Truth told, I care not for the Macklemore. This is hardly a controversial position to take on the internet, as a rogue wave of music writers have made the Seattle rapper the whipping boy of the early 2013 pop season for his unexpected No. 1 single “Thrift Shop,” with SPIN’s Brandon Soderberg even calling it “the worst song in the country.” I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d go pretty far — the song is insufferable and grating and I don’t even like thrift shops that much (though hook singer Wanz is absolutely That Dude and I hope he gets a career out of it). Beyond that song, Macklemore is a little too preachy and humorless for my tastes, and both he and producer/collaborator Ryan Lewis have a nasty tendency towards cheap drama, no second-hand pun intended.

Still, I’ve tried to keep my criticism of Macklemore above the belt, since in theory, I respect the dude. He made it on his own, growing a cult audience without big label assistance, and while he’s perhaps a mite too willing to remind you of his proud independence at just about every turn, it is still a commendable thing. And even if his socially progressive jams lay it on a little thick, doesn’t a song like “Same Love” maybe do more good in the world than “Bandz a Make Her Dance”? Really, there are greater crimes to be committed in pop music than a dude breaking down t-shirt economics and making bad R. Kelly jokes over a skronky sax riff. I try not to lose sleep over it.

This, however, is where Macklemore becomes indefensible. If you’re wondering when and how (and possibly if) I’m gonna tie Macklemore into the NBA, it’s with this video, a recently released promotion for the upcoming All-Star Weekend:

Now, I broke this down in a little greater detail over at my music-writing day job — as a pop/hoops writer, this is the rare two-for-one news story for me — but basically, the sum up is this: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis appear in this promotion, lip-synching their song “Wings” in a church or something between your typical All-Star montage clips. All well and good, except that “Wings” is actually an anti-materialist (and more pressingly, anti-Nike) song that involves Macklemore referencing a time when his friend’s younger brother was murdered for his sneaks, and ends with him saying “These Nikes help me define me, but I’m trying to take mine, off.” None of these negative-leaning lyrics appear in the video, however, as the song is presented in a heavily-edited cut that focuses mostly on the blandly inspirational, out of context chorus “I’ll go so high / My feet won’t touch the ground.” There’s a children’s choir. You know how it goes.

Hard to say who comes out better in this incident. Whether they realized it or not — and you have to imagine they did — the NBA chose a song that essentially denounces one of their biggest and most closely associated-with business partners to promote one of their marquee events, a song that’s kinda down (and brings you kinda down) on the entire Be Like Mike culture surrounding the superstar-driven Association. They come off as ignorant and irresponsible for their song choice, and also the song kinda sucks as pump-up music (and in general), but whatever.

But Macklemore, bastion of artistic integrity in this commercially compromised art world and last angry man in the good fight against the Big Machine of pop music, probably looks even worse for not only allowing, but actively promoting an NBA campaign that uses a censored version of his protest song for contradictory advertising. He just comes off as a straight-up sell-out.

It didn’t have to be like this. Yeah, Macklemore is the guy right now, and he had a song that was basketball-related, so it’s an easy, if socially reprehensible, choice. But there are songs out there that the NBA could’ve used that wouldn’t inspire such hardline moralizing from music and hoops fans such as myself. (I don’t think I’ve called anyone a “sell-out” and meant it and meant it as a bad thing since, like, middle school.) Why not try these jams on for montaging instead?

A$AP Rocky feat. Skrillex & Birdy Nam Nam, “Wild For the Night”

The much-hyped (feared?) dubstep excursion on A$AP Rocky’s polarizing Long.Live.A$AP major-label debut would also require a heavy degree of censoring, though that would be more for language (you can’t say “swallowed all my kids-es” on TNT, I don’t think) than for actual content. And in the meantime, you’ve got that insanely adrenalizing laser-synth hook following the thematically appropriate exhortation “I’M GOIN’ WILD FOR THE NIGHT / F— BEING POLITE”.

Imagine Dragons, “Radioactive”

Frankly, it’s a little incredible that the NBA haven’t already played this song to death. It’s basically the song that last year’s overplayed playoff anthem, Linkin Park’s “Burn It Down,” thought it was and probably would’ve been had LP come out a decade later. Even this largely crappy 2012 NBA YouTube supercut seems kinda epic with the song’s thunderous drops and huge choruses underneath. Wait till this year’s playoffs start, guaranteed you’ll despise this song by June.

B.o.B. feat. T.I. and Juicy J, “We Still in This Bitch

It’s been a while since I advocated for the usage of B.o.B. in any circumstances, but worse rappers than Bobby Ray have been made tolerable on top of booming Mike Will Made It beats. T.I. and Juicy J make up for his presence anyway, and the Jock Jam potential of the rabble-rousing chorus (minor swears aside) is pretty hard to ignore. You could maybe make a case for Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” on similar-ish grounds, but the vibe in question might not be near riotous enough, and somehow censoring the “bitch” in that jam would be far more unforgivable.

Paramore, “Now”

The relationship-based lyrics aren’t exactly apropos, but the song’s impressively nervy energy is a nice fit. And if you ignore some of the verses, you get some decent potential athletes-as-gladiators-type rhetoric: “Lose the battle, win the war,” “There’s a time and place to die, but this ain’t it,” etc. Plus, for an All-Star Game so reliant on first-timers and other youngbloods, “If there’s a future, we want it now” is pretty damn on point.

Drake, “Started From the Bottom”

Doesn’t seem like a great song yet, but it’s decent and vaguely aspirational. Plus, NBA players love Drake and Drake loooooves Houston. It probably wouldn’t take a ton of prodding to get Drizzy to throw in a couple lyrics about Paul George and David Lee.

If you’ve got suggestions, leave them in the comments. Anything is better than Macklemore.

Comments (53)

  1. beyonce should perform every event possible. i called to inquire about doing my cats funeral but she couldnt make it

  2. My suggestion: The Roots, “The Fire” … though I will admit it’d work best for the playoffs.

    There’s something in your heart
    And it’s in your eyes
    It’s the fire, inside you
    Let it burn

    • WOW, killers choice Skeets. A classic track. That whole album was insane. Black Thought used one of the verses from that album on his BET cypher. The dude is a heavyweight.

  3. I can’t remember anything before 2012 due to the constant media barrage assaulting my brain, but I can’t remember any NBA theme that was any good. Any suggestions? That Linkin Park playoffs song was bad. The only NBA song I can come up with off the top of my head as being good is… Roundball Rock? Man, I wish a bunch of SEO-gaming assholes weren’t titling their YouTube uploads as “OFFICIAL THEME SONG OF X EVENT” so I could actually go back and look up the official songs to these games.

    Anyway, the yearly chosen theme songs just seem like they’re perceived as business opportunities by the league and nobody in the NBA offices really gives a crap.

  4. Insightful article!

  5. It’s a bit like the 2012 Olympics using “London Calling” for the promos. The only lyrics they left in the song were “London calling” and “I live by the river”. But hey, some of it fits, so why not?!

  6. Good article, Trey. However, I would like to applaud Macklemore for his progressive songs. I jam hard (in the 1st gen Prius) to Thrift Shop and Wings on the reg, and enjoy not hearing 2 chainz hooks and recycled sound from Hit-Boy. Trey, “doesn’t a song like “Same Love” maybe do more good in the world than “Bandz a Make Her Dance”? Really, there are greater crimes to be committed in pop music than a dude breaking down t-shirt economics and making bad R. Kelly jokes over a skronky sax riff. ” agreed, stop the article and end your application to the haters ball….There have been worse sellouts (

    • Not sure I would say a corny commercial promoting the world’s most delicious soft drink is as morally problematic as using an extremely compromised version of your anti-Nike jam to promote an event heavily associated with said brand.

      That said, I do enjoy your use of the phrase “application to the haters ball” and am currently attempting to re-brand it for my own purposes.

      • My bad. Good article, Andrew, and yes please use the Chappelle reference. It comes down to the product and reason for the spot. Macklemore is selling a basketball game and building face so millions of new fans can hear his fun/controversial tunes. Dre is selling sugar water to make some extra bucks to put an addition on the house in whatever foreign country. Macklemore and his reps probably pushed for Wings during negotiations… they know hoop-heads will be intrigued and want to hear more of the seemingly harmless song…then Bang, reality of the song hits the millions of curious listeners, and hopefully a good portion discover the true purpose of the song. Cue angry letter from Nike to lame duck commissioner Stern. Bottom line, whatever agency has the NBA account is doing a swell job evolving the brand. I believe it is Leo. I love Mondays.

        • Dr. Pepper is so much more than sugar water, though.

        • This is exactly how I saw it. I love wings, but anticipated that the original wouldn’t be used for something like an NBA event.

          People who didn’t know him and the song before will definitely be positively surprised what really is in the real song and all those no brain sneakerheads might have something poking in the ear for a change.

          I guess I’d call him a sell out of I wouldn’t like him. I guess i do now as well, but I really don’t care as I want him to be successful as he’s mad talented.

        • Macklenore? FUN!?

          This guy embodies every bad tendency of the KRS-Two school of preachy hip hop, the stuff that makes people whine about how hip hop “used to be” while ignoring that UGK’s I’m So Baf (I can suck my own dick) and Section 8 Mobs “Ketchup On My Hotdog” from the same era are infinitely more amazing than some Poor Righteous Teachers record.


    • Trey didn’t write the article. Andrew Unterberger did. And I agree with Andrew in his general feeling toward Macklemore. Well written as usual, sir.

  7. Dude finally achieves success on his own, and not through the Big Machine, and what happens? The haters come out. This is just a microcosm of today’s internet culture where everyone has an opinion, and it seems to matter way too much.

    • “The things I like are beyond reproach”

      As far as people having opinions on things, that’s very much true, but pop music is pretty trivial. It’s not like people are discussing something of great weight– like economics or segregation, for two examples– and failing in doing the most basic of statistical or historical research.

  8. NBA needs to quit trying to seem “hip” by getting all these artists to do a theme every year.

    Just fucking pay John Tesh to use the NBA on NBC theme again:


  9. Personally I like Macklemore’s music, he’s a decent rapper, and the production is great. However this is totally a valid call out. I’ve always wondered how he made this song, and has a song about thrift shops, which also has the same anti-materialism vibe to it, yet every single week, he ends up in Nice Kicks celebrity sneaker stalker, with exclusive release Nikes on.

  10. not a great tune

  11. Just play 7L & Esoteric’s “The Handle” to pay dues to the legends of the 80s.

  12. Every song the world will ever need for sporting events can be found on Jock Jams volumes 1-5. I must say I also hate the new version of “One Shining Moment”, so yeah…

  13. I’ve been a Macklemore fan since The VS ep and love his music, his energy, and that he does touch on something more than girls, money, etc. Wing$ is a song with a message to not obsess with possessions or be owned by what you own; it’s about enjoying what you have and not being an idiot to get a pair of sneakers, not the anti-Nike song. So I agree, not a great choice to use this song and edit out the message and just take the basketball. But, calling Macklemore and Ryan Lewis “sellouts” would be taking this a little too far.

  14. Good article Andrew. Macklemore stans seem to come out in full force whenever his self righteous message is criticized. Even more so, the guy just makes boring music. Go put on an Atmosphere record.

    • Good work as always AU. Atmosphere does have considerably more talent than Macklemore. Dood did rock a Gary Payton jersey no jacket in 35 degree weather last weekend at red rocks though. Gotta respect that + first independent artist to be #1 in years. Maybe this is almost a ‘reverse jynx’ tactic by illuminati, wearing us all out on Macklemores socially conscious message. Either way, it’s a damn shame that it seems everybody has to ‘sell out’ for a few peanuts

      • Huh? Plenty of independent artists have had number 1 singles and albums.

        • Yeah, I’m pretty sure Mac Miller’s album was the first independent album to go #1 since Tha Dogg Pound though. The purchasing power of young white people cannot be stopped

  15. agree that it is ironic about that songs’ message vs the NBA all star machine, but Macklemore’s songs are pretty decent with thoughful lyrics, compared to 99% of the other shite that is out there about “poppin mollys in da club”

  16. Macklemore is great. He has some songs that are clearly just for fun, and some that actually have meaning. Unfortunately, thrift store, the song that has no meaning, made it to mainstream instead of his meaningful songs. Macklemore problem isn’t the right artist for an nba event but i’m glad he got his name out and can build on his fan base.

    I think it’s been pretty clear that you only need one clear line related to basketball or the nba to be able to be considered a candidate for performing for an nba event.

    i don’t know any on the top of my head, but i know that kid ink has some songs that fit better than macklemore.

  17. Hey Andrew, call me crazy but perhaps the NBA chose this particular song by Macklemore as way of controlling and manipulating the artist and his art.

    Taking a song that, quite honestly, few people had ever heard and effectively castrating it before making it the anthem of the NBA’s marquee showcase of talent could only serve to put the artist in his place. For an artist to trade his integrity for dollars, the opportunity would have to be pretty spectacular, both financially and exposure wise, which this is. I would imagine this being one of the only ways that Macklemore would compromise his artistic integrity, so he couldn’t possibly turn this opportunity down. In accepting the offer he’d have no choice but to change his lyrics, for reasons you stated above.

    Seeing that Macklemore changed his lyrics to make a buck and get more publicity, he will lose a great deal of credibility as an artist in the eyes of those who trade in credibility.

    If I were Nike, I couldn’t be happier that Macklemore changed the lyrics to his song to make it sound like a Nike endorsement.

    • Why would they give a crap about a sour pussed rapper?

      God this guy is awful. I don’t get it.

      Soooo preachy. If I wanted left of center I’d put on Fantastic Damage or the Cold Vein or Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes or NWA (acronym un-expandable by 100% of macklemore fan base)

  18. I liked the song because it had meaning but its use by an entity that is indirectly criticized by the song detracts from the significance and purpose of the song. This makes it no better than the other shit in the music industry.

  19. Live for the Moment – Skyzoo

  20. What about some Barnesy?

  21. Here’s a wonderful All-Star 2012 preview video (made by Meir21) featuring Macklemore’s awesome song Can’t Hold Us Down.

    I think Mack goes well with the NBA.

  22. No All-Star song will ever beat the Ultramagnetic MC’s tribute to the players and coaches of 1989:

  23. Macklemore continues to be a “sneakerhead” like yourself, Trey. Nice Kicks © promoted him somewhat often.

  24. I know it is corny a bit, but I thought Kanye’s “Amazing” from a couple of years ago fit well with the ego-centric and somewhat arrogant nature of professional sports.

  25. This post has a BDL post-Skeets shit vibe to it. Macklemore is dope. Please go back to Yahoo or wherever you came from and stop stealing The Score’s money

  26. Mystikal – Hit me
    S-Type – Billboard

    and since it’s the all-star game ….
    Icona Pop – I Love It

  27. Are you guys aware of Shad? He’s one of Hip Hop’s finest, and an Ontario native. He also has a fair few basketball references throughout his albums.

    It wouldn’t sit well with the NBA, and it’s far from his greatest track, but his song “Real Game” is a hilarious look at racial comparisons in the NBA.

    The references are a little dated as it was recorded back in ’05, but it’s still a great listen. Shad’s the 2nd guy in each exchange.

  28. Why hate on Macklemore? That’s the only bad thing about this article.. A hip hop artist speaking truth about alchohol-problems, hatin’ on commercialism and standing up for homosexuals rights? Like or disslike the music, prefer Rebecca Black for all I care, but why hate so ignorantly – such as the writer does in this case?

    • Hatin on commercialism!

      Because no rapper has EVER done that before!

      Thank god this frowny faced cracker straightened out all the old dumb darkies.

  29. Little old but Blue Sky from Common has some basketball references from some Chicago boys, should be right up your alley Trey + that song is gold,

  30. I’m sorry to say that but this article is completely idiotic. You don’t have to like Macklemore, but this is ridicioulous. You say you respect him, but on the other hand you say anything is better than Macklemore. That’s not what I would call respect. You criticize Macklemore for being a sell-out and instead propose Drake? Really? The guy who invented YOLO is a better rapper than Macklemore? Yeah, right. I’m not saying he sucks, but his lyrics aren’t the best either. Anybody who knows Macklemore, know the true meaning of Wing$. And this ”incident” doesn’t change anything about Macklemore’s legacy. Like I said in the beginning, you don’t have to like him, but calling Thrift Shop and Wing$ bad tracks and Macklemore himself a sell-out is a bit too much, don’t you think?

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