Moe Dee, Mopeds, Melle Mel, oh my! Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ latest single “Downtown” is the moped anthem for pop enthusiasts and Hip Hop heads alike. But that’s the thing; does this funk-fueled composition belong with the likes of J Cole and Future on the Hip Hop charts, or next to Katy Perry and Jason Derulo on the Pop charts? It’s a Rap song, or a Pop song, or a Rock song…oh my.
Since his debut in 2012 with the viral smash “Thrift Shop”, Macklemore has been attracting Rap fans and teenyboppers alike with his catchy, radio friendly records. But society’s willingness to define him as a Pop artist has raised all sorts of discussion about racism and cultural appropriation, placing Macklemore right smack dab in the middle of it all. After beating out Kendrick Lamar for Best Hip Hop Album at the Grammys back in 2014, the “Same Love” rapper quickly became the target of backlash on social media.
And his new song is drawing some of the same attention. “The song degenerates even further into this completely nonsensical smorgasbord of complete nonsense,” says Andre Grant, features editor for HipHopDX.com. “…this song is a straight jack of every single thing that came out this year in Hip Hop.” It’s the sort of stuff that introduces someone like my aunt to Hip Hop, in a catchy, friendly way. It’s a condensed history lesson, broken up by a chorus sung by Eric Nally that sounds like something Freddie Mercury would write. Not to mention the fact that it’s just a very cluttered song that doesn’t really know it’s identity.
But as much criticism as songs like these get in 2015, people seem to be more tolerant. For example, in the 90’s, or even the early 00’s, a song like “Downtown” would probably have been relegated to the Rap stations exclusively, maybe gaining a small cult following. But in the 2010’s, Macklemore can shine on the Rap stations, as well as the Pop stations. This is because, for one, Hip Hop has been recognized as a worldwide force to be reckoned with, allowing Kendrick Lamar to accompany Taylor Swift on a song like “Bad Blood”.
Hip Hop is officially here to stay. It’s been around for thirty years, so we can all agree that it’s not just a fad. And when a genre is recognized as more than a fad, everyone and their mother will try to cash in on it. This is the downside of crossover appeal. The industry takes notice, turning a unique cultural movement into a formulated act to sell more records.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to point fingers. Maybe Macklemore doesn’t know any better. I would like to think he’s coming from a good place, being very outspoken about his roots in Hip Hop. He seems like a decent person that just wants to make his music and respect the culture. But Music is a business and judging by “Downtown”, Macklemore knows this. And his existence is important, whether or not you like his music, because it keeps the important conversations going.
Who knows what will come next in music. It’s an exiting time to be a music lover. Let’s just hope Macklemore doesn’t go country…that just wouldn’t sound right.
This article was written by Matthew Mastrangelo, a writer for dusk magazine.