Before reading this blog we ask you to watch this entire music video, listen to the lyrics, and hear the artist’s message.
What do you think? Tell us. We honestly want to know. For us, this video resonated with so much we have learned in our IMC classes with Dr. Persuit. The first time we saw it, we found ourselves instantly clicking replay. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have created a masterpiece in our completely unprofessional opinion. It is hard to quit being awestruck. We will stop the raving now and get to the good stuff.
This song delves into the difficulty many young people face today in navigating our consumerist cultures. Specifically, the song is dissecting the obsessive sneaker culture. Ben Haggerty, a.k.a. Macklemore, raps about his fascination with shoes. He explicitly mentions Nike, and Phil Knight, co-founder and chairman of the 15.9 billion dollar brand. In this interview, Macklemore gives insight into what his thought process was in writing the song. He started out simply wanting to write a song about shoes, and ended up evaluating the consequences of the consumerist culture brand names have created.
Some of Macklemore’s personal shoe collection.
In the interview Macklemore explains that he still considers himself a “sneakerhead,” and even compares his urge to consume with his struggle with drug addiction. He states, “I think, in the background of the sneaker culture, there is this lust and addiction for more and more and more. You know, new colors, new versions of shoes and this desire for more to consume.” He is right, and the reality is this type of lust and addiction isn’t reserved solely for shoes in our culture as a whole. I mean, we all have that friend who couldn’t believe their iPhone 5 took a whole three days to arrive after the release, or that friend who won’t wear any clothing that isn’t brand name. Macklemore jokes on our culture’s obsession with brand name clothing in his song, Thrift Shop. (We think this song is worth a listen too.)
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis bring attention to such an interesting issue with the song “Wings” because they are not only discussing the addiction to shoes, they are also discussing the underlying issue of crime in the sneaker culture. The lyrics “my friend Carlos’ brother got murdered for his Fours” were written into the song because the event actually occurred. Macklemore lived in an area where the cultural obsession over brands paved the way to crime and theft. He explained, “I got a Starter jacket in third grade, but you had to be careful wearing a Starter jacket, and you had to be careful with which neighborhood you were in while wearing Jordans.” The brands people wore made them targets. Yet, they still paid money for these name brands. This shouldn’t be made to seem like a thing of the past either. This article from the Washington Post briefly details an incident that occurred only a few days ago. A student was robbed of his Nike Air Jordan 7 Retro Olympic Edition basketball shoes.
So, what does this all mean? Is Macklemore calling for Nike to cease production? Not in the least. Macklemore still buys Nike shoes, as we mentioned he labeled himself a sneakerhead. The writer himself explains, “this song was my attempt to break down my own, conflicted interest in the sneaker culture.” It is admirable and difficult to critically analyze culture you are heavily involved in as Macklemore did with the sneaker culture. It is something that we should all strive to do in our own habits as consumers.
Here is what we would like to leave you with before our time writing for the IMCHawk ends: Think before you consume. Analyze the messages you might be sending by the brands you are wearing and using. Realize that consuming doesn’t equate to happiness. The song is correct in saying our dreams are sold to us, “consumption is in the veins.” Our dreams in life shouldn’t be based on the possessions we hope to one day have. As Dave Eggers writes, “the greatest use of a human was to be useful. Not to consume, not to watch, but to do something for someone else that improved their life, even for a few minutes.” Keep Calm and Consume Thoughtfully.
- Alexandra Huss, Caroline Merrill, Alyssa Morrello, Lauren Van Trigt, Dann Williams