From Gucci Gucci to the Thrift Shop: white rappers & black culture

I was in the car this morning running some errands when (unsurprisingly) Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” came on the radio. Stuck in a bit of traffic, I actually listened to the lyrics this time. 

It had always been obvious to me that the song is about hipsterism: your grandad’s clothes reinforce his frumpiness, but when white guys with cultural capital wear them, they’re both evidence and amplifiers of said dudes’ cultural capital.

But this listen I realized the song is sorta paradoxical: here is a white rapper using hip hop to diss mainstream hiphop culture–the part of hip hop culture that is into Gucci shirts that are fifty bucks a pop, which is to say, mainstream black culture….Which is really reminiscent of Kreayshawn’s “Gucci, Gucci“– “Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis/Fendi Fendi, Prada/Basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even botha”– in which a white rapper uses hip hop to diss mainstream hip hop culture/black culture.

IMHO this reinforces the idea that certain segments of black/African-American populations and/or culture have been conditionally included in homonational projects that racialize “brown” populations (like Latinos, Muslims, etc.). Mainstream black culture no longer reads as oppositional. White hipsters can’t identify with it as a way to prove their avant-garde cred; they have to dis-identify with mainstream black culture in order to prove their avant-garde cred. Hence, no Gucci but thrift shops. Or, no gangstas but Frank Ocean. Etc.