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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" Goes Diamond, Is That a Good Thing?

The pair earned the distinction for selling 10 million units of "Thrift Shop."
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Record sales might not be as impressive as they once were, but don't tell that to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

The pair's 2013 hit "Thrift Shop," which took the country by storm and vaulted the duo into GRAMMY and commercial success, has offically gone diamond. Yeah, that's right. Diamond. That ode to your grandfather's clothes and knee boards surpassed the 10,000,000 sales mark according to the RIAA.

The diamond single sales distinction is the only song to go diamond in 2015, the previous singles to achieve that mark were Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" and Katy Perry's "Dark Horse." It is also the first time a rapper has earned diamond status since Eminem did it in 2010, with the singles "Not Afraid" and "Love The Way You Lie" featuring Rihanna. 

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While this monumental certification is a huge win for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, it also plays into the catch-22 that has existed since "Thrift Shop" moved the pair from regional juggernaut to national trending topic. While they have enjoyed massive mainstream success, in rap the duo have often come with a sort of asterisk due in large part to their skin tone. It's a sentiment that was doubled down on after they scooped 'Rap Album of the Year' from Kendrick's Good Kid M.A.A.D. City and has persisted as their stock has continued to rise. While a diamond honor for the massive single is a certifiable win for the pairing, it won't stop conversations about if "white privilege" exists in hip-hop and music. 

Over the last ten years, the only artists to reach diamond sales have all been white: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Eminem (twice), Katy Perry (twice), Imagine Dragons, Adele and now Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. It is interesting to note, however, that of those at the top of the most recent diamond-selling records, almost all have teamed up with someone of color to do so. Imagine Dragons remixed their hit track with Kendrick Lamar, Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" featured Juicy J, Justin Bieber's "Baby" had Ludacris on a verse, and Em teamed up with RiRi. So it appears that the sound of African-Americans are valued, just not as the main attraction.

That wasn't always the case. In the decade before, 1995-2005, black artists were still significantly outnumbered by white artists, but R&B acts like Usher and Boyz II Men all achieved diamond sales, while Biggie, Pac and Outkast also represented hip-hop in the diamond club. The means that while the last decade, 2005-2015, has seen exactly zero black artists achieve diamond success, the decade before saw six black artists hit the diamond mark. Those are the cold, hard stats, and a disparity like that is hard to ignore. 

What personal roles and responsilbities do Macklemore and Ryan Lewis play in that shift, or are they merely being carried by cultural forces far beyond their control? Are elements of both at play? Those questions are a long way from being answered, but they're worth asking, and when we ask those questions we now have to talk about how "Thrift Store" as one of the most sought after songs of all-time. It's a long way from the thrift store. 

[By Jake Krez, who just writes it as it is. You can follow him on Twitter. Image via Instagram.]



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