“Look at me, look at me, I’m a cool kid
I’m an individual, yea, but I’m part of a movement
My movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it
They told me to just do it, I listened to what that swoosh said” – Macklemore, Wings
First worn in 1995 and retired in 2000 the Air Jordan 11’s, aka Air Jordan Space Jams, were re-released on December 23, 2011 for only $180. Only $180. This was somewhat of big deal in the sneaker world – don’t ask me – I’m not a sneaker head nor do I play a lot of basketball. Guessing by the frenzy this caused, I’ve been lead to believe that the typical Air Jordan fan is not only passionate, but borderline psychopathic. Sneakerheads around the globe celebrated the joyous occasion of the Space Jam’s re-release withstabbings, gunfire and near riots. A woman in Lithonia, GA was even arrested for locking her two toddlers in her SUV while she stood in line. You might be asking yourself, why does this belong in a hip hop review? Well, that’s best explained in the words of the spoken-word-acapella-turned-movie, Wings, by Seattle based rapper, Macklemore…
Macklemore is more than familiar with the pitfalls of the consumer lifestyle because he experienced firsthand how an expensive pair of Nike Air Jordan sneakers is not just a pair of shoes, but an unmistakable identity that can leave a mark on any unsuspecting youth. Macklemore, says, “we are what we wear” meaning there’s a struggle, as a consumer based society, between our identities and the commodities we consume. The dichotomy of lifestyle and our lifestyle choices is a lesson Macklemore has schooled me on.
Several weeks ago, I bought two tickets to go see Macklemore and his DJ/producer, Ryan Lewis, perform at the Drunken Unicorn, but sadly, I never got to see him play. The problem was I ordered the tickets too far in advance and I had the tickets mailed to my house not knowing the concert was going to take place the weekend before finals. I should have double checked, but I was just too excited – Macklemore was coming to Atlanta! After finals week, my hasty impulse buy left me with nothing but some exam anxiety and two useless tickets to Macklemore. You see, instead of just being content as a fan, I rushed to purchase the tickets weeks in advance to prove what a loyal fan I was. In actuality, I managed to prove that I can’t appreciate the music (the commodity) before I put myself first as a person. This is a lesson I learned through the creative words and images of Macklemore’s.
A Different Breed
Macklemore is part of the slowly ebbing flow of talent coming out of Seattle like the Blue Scholars, Common Market, and Jack One, yet what sets Macklemore apart comes from his brilliant music videos. The first Macklemore video I saw was Wings. Before the music video was made for the song, though, the song wasn’t even produced yet. In fact, it was a Spoken Word piece. In 2008, Zia Mohajerjasbi, the director of Wings, attended a show where Macklemore performed the acapella to Wings and Zia approached Macklemore with the idea that, if Wings were ever to become a song, he would want to direct the video – so, to make things even more complicated – the song was a video before the song was an actual song! Well, unfortunately, they had a great artistic vision, but not enough money and resources to make the video, (as is the case with most of the arts, but I digress) so they started a fundraising campaign using Kickstarter, a do-it-yourself fundraising platform, and got 423 backers and almost double what they needed to fund the project, $18,269. The memoir style reflections of Macklemore’s past as a sneaker-head came to life brilliantly in the end, with Ryan Lewis’ almost film score-esque production with the beats, the stunning cinematography by Zia and the sincere lyrical confessions of Macklemore. The music video was one of the best I saw last year, and there was some pretty unique videos in 2011, like the video for Tyler the Creator’s, Yonkers.
Unlike the absurdity of Tyler the Creators video, which he directed himself by the way, Wings is rooted in narrative. As the video begins, Macklemore silently steps onto an empty basketball court seemingly familiar to Macklemore, but simultaneously in an unfamiliar time. As Macklemore bows his head in introspection, the court seems like a place of worship. More than just a recreational facility, it was sacred, divine. Soon, it becomes clear that this hallowed place is a frame for which to follow the Tarantino-esque plot device back into Macklemore’s past as he reflects on his childhood and growing up beginning with the first lyric “It all started when I was seven years old.” Suddenly the listener is flashed back to little Macklemore trying to dunk with his brand new Air Jordan’s, playing pick-up games in the rain, and walking around school. This is to show how a sneaker became Macklemore’s identity. Beyond Macklemore’s messages of consumerism, the director is also able to relay his own visual patterns that create a message, which is not very common in music videos, especially hip hop ones. As the video continues, Macklemore stands in front of a group of teenagers on a bus and on a stoop with a large red book in his hands which is an allusion to a famous Nike commercial with Spike Lee, director of Do the Right Thing. Director Zia Mohajerjasbi also adds to the narrative as he shows the little Macklemore walking home from school, bereft, with no shoes on. Someone had stolen his. The striking video ends with Macklemore saying “consumption is in the vain… it’s just another pair of shoes” and little Macklemore suits up a brand new pair.
To you, this may be another review of a “conscious rapper”, but to me this is way more than just rap – Macklemore is a different breed of rapper. Not like the Lil’ Wayne, “I’m an Alien” type of different. I mean, he is cut from a different cloth. He understands and acknowledges what most hip hop can’t; he knows that most rappers underestimate the influence that rap has on children and he knows that most consumers of hip-hop are young white males; he understands that he was a product of the hip hop culture, not the other way around; he owes his allegiance to hip hop and he knows what white privilege is; he can even make an Irish Celebration anthem from a hip-hop song, or a Dance anthem in the style of an 80’s David Bowie song. He is a sage and a bard in hip hop and if you are a hip hop fan, you have got to check him out. He may even appear on XXL Mag’s Freshman list for 2011, so be expecting Macklemore in 2012. (Josh Pate)