“Wings” – Written by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis


I was seven years old, when I got my first pair
And I stepped outside
And I was like, momma, this air bubble right here, it’s gonna make me fly
I hit that court, and when I jumped, I jumped, I swear I got so high
I touched the net, momma I touched the net, this is the best day of my life
Air Max’s were next,
That air bubble, that mesh
The box, the smell, the stuffin’, the tread, in school
I was so cool
I knew that I couldn’t crease ’em
My friends couldn’t afford ’em
Four stripes on their Adidas
On the court I wasn’t the best, but my kicks were like the pros
Yo, I stick out my tongue so everyone could see that logo
Nike Air Flight, but bad was so dope
And then my friend Carlos’ brother got murdered for his Fours*, whoa

See he just wanted a jump shot, but they wanted his Starter coat, though
Didn’t wanna get caught, from Genesee Park to Othello
You could clown for those Pro Wings, with the Velcro
Those were not tight
I was trying to fly without leaving the ground,
Cause I wanted to be like Mike, right
Wanted to be him, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to touch the rim
I wanted to be cool, and I wanted to fit in,
I wanted what he had, America, it begins

I want to fly
Can you take me far away
Give me a star to reach for
Tell me what it takes
And I’ll go so high
I’ll go so high
My feet won’t touch the ground
I stitch my wings
And pull the strings
I bought these dreams
That all fall down

We want what we can’t have, commodity makes us want it
So expensive, damn, I just got to flaunt it
Got to show ’em, so exclusive, this that new s***
A hundred dollars for a pair of shoes I would never hoop in
Look at me, look at me, I’m a cool kid
I’m an individual, yeah, but I’m part of a movement
My movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it
They told me to just do it, I listened to what that swoosh said
Look at what that swoosh did
See it consumed my thoughts
Are you stupid, don’t crease ’em, just leave ’em in that box
Strangled by these laces, laces I can barely talk
That’s my air bubble and I’m lost, if it pops
We are what we wear, we wear what we are
But see I look inside the mirror and think Phil Knight tricked us all
Will I stand for change, or stay in my box
These Nikes help me define me, but I’m trying to take mine, off

I want to fly
Can you take me far away
Give me a star to reach for
Tell me what it takes
And I’ll go so high
I’ll go so high
My feet won’t touch the ground
I stitch my wings
And pull the strings
I bought these dreams
That all fall down

It started out, with what I wear to school
That first day, like these are what make you cool
And this pair, this would be my parachute
So much more than just a pair of shoes
Nah, this is what I am
What I wore, this is the source of my youth
This dream that they sold to you
For a hundred dollars and some change
Consumption is in the veins
And now I see it’s just another pair of shoes

[* Air Jordan IV]

Rap gets a bad rap. [Excuse me while I laugh to myself.] Though hip-hop is often written off as trashy, unoriginal, crude, violent, and tasteless , one will occasionally stumble upon a morsel of modern philosophy. Perhaps my favorite hip-hop song in a long time, “Wings” features a poetic delivery and deep lyrics, and exemplifies the beauty and potential this genre contains.

Identity and consumerism are dense topics to approach in song format, yet Macklemore manages to tie it all together into a radio-friendly track. Since the song opens with a long reflection about his love obsession with sneakers as a kid, the listener is caught off guard when Macklemore explains that his friend’s brother was murdered over his shoes. Now that he has the listener’s attention, Macklemore begins to explain the infatuation with labels and brands that pervades today’s youth culture and their harmfulness. Companies teach kids that they can achieve happiness and success (becoming like Michael Jordan, for instance) if they simply buy their product. Ultimately, Macklemore asserts, this happiness is fleeting, and exposes the pursuer to more harm than positivity.

Beyond the message, I just love the last verse of the song. Ryan Lewis (Macklemore’s producer) cleverly inserts a long violin(?) break after the third verse, isolating the last repetition of the chorus and the final verse from the rest of the track. The last verse, to me, serves as a poetic summary of the entire song: the last words, “just another pair of shoes”, roll off his tongue as if he were performing slam poetry; each word stands alone on its own line. So, to the h8rz, yes, hip-hop can be poetic.

I hope more rap artists take after Macklemore. After all, the genre has evolved so much from its roots in poetry clubs in big cities, so who’s to say we cannot expect to see a return to the poetic tradition? For the time being, at least, “Wings” stands alone as a testament to the beauty and power of this genre.


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