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The Making Of Macklemore

Arts & Review Editor, Assoc. Arts & Review Editor, and Asst. Arts & Review Editor

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013

Updated: Thursday, May 2, 2013 01:05

After the surprise Modstock announcement, the endless anticipation, and the long wait for tickets, Macklemore finally arrives at Boston College today. To celebrate, The Scene looks at the hip-hop sensation’s diverse influences, inspirations, and unique contributions to today’s music scene as we ask: what makes Macklemore, Macklemore?

Music Man

“David Bowie meets Kanye s—t” is Macklemore’s own pithy summary of his musical influences, as delivered on “Ten Thousand Hours,” the opening track on The Heist. The song itself is all about Macklemore’s musical journey from obscurity to fame, referencing Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers and the idea that artists need 10,000 hours of practice to truly master their skill. Macklemore has certainly put in that time, but another crucial element of his personality is his ability to weave together diverse musical inspirations. Appropriately for a Seattle boy, Macklemore’s main influences in the hip-hop world hail from the West Coast: mainstream rappers like Nas, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg but also more underground groups like Hieroglyphics and Freestyle Fellowship. Yet Macklemore has never let his influences be constrained by boundaries of geography or genre: the New York-based Wu-Tang Clan gets a big shout-out on “Can’t Hold Us,” and his stated admiration for David Bowie suggests an appreciation of pop music far beyond the realms of rap. Really, though, you just need to listen to his music to understand this reality: a Macklemore song is just as likely to be anchored by jazzy horns or soft piano as standard hip-hop beats. – S.K.

Internet Innovator

Jumping from YouTube to the Billboard charts after nearly a decade of self-promoting, the Seattle-based rapper Macklemore has come to be known just as much for his hit “Thrift Shop,” as he is for his amazing, DIY success story. He began writing music when he was only a teenager, releasing self-recorded mix tapes and EPs throughout the early 2000s. By the middle of the decade, Macklemore met Ryan Lewis, his current producer, who helped him independently release his full-length debut, The Heist. Macklemore’s massive online following, which he garnered throughout the development of his career, enabled his album to skyrocket to the top almost instantly. Macklemore, even now, though, advocates for autonomy and authenticity while working in the music industry. Staying true to his humble beginnings, he’s refused numerous offers from major record companies, believing that individual identity, rather than money or fame, is the most important aspect of an artist’s career. Macklemore’s history is an inspiring one—one that fans can personally connect to—one that illustrates the incredible influence of the Internet. –A.I.

Rapper With A Cause

Between the aggressive horn loop and indelible hook on Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” it’s easy to ignore that his bestselling single is in fact raging against consumerism and materialist culture. Other tracks such as “Make the Money,” “Wings,” and “Gold” similarly take on the issue of materialism. In “Gold,” he suggests if we came to know the value of the things we come in contact with everyday, making “everything gold,” then gold itself would have no value—Macklemore’s getting at the paradox that people can obsess over material things, while plainly ignoring the richness of life itself.

Macklemore also has come out in support of gay rights through his single “Same Love.” The track begins with an anecdotal account of his own preconceived notions of sexuality, reckoning by third grade, he already had a skewed perception of what sexuality meant. The song goes on to critique homophobia in the hip-hop genre, and resolves there’s “no freedom ‘til we’re equal.”

The social consciousness of Macklemore’s music most always presupposes the music itself. There’s nothing radical about trying to promote a cause with music. It’s the ambition of Macklemore’s critiques that set him apart—“Ten Thousand Hours” takes on the American education system, “Thin Line” criticizes one nights stands and pokes at the central themes of monogamy, “Wake” lampoons the mentality of “white privilege, white guilt, at the same damn time.” –J.W.

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