4a. Macklemore was paid by the NBA for the use of his song, Wings.
Okay, okay: that was a slanted title if there ever was one. Let’s say Macklemore got fuckloads of money for letting the NBA decontextualize his song, Wings.
Wait… Shit, I’m bad at this.
The Seattle rapper’s lyrics were edited to better fit the time constraints and theme of the NBA All-Star commercial, and Wings’ message sounded much more commercial than anti. Naturally, ‘sellout’ was the immediate backlash from hardcore, true Macklemore fans, AKA: fuckin’ losers. But the R. Kelly sheet-smell-connoisseur was on the ball, and got to a response nice and quick. Here’s some of what he said:
The subject I use in the song is shoes, but its aim is to paint a broader picture of being a consumer and tracing the lineage back to my first memory of retail infused desire.
When we got offered the TNT All Star game intro it was a no-brainer... 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.
In any licensing deal they are going to edit your music.
The All Star game intro was seen by millions of people on Sunday who had no idea who we were. My thinking was, if they liked the song they will go and listen to the full version... Some might even buy it and become real fans.
In my stripped down definition, selling out is compromising your artistic integrity for money/fame.
I would understand the “Macklemore sold out” complaints more if we matched Wings to a shoe commercial... The songs subject is about shoes, but the guts of the record are about consumer culture. Is the NBA tied up in this culture and related in some way? Absolutely. But it’s no different than the brands you’re currently wearing, the company that manufactured the couch that you’re sitting on or the computer/phone you’re staring into while reading this.
More people download the song, got the truth (the actual/full song) and we converted strangers that didn’t know who we were into fans.
I’m calling bullshit right now. You’ve never seen a commercial before? What do you mean “you didn’t know prior to that day that [your] lyrics were going to be edited”? Have you never watched television before? Have you never seen a commercial that uses a popular song? Fuck you, you weren’t ignorant, you knew exactly the implications. And you should have gotten some kind of eerie, over-commercialized vibe when they did 20 thousand takes of you sitting on a fucking basketball hoop.
Merriam-Webster defines ‘fame’ as “the state of being widely known or recognized; renown; celebrity”. So why was potential reach and “more people download[ing] the song” so important to you if “selling out is compromising your artistic integrity for money/fame”? Okay, okay, you do make it pretty clear: “if they liked the song they will go and listen to the full version”–I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you’re assuming they’ll get the full message if this happens. But, message or no, isn’t that just an extension of your fame?
If you were true underground, if you truly put your ideas before your fame or earnings, you’d say no to any representation that contradicts the artistic integrity of Macklemore because its the fucking journey of getting the word out that’s more important that shooting it out of a cannon. It’s slower going, but it’s genuine all the way through—if keeping to your artistic integrity is actually important to you, you understand and embrace this fact. But your actions contradict that assumption. The fact that Macklemore is so interested in speeding up the rate at which people find out about him, erm, his “message”, seems opposite his claims. Seems like rationalization/lazy defense.
“But I never wanted to be underground!” Macklemore protested. Indeed:
I never wanted to be an underground rapper… I hate that term. My intention was to make music that spoke to people. And not like 40 people — hundreds and thousands if not millions of people could connect with what I’m writing about.
So why does he push the “I didn’t sign with a major label” thing so hard? Like, why is it so important for him to be non-commercial AND non-underground at the same time? It just seems like he’s constantly trying to have his cake and eat it too, this oh-I-wanna-be-rich-and-famous-but-still-be-able-to-say-I’m-not-a-sellout. And I think that’s busted. I understand a lot of artists don’t want to be put inside a box, but, dude: if you have too many parameters for what you refuse to define yourself as, you’re setting yourself up to be a hypocrite at some point. And people hate that.
And you do understand that the context of the NBA commercial changes the expectations of the newcomer, right? They’re not expecting an anti-commercial message, they’re expecting the story to continue. This means one of three things: they’re gonna be bummed with the track, they’ll actually listen and love it/join your army, or they won’t listen to the lyrics at all and just sing along to the hook. Sounds like if they don’t do what you wanted, your “artistic integrity” has been sacrificed (if it hasn’t been already).