The rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have become an issue at the forefront of international politics. In addition to penetrating the political sphere, this topic has become a hot topic in the pop world; countless movies, television episodes and songs have been dedicated to the advancement of LGBT rights. One of the most popular efforts has been by hip-hop artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Macklemore, a 30-year-old rapper from Washington, stormed onto the hip-hop stage in 2005 with his socially conscious songs that address topics ranging from homosexuality to drug abuse. He met his partner and soon to be producer, Lewis, in 2006, and they have been an unstoppable duo since.

This past year, Macklemore and Lewis won numerous awards for their newest album, “The Heist,” that includes “Same Love,” a song featuring the vocals of Mary Lambert. The song addresses urges the legalization of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. The song has sold over 2,000,000 copies and peaked at #11 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 charts. This past week, the United Nations Free & Equal Campaign recognized Macklemore & Lewis as “Equality Champions” for their contributions to the LGBT community.

The Free & Equal campaign was created by Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, as a response to the increasing number of human rights violations against LGBT people. The United Nations also created its first resolution to address the inequality. Macklemore and Lewis responded to the honor by thanking the U.N. for allowing it to “help spread a message of equality and respect.” Macklemore also added, “Ryan and I have always believed that human rights are for everyone- no exceptions.”

Other celebrities, including Ricky Martin, have also taken part in the Free & Equal campaign.

Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: All Africa, YouTubeUNFE
Photo: The Masked Gorilla

Macklemore & Lewis Address Global Poverty
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are a fairly new artist/producer group that has quickly risen to fame through their popular song, “Thrift Shop.” Criticizing mainstream media, consumerism, and popular culture, this hip-hop group has a lot in common with the work being done at The Borgen Project. Raising these questions is essential to understanding not only the condition of the United States but also the state of the world.

Gaining considerable exposure within the music industry in the past year, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have released their full-length album The Heist, hitting the number one spot on iTunes.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are proud to be from humble beginnings and proud to support the “alternative” lifestyle of anti-consumerism. Deciding not to sign with any record label, the group is completely independent and produces their own music with their own flare.

Thinking under the lens of global poverty, “Thrift Shop”  raises a number of ethical concerns. On one hand, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are criticizing the United States culture of consumerism. A lyric from the song explains:

“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
…I call that getting tricked by business”

Here, the group brings attention to the arbitrary nature of clothing, calling out branding as a mere print on some cloth, and propose, throughout the rest of the song, that spending 99 cents on an otherwise expensive jacket is a much better option.

Alternatively, we look that the main hook of the song with a somewhat critical eye in relation to global (rather than only domestic) poverty:

“I’m gonna pop some tags
only got 20 dollars in my pocket
I’m, I’m I’m runnin’, looking for a come up”

All humor aside, the group is bringing attention to the fact that $20 for clothes is considered insanely cheap in the United States. However, while American consumers think that they are being frugal, $20 is far more than most people in the world make in one year. That much money, in much of the world, could be used much more effectively to feed a family. However, while the monetary value is relative—what may be cheaper in the U.S. is expensive elsewhere—Macklemore & Ryan Lewis advocate for frugal living no matter what the exchange rate, leaving the quality of their beats far from impoverished.

– Kali Faulwetter

Sources: Rap Genius
Photo: MTV