Macklemore: Why Moms Should Know About Him

Posted on March 6, 2013 by

English: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performing at...

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performing at Sasquatch 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Macklemore. Have you heard of him?

If you’ve got a teenager in the house, chances are you have. Or if you’ve listened to the radio, surfed the internet, or watched Saturday Night Live.

And if you’re a mom, you should know about Macklemore and why teenagers love him.

Just in case you stilll have no idea who I’m talking about, here is Macklemore’s recent appearance on SNL:

You really should watch it.

Macklemore is a 29-year-old rapper from Seattle, Washington, who just happens to have a hit song, “Thrift Shop”,  topping the Billboard charts-and has sold over 3.9 million copies of it to date. He and his musical partner, Ryan Lewis, have achieved unlikely success in today’s music scene, starting with their rise to fame as artists not signed to a major label. But that’s not the reason moms should know about him.

And it’s not that your teenagers are suddenly turning to rap music instead of Taylor Swift (but I love her, too).

American country musician Taylor Swift perform...

American country musician Taylor Swift performing live. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You should know about Macklemore because he’s different.

Yes, he’s a rapper. I’ll admit that I’m not a big rap fan, mainly because I object to much of the lyrical content and suggestive ideas many rappers base their music around.  But Macklemore, he’s not like them.

I first heard him through the walls of my 16-year-old daughter’s bedroom. Surprised to hear thumping bass and rhythm over melodic pop songs, I questioned her.  She tried to tell me he’s different, but I just walked away, puzzled.

Finally, after weeks of persuasion, we listened to his newest album start to finish on a long car trip.  I have to admit-I was impressed.

Macklemore has been called a ‘conscious rapper’-a label he doesn’t entirely love: “”Am I more or less conscious than everybody else? I’m a full spectrum of a human being. There’s songs that are deep and personal and might bring up some social issues, but that’s not the full side of me. I think it’s just a box, that’s just corny. It’s very outdated. It’s very underground and backpacker-ish and that’s not the music I make,” he stated.

But when I hear songs like “Thrift Shop”, and especially “Same Love”, I see how it fits; Macklemore writes about real life, real problems, and real people. He breaks the negative stereotypes of rap, and had the courage to break through trends and challenge his listeners to do the same. He writes about issues that I see teens struggle with every day, like wearing the ‘right’ clothes in “Thrift Shop”, and dealing with sexuality and discrimination, as in his hit “Same Love”:

We press play/Don’t press pause/Progress, march on!/With a veil over our eyes

We turn our back on the cause/’Till the day/That my uncles can be united by law

Kids are walkin’ around the hallway/Plagued by pain in their heart

A world so hateful/Some would rather die/Than be who they are

This is why moms need to know about Macklemore. At least read his lyrics.  Hear the issues he writes about, and ask your kids what they think. When I asked teens why they liked Macklemore, they responded with things like “he’s just so good” and “a lot of his music is spoken word, which I like. It’s not all hardcore rap-he has a lot of variety.”

Teens liking spoken word? Wow-that means they’re actually listening to what the artist is saying…and in my opinion, that’s a very good thing. Well, except for the foul language, but if they can look past that and focus on his messages, Macklemore is ok in my house. Teenagers love him because he writes what they’re living-bullies and styles and fitting in and love…and moms, if you want to understand your teenagers a little bit better, you might just take a listen to “Wings”:

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Comments: 22

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  • Joe O'Neill

    August 6, 2013

    Did you like the part where the song demonizes organized religion? Did you like when the lyrics equate daring to oppose any aspect of the gay agenda with bigotry, and then this bigotry with Catholicism by showing the old clips of kids making their first Holy Communion? Did you think that was “tolerant”?

    Yeah, you did. Of course you did.

    You might want to think a l’il bit about where this is going.

  • Kate Bowen

    March 16, 2013

    I listen to “Thrift Shop” all the time, thanks to Spence. He makes me CDs of all the hip and trendy tunes and gives them to me periodically. Great way to stay on top of the latest. I believe Macklemore will be playing in the Bay Area in May. 🙂

    • Jennifer Wolfe

      March 17, 2013

      Kate, you have one cool kid-I hope my own continue to inspire me to listen to their generation and the messages they share. Yea for Macklemore! Thanks so much for commenting! -Jennifer

  • Laura@Catharsis

    March 16, 2013

    Husband and I love Macklemore. Same Love is a wonderful song, and I can’t get over how catchy Thrift Shop is. You know, I think a teacher nearby recently lost her job because a student asked her to play Same Love and she did. Parents objected to her exposing their kids to gayness? I don’t know, but the district backed the parents, and out she went. I was furious.
    Laura@Catharsis recently posted…Kids Are Embarrassing…And HILARIOUS!My Profile

    • Jennifer Wolfe

      March 17, 2013

      Laura, I heard about that story-ridiculous. It’s no wonder we have so many teen suicides and issues of bullying. If kids cannot figure out who they are and how they want to live their lives without fear of their personal safety, how can we possibly create harmony in our society? It’s not just about sexuality-it’s a fear of speaking out, being the ‘other’ and taking a stand. I certainly want my own children to know unconditional oelv and acceptance, even if we cannot always agree. Thanks so much for adding your comment. -Jennifer

  • Sara

    March 10, 2013

    My husband LOVES music and keeps me tuned in with the latest and greatest as he creates my playlists! Love Macklemore! Love even more that you wrote about this!!! xo

    • Jennifer Wolfe

      March 11, 2013

      Thank you, Sara! I love music, too-married a musician-and think it’s important to keep up with what’s current. Glad you commented today! -Jennifer

    • Jennifer Wolfe

      March 8, 2013

      Hi Emily,
      He’s a pretty interesting guy-I always admire people who succeed doing things outside the mainstream. It takes a lot of courage, determination and vision. Thanks for commenting today! ~Jennifer

      • Zach

        July 25, 2013

        Nothing wrong with Macklemore. But there is something wrong with this article and your blanket statements and judgements coming from a position of bias. Masked in your careless wording and failure to be truly thoughtful is your own prejudice, something that you say you appreciate Macklemore for challenging. You should use your power as somebody who parents listen to, to be more thorough in your research, fair to a genre and understanding of people’s differences. Have you ever written up about a rapper of color who raps about positive things or are they all too inappropriate for your children. Please see your paragraph that I have pasted below and lets unpack some of the inferred meaning within those sentences:

        “But when I hear songs like “Thrift Shop”, and especially “Same Love”, I see how it fits; Macklemore writes about real life, real problems, and real people. He breaks the negative stereotypes of rap, and had the courage to break through trends and challenge his listeners to do the same. He writes about issues that I see teens struggle with every day, like wearing the ‘right’ clothes in “Thrift Shop”, and dealing with sexuality and discrimination, as in his hit “Same Love”: ”

        He breaks through the “negative stereotypes of rap” and writes about “real life, real problems, and real people.” These “real people,” are real people as defined by you. As if the “only real people” are people that you can relate to. The people that you interact with. Macklemore grew up going to the Bush school, an expensive private school in Seattle before eventually going to public schools and getting those more diverse experiences. He grew on Capital Hill a predominantly white middle to upper class neighborhood. My point being that clearly you can relate to him. You and your readers love him because now they get to like rap on their terms. This is real life to some people. . This is real life for some people . This too .

        Rap and hip hop was born out your culture. It was born out of a culture of poverty, inequity, no opportunity, inescapable negativity. Most rap speaks to real people. Of course there are the exceptions of people that glorify a life they never lived to sell records. However, I challenge you to attempt to gain a real understanding of the culture before generalizing and labeling something as negative. Understand context. Understand that there are artists of color that are rapping about positive messages just like Macklemore. Rapper Murs is from Crenshaw a much more homophobic neighborhood than Capitol Hill. He not only made a song speaking to and challenging homophobia, he (a heterosexual man) acted as the main gay character and even kissed a man to make a statement and push the boundaries of his art (Please see Understand that there are artists of color who use their platform to talk about their experiences that might be different from yours and Macklemores. Sometimes they use “bad” language and see things from a different scope than you. I doubt that you would like an artist like Kendrick Lamar who is positive, thoughtful and intelligent but raps about his experiences growing up in Compton as opposed to Capitol Hill Seattle. Understand that there are rappers that grew up in severe poverty and that the priorities that they grew up with may be different from yours. Chief Keef is a gangster rapper that has negative content in his music. He lives in a violent Chicago neighborhood and is 17 years old. There were 72 shootings in Chicago over 4th of July weekend this year. 532 murders in Chicago in 2012. That’s life for some people. Chance the Rapper (one of Macklemore’s favorite rappers) is also a young rapper from a very violent Chicago neighborhood. He raps about family and positive things but he is also informed by his surroundings. In certain areas of Chicago you can’t escape gang lifestyle. That doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t make their art any less worthy. Its way too easy to lump everybody together but I find it very offensive that you would make such a general judgement about rap when it is something so multifaceted. There is a long and multifaceted history that you neglect and brush over when you make such general statements and it makes you look like a paternal character that sees yourself as above it all. You don’t get to decide what good rap is if you don’t take the time to understand the genre.

        • Jennifer Wolfe

          July 27, 2013

          Hello Zach, Thank you for your extensive comments. Blogging is, generally, a platform of opinion and not necessarily a research document. I do thank you for introducing me to more rappers, and will certainly take a listen to them. I do find it interesting that in your comment you stereotype me by saying rap was born out of my culture, implying that you know what that is and you are not of the same. I do appreciate you taking the time to share your opinions, and hope that we can each learn from the other. Thanks again, Jennifer

        • caitlin

          January 14, 2018

          i completely agree with this. you should listen to macklemore’s songs “white privilege and white privilege II”. he talks about why he doesnt like it when people call his song “better or different to other rappers” he states that it is not because this is true, but because he is white. this makes him more accessible to white people and they accept him more. they think that because he white, he becomes less scary and different for their kids to listen to. by saying these statements, you are culturally appropriating black and hip hop culture. dont get me wrong, i really like macklemore and his music, but i understand the importance of expanding my rap music knowledge to other rappers and actually understand the issues with white rappers. check your bias

  • Dawn Wink

    March 6, 2013

    Okay, I’m asking my gang today after school about him. I’ve never heard of him before. Looking forward to what I learn! Thanks much, mamawolfe!

    • Jennifer Wolfe

      March 6, 2013

      Let me know what they say…I’m interested to hear how popular he is in other parts of the country! -Jen

  • Nicole Lindstrom

    March 6, 2013

    Interesting! Must learn more about him and listen to his songs. Might be a good change from kids bop. Glad he talks about dealing with real life issues…..
    Nicole Lindstrom recently posted…Banana Oatmeal SmoothieMy Profile

    • Jennifer Wolfe

      March 6, 2013

      Oh, Nicole, I remember the kids bop days-they were deadly! I’d bet your kids would like Macklemore’s rhythms…and they won’t catch any of the poor language! -Jennifer

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