• Daniel Kephart

How Macklemore Can Save Your Life.

We all remember the days of "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold us." Macklemore was 2012's edge. He fused pop and rap in a way that paved the way for a whole new generation of hip-hop. His album, The Heist, dominated conversation as well as the radio airwaves. Young adults lounged in their cars, the hot summer air streaming over them as the Ryan Lewis produced album played on repeat. It really did seem, in some ways, like the anthem of the Millennial generation. The ceiling couldn't hold us. Walls couldn't confine us. We came to reject the ways of the past and forge a new path. And then Macklemore disappeared.

Not really, of course. The rapper still wrote, still performed. No new album hit the scene, though, until 2016--four years after the release of The Heist. Finally he released a new set of songs. And what a different set they were. Gone was the sense of rugged adventurism and triumph that marked The Heist. Even that title suggested so much. Bold robberies, things stolen, daring escapes with an immense payoff waiting. That was The Heist. The new album was different. It's title said it all.

This Unruly Mess I've Made.

In 2012, Macklemore said, "This is the moment, tonight is the night, let's fight till it's over. So we put our hands up like the ceiling can't hold us...like the ceiling can't hold us." What a vision of confidence in a radically different world, one rebuilt by the Millennial generation after the old world crumbled beneath our feet. In 2016, a different message emerged: "This is America and insecurity's our fabric, and we wear it an we renamed it fashion." That's not a small change, that's a gap that changes everything.

The Millennial generation lives in a wasteland of dreams. The digital revolution was supposed to make us gods. Prophecies of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers labeled us the heroes of a new story where a more tolerant global system emerged. Even in 2012 this sense of optimism could still be felt. Millennials could put an end to racism. Millennials could be the most educated generation of all time. Millennials could create a new cyber-economy. And maybe we can.

Millennials cannot be dismissed as a failed generation. Yet if we bear any similarities to our ancestors, the Lost Generation of the First World War is certainly our closest match. They pioneered aviation, motor power, and new forms of government. We harnessed the Terabyte, constructed a wholly new form of socialization via the internet, and embraced the creative destruction of YouTube, online journalism, and Snapchat. The Millennial generation is radically motivated to push boundaries.

Unfortunately, like our WWI forerunners, Millennials are alienated en masse. The recent turn against Millennials, redefining them as avocado-loving basement dwellers, points to this. Millennials leap into the digital revolution took a brutal toll. Depression is rampant. Anxiety runs amok. Such is the predicament young adults now find themselves in.

Fortunately, Macklemore can help us out. In "Wing$," perhaps the most striking song on all of The Heist, the rapper noticed the cracks in American consumerism. The song chronicles Macklemore's obsession with Nike shoes as a young man. Frustrated by his willingness to buy into the fad as a child, Macklemore writes, "We are what we wear, we wear what we are...These Nike's help me define me, but I'm trying to take mine off." Heartbreaking.

Millennial's dreams did not work out. It doesn't seem as though we can end racism. Fixing poverty is probably beyond us. We tried our best--and it hasn't panned out. What we can still do, however, is pick up the pieces. Millennial's hands can still build something beautiful out of the unruly mess we've made. Step out of the shoes other generations sold us on. We are what we wear--and it's time for Millennials to put on the garments of parenthood, responsibility, and ethics. Like the Lost Generation, we can find new dreams, better ones. Out of the shattered remains of our utopic vision there may emerge new individuals made stronger, not weaker, by the heartbreak of the digital revolution.

Till then, we'll just face down the unruly mess we've made. One day at a time.

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Works Cited


"Can't Hold Us". The Heist. Macklemore LLC.

"Wing$". The Heist. Macklemore LLC.

"Light Tunnels". This Unruly Mess I've Made. Macklemore LLC.

Image of Macklemore - Drew of The Come Up Show (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

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