Seattle in the News

Here Come the Macklemore Haters

What do Macklemore and Ryan Lewis mean for hip-hop? Discuss.

By Laura Dannen February 22, 2013

From left: Ryan Lewis and Macklemore

It can't be all rainbows and piles of cash for Seattle hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Now that their debut single "Thrift Shop" is topping charts around the globe (and they're slated to appear on SNL March 2), the haters have come out to play.

Spin wasn't shy, calling "Thrift Shop" "the worst song in the country" and "a party track for privileged dweebs." Rolling Stone couldn't decide if The Heist was a sleeper hit or a self-righteous ode, giving the album a perfectly noncommittal 2.5 stars out of 5. Even The New York Times has weighed in with—what else—a trend story, lumping "Thrift Shop" in with Baauer’s "Harlem Shake" and suggesting that their popularity either "reflects a tremendous cultural victory for hip-hop or the moment when hip-hop, as a construct, begins to lose meaning."

Like Seattle Weekly a few years ago, Times music writer Jon Caramanica bemoans Macklemore's sincerity (technically: his "lumpy sincerity" oozing from the album). And like Spin, Carmaminca makes sure we know this is a rap from a white guy.

"Macklemore’s success is a reminder that in 2013 it is possible to consume hip-hop while remaining at a far remove from the center of the genre or, in some cases, from black culture altogether," Carmaminca writes. "That’s not only because Macklemore is white—he sets off triggers that are different from those of Eminem, Yelawolf, Machine Gun Kelly, Action Bronson and any number of white rapper—or because his audience is mainstream. It’s because on 'Thrift Shop' the rapping is merely a tool to advance ideas that are not connected to hip-hop to an audience that doesn’t mind receiving them under a veneer of hip-hop cool."

It poses an interesting question: In 2013 is rap still the property of one culture? In Seattle it certainly isn't, with Sabzi of Blue Scholars creating rhymes about pho and bespectecled Ballard boy Grynch rapping about "My Volvo."  Macklemore and Ryan Lewis happen to be Seattle's greatest hip-hop export right now, but rather than dismissing them as crossover artists, perhaps we applaud them for representing a diverse Seattle music scene that does things its own way...even if The New York Times doesn't like it.

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