How much of a sellout is Macklemore, anyway?

This evening, Macklemore performed at fake Spring Fling in New Haven. I did not attend, but the specter of the Thrift Shop rapper performing before hundreds/thousands/[insert official police estimate here] of adoring fans inexplicably called to mind an article that showed up in Slate back in February, “Macklemore NBA ad with Wings: Is the rapper a sellout?” Slate has since changed the article to “Macklemore’s Strangely Self-Censored NBA Promo”, but the original title is still visible in the url, or through the Google if you don’t believe me.

In case you didn’t come across the article when it first came out, Jordan Teicher used it to compare the original lyrics of Macklemore’s Wings with the truncated version that appeared in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend Preview:

Teicher astutely notes that “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.”

For his part, Macklemore defended himself from like charges, writing scarcely a week later on his personal blog, “I showed up that day to a middle school gym in LA and as I was reading the script I was informed that they re-arranged the structure of the song.  I didn’t know prior to that day that my lyrics were going to be edited.  But to be 100% honest with you, I didn’t really care once I learned that they were.  The only thing that I was a little “ehhhh” about was the last bar.  But I put it on the ethics scale, and the last bar alteration wasn’t outweighing the potential reach that I saw in doing the video.”

He also claims, “I would understand the ‘Macklemore sold out’ complaints more if we matched Wings to a shoe commercial.  That would be blatant irony, it would completely contradict the song and would appear as a sell out move.  But an NBA commercial?  The NBA has very little to do with what Wings was really about.”

That’s an interesting claim to make given the following list of past and present NBA players who held endorsement deals with Nike as of 2009 (this was the most recent such list I could find with minimal effort):

Marcus Culpepper
Michael Jordan
Charles Barkley
Kobe Bryant
LeBron James
Carmelo Anthony
Kevin Durant
Danny Granger
Steve Nash
Amar’e Stoudemire
Paul Pierce
Vince Carter
Shawn Marion
Rasheed Wallace
Tony Parker
Richard Hamilton
Ray Allen
Chris Bosh
Bruce Bowen
Tayshaun Prince
Chris Paul
Michael Redd
Andrew Bogut
Greg Oden
Jermaine O’Neal
Carlos Boozer
Richard Jefferson
Andris Biedriņš
Mehmet Okur
Rashard Lewis
Žydrūnas Ilgauskas
Jason Richardson
Pau Gasol
Marc Gasol
José Calderón
Rudy Fernández
Brandon Roy
Deron Williams
Dirk Nowitzki
Manu Ginóbili
Fabricio Oberto
Ben Gordon
Andrei Kirilenko
Quentin Richardson
Emeka Okafor
Andrea Bargnani
Marco Belinelli
Mike Bibby
Tyson Chandler
Caron Butler
Joe Johnson
Andre Iguodala
Anfernee Hardaway
Scottie Pippen
Gary Payton
Anderson Varejão
Yi Jianlian
O. J. Mayo
Rajon Rondo

But I’m not here to pass judgment on Macklemore’s consumerism cred. I’m sure he doesn’t need Nike anymore; he’d be fine with your grandpa’s shoes. And the truth is, I think Macklemore’s right: he’s not a sellout because he juxtaposed a song about shoes and consumerism with the NBA All-Star Game. He’s a sellout because he juxtaposed himself with the NBA.

Just a few short hours before Macklemore got to work in New Haven, and a few more before the Zombie Sonics did their best to avoid a four-game sweep of the Rockets (bad for revenue, dontcha know), the NBA Relocation Committee voted unanimously against moving the Kings to Seattle. Now, the decision itself doesn’t upset me — if Sacramento can hold onto its team, more power to it. There are other teams out there, and if there aren’t — and Hansen & Co. still want to throw money at the NBA — the league would be stupid not to consider expansion. OK, so I wouldn’t put it past them.

But what does bother me is the decision’s unanimity, or even more precisely, the fact that Clay Bennett (yemach shemo) was given any say in the decision over whether to bring professional basketball back to Seattle. David Stern (yemach shemo) cannot retire soon enough. The NBA is a disgrace.

Attn Macklemore, this means war!

Sure, the rapper’s an unabashed fan of the league. And I have no doubt he exercised no editorial control over the video in which he ultimately appeared. But the Slate article missed the extent to which Macklemore has abandoned something he once held dear. It’s not about whether he attacks consumerism while wearing Nike kicks for the NBA — it’s about (to bring this back to his appearance in the NBA promotional video) “What’s a nice rapper like Mack

macklemore and kemp

Macklemore Kemp jersey

Macklemore at Bumbershoot

doing in a video like this?”



118 156 235 238


Macklemore’s promotional video is a veritable Thunder storm. Almost might as well have just put this gem together himself:


3 thoughts on “How much of a sellout is Macklemore, anyway?”

  1. This is a perfect critique. I could not agree more, if there is a role for Macklemore to play, it is not as the musical face of the NBA but an advocate with Hansen. #BringEmBackHome #SOS


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