Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
“…I love writing something that you connect to on a deep level and that other people can relate to. When you write in a way that people feel what you’re talking on a “that’s my life” type of level, that’s what I love about music. It’s a high.”
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Currently Supporting: 2009’s The VS. EP and 2010’s VS. Redux - EP
Operation Every Band Reporter: Nathan Headden
Macklemore is not new to performing music but the buzz surrounding him has even casual listeners ears perking up. He started rapping around 15 with the group “Elevated Elements” and shortly after in 2000 released “Open Your Eyes” under the name Professor Macklemore. A rebranding of sorts took place and Professor Macklemore shortened it to just Macklemore releasing “The Language of My World” in 2005. The pitfalls of being a rapper with a little buzz befell Macklemore and he let substances and ego become the focus of his life. After being confronted by his father Macklemore decided to clean up, finding support in AA and throwing himself into 2009’s The Unplanned Mixtape which featured the first collaborations with beat maker and photographer extraordinaire Ryan Lewis. Lewis is a young producer with an aggressive artistic vision whose work outside of the Macklemore collaborations is full of social commentary and solemnity. Ryan Lewis’ work with Macklemore is undeniably hip hop but he has shown he is just as adept at hip hop with pop influenced beats, as seen on the criminally slept on Symmetry and Ryan Lewis LP which can be found free online.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released The VS. EP in 2009 as an experiment in sampling contemporary indie music and a little nostalgic rock for 80’s babies. Artists sampled include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beirut, The Killers, Arcade Fire, Caribou, The Moments, and Antony and the Johnsons among others. Lewis’ vigilant use of easily recognizable samples kept the tracks from veering into the realm of corny and instead added a new layer to familiar tracks. Following the swell of buzz around the VS. EP and a tour around the US Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released the VS. Redux – EP in October 2010 which featured production by Seattle heavyweights Jake One, Budo, and Sabzi of the Blue Scholars among others.
In late December 2010 and early 2011 Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released two singles from the in the works VS. follow up album. One track, “My Oh My”, is a song that pays homage to local legend, Mariner’s announcer Dave Niehaus who passed away in November. The other track “Wings” is a song about shoes and so much more. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have formed a track that captures the affects of our consumer culture using name brand label shoes as a metaphor for the products people place so much importance on. Ryan Lewis crafted the track around a powerful chorus written by Hollis Wear that utilizes local talent the Denny Middle School Choir from West Seattle to craft a track filled with deep emotion. This emotion has become Macklmore’s hallmark.
2011 started as a banner year for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, in less than 48 hours the duo sold out multiple nights at Seattle’s historic Showbox Theater. The buzz surrounding these shows was the tipping point to an explosion of local and national fame for the two artists. During one of the Showbox shows Seattle music legend Sir Mix-a-lot told Macklemore, “I hand you the baton and run baby, run.” Macklmore and Ryan Lewis have taken these words to heart. The pair took their show to Austin Texas and the 2011 SXSW music conference playing numerous shows around town. Following SXSW the twosome played their biggest show to date. Macklemore and Lewis performed at the Mariners opening day at Safeco Field in Seattle performing “My Oh My” in front of 45,000 new fans, recently known as members of the #sharkfacegang.
Nathan’s take: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are both fantastic talents. As a hip hop head I’ve watched acts for years begin to get a buzz and see that slowly die out to the new flavor of the moment. There seems to be a special element to the music Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are crafting that is engaging to hard core fans as well as casual listeners. Whether you have never heard of Macklemore or followed him from his early beginnings get ready to hear his name on larger and larger media outlets. With the pairs’ focus on quality tracks and thoughtful public engagement they appear to be beginning a race to the top that has just begun.