Macklemore: "If You Want to Be an Active Participant in Hip-Hop, Get Off the Couch"
Photo by John Keatley Macklemore and the homie Ryan Lewis aren't interested in your hype machine.
When Macklemore and Ryan Lewis began recording their collaborative debut, they didn't set out to make a record that would change their lives, shock the industry, or shape the future of hip-hop. They were just two independent musicians doing what they loved with people they cared about.
"That's what made The Heist special," Macklemore says. "There were no big-name features on it. It was people that we're all friends with, or people that we know. It was a community of artists coming together and making something from the perspective of a collective."
Of course, 1,132,000 Nielsen SoundScan-certified record sales later, this 15-track album has become one of the year's biggest musical success stories, transforming the rhymesmith and his production partner from small-stage names to arena stars.
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By now, almost the whole wired world has seen Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' iconic, viral video for "Thrift Shop," which has notched 453,793,101 views and counting. But the single was originally produced and released through personal means.
Eventually and unexpectedly, though, the sleeper hit climbed to number one in 22 countries and sparked the pair's ascent to pop superstatus. Its anti-designer message hit home with millions upon millions of music lovers across the globe who were tired of dealing with broken economies and trying to keep up with the "one percent."
It wasn't long before nearly everyone seemed to have Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' jam on repeat. And in the first week after its release, The Heist sold 78,000 copies.
Listening to the album, fans found artfully crafted songs about lives just like theirs, as Macklemore tackled tough themes -- addiction, homophobia, and the perils of the music industry -- with a playful delivery and soul-bearing honesty.
Obviously, though, writing an entertaining, candid, and complex record is more difficult than it sounds.
"Such a long process," Macklemore admits. "I think being honest with yourself about yourself is something that takes time. It takes you cultivating a side of yourself that you might not want to see. Delving into personal issues to ask what makes you human? What gives you identity? What gives you purpose?
"We're fascinating creatures, and what makes us who we are comes from so many different places," he says. "All of these things, once you start investigation them by means of a blank piece of paper, who knows what you're going to find?"
What he and his production partner found was massive success. But believe it or not, a sudden rush to fame can be a rocky ride.
"At times, I was unhappy in it," the rapper acknowledges. "Over the last six months, I feel like I've figured out how to navigate around it. It's become reality now, and you want to go into life each day being grateful to wake up and to be in a position to make art for a living, have a job, and to be able to influence people's lives and shape culture.
"Those are things I've always strived for as an artist. So to get to that point with it, you want to be grateful each day. Yet there is another side of it that is challenging, and it takes adjusting to."
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