Thrift Shop

I’ve been thinking about this song a lot, probably because it’s on the radio ALL THE TIME right now.  There’s a lot to like about it.  The guys a tight rapper, the beat is catchy and it’s got a hook that sticks in my head for hours.  It’s cute song about the joys of thrift store shopping, and pretty much anyone my generation (X) or below can relate to this.  But the third verse kind of sticks out at me:

I hit the party and they stop in that motherfucker
They be like, “Oh, that Gucci – that’s hella tight.”
I’m like, “Yo – that’s fifty dollars for a T-shirt.”
Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition
Fifty dollars for a T-shirt – that’s just some ignorant bitch (shit)
I call that getting swindled and pimped (shit)
I call that getting tricked by a business
That shirt’s hella dough
And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don’t
Peep game, come take a look through my telescope
Trying to get girls from a brand? Then you hella won’t
Then you hella won’t

He’s basically calling anyone who spends money on fancy clothes a dumbass.  I’m of two minds about this.  On the one hand, he’s insulting a good deal of the rappers that came before him.  And maybe he doesn’t care because he figures a ginger isn’t going to get asked to cameo on too many records anyways.  He may be hoping to carve out a career in Alternative Music- it worked out for white rap acts like Beck and the Beastie Boys.  The Beastie Boys were also outspoken critics of misogyny in rap, though it’s hard to tell what effect that had, because they were already well out of the mainstream of rap by that time.

There’s also the problem of saying “I call that getting tricked by business” – some rappers are the business.

It strikes me as the same thing as writing a punk song about how leather jackets are stupid and going to church is cool.  I mean, do it.  I’m sure someone has.

The other thought I have is that while sure, I think it’s stupid to spend $50 on a t-shirt, that’s because I grew up always having my material needs met.  I imagine that for a guy like Jay-Z it was a matter of make it big, or be stuck in a crack-infested ghetto forever.  Material wealth will always have greater symbolic meaning for people who grew up without any and I hate to get all college-ethnic studies-y, but there’s some white privilege in that last verse.

On the other hand- times change!  Jay Z is still releasing songs saying if you escaped what I escaped you’d be in Paris getting fucked up too.   That was like 20 years ago, Hova.  At some point, maybe you could let it go.  I’ve never been to New York, but in 2013 our “inner city” is a where you go to buy luxury condos.  Rappers coming up today were babies when the worst of the crack epidemic hit.

So I don’t know.  I like the song.  It gave me a lot to think about.  I’m curious to see how the hip-hop community receives it.

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