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Apr 23 2013
Poppin' tags with an unlikely spiritual teacher.

You can tell the brand of my daughter's jacket whether or not she's facing you, its white logo is stitched on the front and back. I'd resisted buying her this North Face fleece for months. For one, she is not a "wilderness chic" kind of gal and, second, we live in the suburbs of Chicago, not on Mount Rainier, but she was fixated because it was the "cool thing" to have in the 5th grade.

I tried to reason with her. I talked about the pitfalls of defining ourselves by the things we own. Store not up your treasures, I warned. But, alas, she was not persuaded and was in need of a new jacket, so when we happened to find one for a good price, I gave in. My stomach fell when I first saw her leave school in a jacket identical to many of her classmates'. Where was that little daughter I once knew, spectacularly herself in purple velour dress, a rainbow of hairband bracelets, and her brother's hand-me-down cowboy boots? Would our culture erase every shred of individuality and whimsy from my child as she toiled as a pre-teen to look just like everybody else?

Now, a few years later, I have rapper Macklemore and his hit "Thrift Shop" to back me up.

Months after its August 2012 release, the song remains on the Billboard Top 100 chart, at the top of my daughter's playlist, and in nonstop rotation on at least three pop stations in our area. The song's popularity is a rarity – it's only the second time in history that an independent artist has topped that chart. Don't tell me you haven't heard it a dozen times a day over the past few months like I have.

"Thrift Shop" starts with a child's voice asking: "Hey, Macklemore! Can we go thrift shopping?" After multitude of "What? What? What? What?"s, the singer declares that he's "gonna pop some tags" with "$20 in my pocket." (For the unversed, "popping tags" means he's going shopping.)

Since its release, some critics have lauded "Thrift Shop" for being an oddity in hip hop, with no mention of "b----s" or "hoes," and no use of the N-word. ("Thrift Shop" does, like many songs in its genre, still offers up a smorgasbord of profanity and a few lewd lyrics. If you listen to the radio version and don't know your rap lingo, you'll miss most of that.)

Still, the song actually centers around—gasp!—a socially conscious message. Macklemore opposes the flagrant materialism we've come to expect from hip-hop artists, and I doubt he'd even go for pricy brand-name fleece jackets… unless they came secondhand. He's into weird style and good deals. Macklemore thinks it's ridiculous to spend "$50 on a T-shirt." He raps about "flannel zebra jammies" and sneakers with Velcro.

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