“Hey, Macklemore! Can we go thrift shopping?” squeaks an excited girl at the thought of being taken to the thrift store down the road to shop for secondhand treasures.
For a song about being cheap, “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is ironically successful; it would become the most successful track on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs Chart (source: BET), with over 6 million copies sold in the U.S. alone. Apart from all the thumping bass, the rhyming lyrics and euphonic melodies, what fascinates us and beckons our appreciation is how savvy the song truly is. Every time I hear “Only got twenty dollars in my pocket”, I chuckle at the honesty. We all know what it is like to scratch inside empty pockets. In a pop culture landscape plagued with the flashy shine of materialism, product placement and ostentatious pageantry, this musical message is street-smart and sings difference.
The song is a social critique, and it jabs at how mindlessly we acquire the “things” we want. Commercialistic market forces, in conjunction with mainstream media and consumerism, constantly reinforce our ideas of how to buy. They tell us that we only want something that is the latest and greatest product or brand, and that to do so we need the Amazons, the Walmarts, and the Saks Fifth Avenues. Macklemore’s song grabs this notion by the collar and turns it inside out. He gives us a jarring way to think about how fun and cool it might be, instead, to shop elsewhere with bags studded with wisdom and thrift.
In an interview with MTV, Macklemore said: “Rappers talk about, ‘Oh, I buy this and I buy that,’ and ‘I spend this much money and I make it rain,’ … [but] this is the kind of record that’s the exact opposite. [The song “Thrift Shop” is] the polar opposite of it. It’s kind of standing for, like, ‘let’s save some money, let’s keep some money away, let’s spend as little as possible and look as fresh as possible at the same time.” Later he adds, “[It’s about] how much can you save? How fresh can you look by not looking like anybody else?”
This revisionist thinking is refreshing. It speaks to the idea of the peer-to-peer economy. This is an economic and social system that is built around the sharing of goods and services. It removes the “new” purchasing aspect and brings in a love for reusing. Some estimates put the value of this economy at almost $30 billion. In college, we had book swaps to rebel against the hefty price tags of shiny retail shrink-wrapped textbooks. At home, we’ve had yard sales. And in the papers we still have classified ads.
“Thrift Shop” harkens to the same concept. Why not save money by getting what you need cheaper? Why not save the planet by reducing the waste from newly produced goods by reusing the stock of existing goods? Why not feel good from finding a steal of a deal? Why not feel refreshingly satisfied about helping someone else with a clean swap? Why not contribute to earthly sustainability in your own micro way? Truly, there is no reason not to.
When I read about WasteGate the first thought that came to my head was “Thrift Shop”. It helped me imagine the possibilities that could await us, for new technology reduces transaction costs and makes sharing easier. The beta release truly makes me hopeful that we are in the midst of something larger than ourselves; what this unique platform can unleash is our own, ever-expanding shared economy—the same thrifty economy that Macklemore raps about.
Snap. Show. Swap. Earn. Do it again.
With platforms like WasteGate, no longer will we have to ask “Hey! Can we go thrift shopping?” The “can we?” disappears and the “we can” appears. Now you can simply thrift shop without all the extra effort of moving about. This is the revolution of technology—the revolution that allows us to go forth and better our communities and ourselves.
This is why we hope, and this is also why we WasteGate.
-Nazran Baba and WasteGate staff
More of Nazran’s writings may be found at The Literartist: www.literartist.com