Let’s start this chat by saying that I probably know less about rap and hip hop than just about everyone I know. This post is not me trying to say that I know anything about anything in the rap world. I tend to enjoy more of what are apparently the more “underground” rappers; people like Aesop Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore, Milo, and Hopsin. I am in no way trying to name drop or say that I think these rappers are “underground”, because I know that most of them are pretty well known in the rap world. I’m just using underground as a term to separate them from big label rappers like Lil Wayne, Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye, etc.
Anyway, this post is mainly going to be about my relatively new found love for “Seattle-reppin” rapper/producer duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Now I’ve only been exposed to their music for a few months now, and I can honestly say that I totally dig everything about these guys. I think that Ben Haggerty, stage name Macklemore, is probably one of the most unique people in rap right now, at least the rap world I know. Just some back story, after a long struggle with drugs and alcohol, he decided one day to turn his life around and has now been sober for 9 months. I know it can’t be easy to be sober in a music industry so full of drugs and alcohol, so I immediately respected him for that.
One of the very first Macklemore x Ryan Lewis songs I ever heard was the pro gay rights anthem, “Same Love”. First of all, a rapper even bringing up homosexuality is rare, but the fact that these dudes wrote an entire song about the stereotypes and horrible things that go down every day in this country regarding gay rights is just impressive. I really respect them for putting a message like that in a world that seems to be generally very unaccepting.
One of the other songs I heard initially was “Otherside”. This song is obviously inspired by Macklemore’s experience with drugs and alcohol as well as his involvement in that world. With lyrics like “Thinkin’ I would never do that, not that drug/And growing up nobody ever does/Until your stuck, Lookin’ in the mirror like I can’t believe what I’ve become/Swore I was goin’ to be someone/And growing up everyone always does/We sell our dreams and our potential/To escape through that buzz” it’s hard to not totally relate in one way or another to his story, no matter which end of that story you’re on. I think we’ve all known someone who has had at least a small problem with drugs or alcohol, or else that someone is us. No matter which one of those people you are, this song will mean something to you, and that’s why I immediately loved it.
Of course, not everything he writes is serious. His songs “And We Danced” and “Thrift Shop” show the sillier, more fun side of his music. Music for him is about expression through stories, and every song he writes definitely tells a story. Whether that story is silly or serious is up to him, but either way the songs are incredible.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ debut album, The Heist, dropped today, and I have to say from what I’ve heard of it, it’s phenomenal. There’s one collaboration with Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses called “Starting Over” and I have to say that’s my current favorite of the new songs on the album.
Anyway, the reason I wrote this is that I’ve been hearing mixed opinions about Macklemore, and they mainly seem to stem from rap fans thinking his music is “too soft” or too emotional. Maybe that’s why I connect with him more than other rappers, but I can definitely see how you could say that if you don’t need rap to give you the same level of emotion and passion that Macklemore’s words bring. I just wanted to organize my thoughts about it and let you all know about him if you’ve not heard of him.
Props to my amigo Joel for introducing me and, subsequently all of my friends, to this amazing music.
Check out these three songs below, and let me know what you all think! These tracks range from silly to very serious so hopefully you can get a good look at Macklemore as an artist from these.