty shoppers: SEARS mens' shop, especially in Bellevue TN. (I may be their last patron.)

  2. I love Thrift Shop! I was so happy to see your blog post on it (except I like the edited version! But still, it is a fun song!) I did not realize how many philosophical ideas were behind it until you pointed it out! I never took the time to analyze it like you did! I just memorized the lyrics! Anyway, I know that people do not always look at music like that. People hear the lyrics and do not pay attention to the message. They might base their decision on whether they like it or not by the beat or tone of the music (that includes me). Although, I do listen to the message 60% of the time. However, if it is explicit, I do pay attention to what I says really close because I do not like to hear cursing all of the time! You have taught me to pay to what I am listening to a lot more often. Overall, what a great post! Great job!!!!

  3. I hadn't even thought about the language in the version I posted. Thanks for pointing that out to me! I will definitely be sure to look for the censored versions of his other songs that I am planning to use. I'm so glad you liked it. I've really been enjoying listening to his songs and finding the meanings behind his lyrics. It's really interesting to see what messages are hidden, even in the most simple of lyrics.